Production, patience and leadership — Oakland University softball team and College Sports Madness Preseason Player of the Year candidate Erika Polidori will test all three this year as they look to rebound from a 10-38 campaign in 2012.
Numbers never lie
Polidori, a junior from Brantford, Ontario, Canada, earned an All-Summit League first-team selection last season leading the Golden Grizzlies in batting average (.379), hits (44), runs (23), slugging percentage (.647) and on-base percentage (.451).
She also recorded 15 RBI, while stealing 17 bases and was tied for first on the team in home runs (6) and doubles (9) on her way to her second all-league selection.
America’s pasttime sport seems to be a natural fit for the Canadian native.
“Every aspect of the game appealed to me when I began playing,” Polidori said. “No matter if it was defense, hitting, or pitching, I wanted to do it all.”
Originally starting out as a guard playing basketball, Polidori caught on to softball after participating on a travel team put together by a close friend.
After lettering in basketball at St. John’s College along with volleyball, track, rugby and soccer, softball ultimately drew the nursing major’s attention where she now plays catcher and outfielder.
Enhance your calm
Coming into the year, the offseason for the Golden Grizzlies saw a change in coaching duties for OU after the resignation of former head coach LaDonia Hughes.
That paved the way for 500 game-winner and Michigan native, UC Riverside Head Coach Connie Miner, who brings 22 years of coaching experience after nine years on the west coast. She showcases a new approach to the game for a team looking for a fresh start with a new face.
Joining the team after the beginning of the school year, Miner has preached patience and relaxation to her new group of players.
“She has really been pushing us to be patient and we have been pretty receptive,” Polidori said. “It’s been a real bonding experience after last year where we struggled a lot with our chemistry.”
Part of the philosophy that Miner wants to instill in this year’s squad is more of a family atmosphere, where accountability for everyone will serve as motivation to earn the Summit League Championship.
“I use the example of acting as a fist,” Miner said, describing a sense of togetherness among her players. “Things can only happen if we work together and act as one unit.”
After battling injuries throughout the year, OU finished on a positive note. They won two out of three Summit League series, playing .500 to close the season.
The program will look to Polidori along with preseason all-league selections Jackie Kisman, Erin Galloway and Shannon Cleveland to help carry that momentum into this year with a healthy team and a new philosophy.
“I let them know that we need to be the best team amongst anybody on and off the field,” Miner said. “A season like last year can really damage a player’s confidence, but if you give them that sense of security that they can bounce back it all will be a distant memory.”
After finishing the fall schedule undefeated at 4-0 and hitting .538 and six RBI including a game-winning single against Michigan-Deaborn, Polidori will be looked upon to take a different approach to being the driving force behind runs and wins.
“I need to be more vocal as a leader this year,” Polidori said. “It’s good that they see my production on the field but I will look to speak up and make my presence known amongst the team off the field as well.”
“She is our definition of balance and it’s something I want to spread through the team,” Miner said. “She has the physical skills to push our team to be better, now we encourage her to challenge her teammates on a vocal level to bring out their full potential.”
The OU softball team will open up its regular season on the road next month taking on Presbyterian in the Georgia State Tournament.
Contact Staff Reporter Allen Jordan via email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aj128