Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Sargent in charge of Nashoba's destiny
By John McGuirk
BOLTON, Mass. -- When Emily Sargent first arrived at Nashoba Regional as a unassuming freshman four years ago, even she had no idea how much her life, and the fortunes of the Chieftains softball program, would be dramatically altered.
In that time, Sargent has emerged as one of the most dominating pitchers statewide while helping turn Nashoba into a regular postseason participant. Going into Friday's game versus Hudson, Nashoba is a perfect 8-0.
The senior right-hander has owned the opposition with incredible ease, having yet to surrender an earned run. Last week, in a victory over Framingham, Sargent notched her 600th career strikeout. The milestone was something Sargent never dreamed of four years ago.
"I just never thought it would ever be that high a number," said Sargent, whose fastball has been clocked at 63 miles per hour. "I thought I would be just another pitcher coming through the Nashoba program. It has been a nice progression. But none of it would have ever happened without the help and support of my teammates and coaches."
Sargent has made considerable progressions inside the pitcher's circle over the years. Having first started playing softball at the age of 12, an instinctive, yet solid workethic has been the key behind her success.
"The jump Emily made, especially between her sophomore and junior seasons, told us that she could be an elite player," Nashoba head coach Steve Kendall said. "She was good as a sophomore (going 9-8) but last year, as a junior, she was nearly unhittable (16-5, 0.84 ERA). Her velocity picked up considerably and she has added a couple of pitches to her repertoire. Her control has improved greatly and she always plays with a high level of confidence."
In last year's Central Mass. Division 1 semifinal, the Chieftains lost in 11 innings to eventual district champion Marlborough. The consensus this year points to Nashoba being a much-stronger program and clearly have the pitcher in place to carry them deep into the playoffs and beyond.
"She gives us an opportunity to win every game and that's all you can ask for," Kendall said.
Kendall also praises the work of senior catcher Ali Lane and her ability to call pitches and set up targets for Sargent on both sides of the plate.
"Ali is a great catcher," he said. "She knows Emily very well and knows how to call a good game. She has always been very good at calling the right pitch at the right time."
If you ever get a chance to take in a Nashoba game, don't expect to see much production from the opposition. In fact, the only sound you are most apt to hear is the loud pop of the ball hitting Lane's mitt following a Sargent delivery.
Presently, Sargent as registered a school-record 627 strikeouts, with that number expected to go much higher with still a second half of the season remaining to be played. Her career ERA is a minuscule 1.20.
Offensively, Sargent is one of the top hitters on the team having gone 15-of-34 at the plate this season with 11 RBI. Over her career, 51 of her total 101 hits have gone for extra bases.
"She is a very strong hitter," said Kendall. "She doesn't strikeout very often and we are very fortunate to have gotten the offensive production we have out of her."
Lane, who has caught Sargent in each of the last three years, continues to marvel in her battery-mate's tenacity as a pitcher.
"Every year I felt there is no way that Emily could get any better," said Lane, who plans to attend Dickinson College and looks to walk on the school's softball team.
"But every year she has come out and has gotten better. She has made me better as a player and I consider myself lucky to be on the same field with her let alone play on the same team with her."
Lane has seen enough of Sargent to know that she could shut down any opponent with her fastball alone. But with so much more in Sargent's arsenal, her curveball, riser and change-up are used to keep hitters off-balance.
"She is all power all day," Lane added. "She has an incredible change up and other pitches but if she wants to go out there and just blow hitters away with her fastball she can and often does. It never gets boring catching her. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing a good job calling a game but then I remember that anyone could call a good game when everything is so dominating from your pitcher like Emily is."
After Nashoba, Sargent is headed to Central Connecticut State University with a scholarship. Earning a scholarship was something else not on her radar four years ago. Yet what has gotten Sargent to this point has been her unique makeup that has lauded her much praise and accolades.
"The combination of a positive attitude and a hard workethic is what makes her special," said Kendall, who is also Nashoba's boys’ hockey coach. "She is the hardest worker on the team. Her workethic goes unmatched for any player I've ever had here whether it be in hockey or softball. She works on her game during the entire off-season and has been doing that since her freshman year.
“Emily is also a complete team player and has no ego. She works with all of our other players, including our JV team, in trying to help them all get better."
The bond between Sargent and Lane is a relationship cast in iron. Good friends both on and off the field, they attribute their softball success to the fact that both always seem to be on the same page.
"I trust Ali so much back there," Sargent said. "She calls all of my pitches and I always agree with everything she says and does."
Adds Lane, "I've been super-spoiled by Emily because all of her pitches go exactly where I am set up. She makes it very easy for me."
The hope now is that the second half of the season will come just easy for Sargent, Lane and the rest of the Chieftains in their quest to bring home a state championship.