Win after win, the St. Hubert softball team continues to prove itself as one of the area’s top programs.
Great pitching, timely hitting and steady defense have garnered the Bambies significant — and well-deserved — kudos throughout the region. Pick a player out of the lineup and check out her resume; on a team shooting for its sixth straight Catholic League title game appearance, it’s bound to be impressive.
In the Bambies’ 5-2 Catholic League quarterfinal victory over Archbishop Carroll on Saturday at Disston Park, senior catcher Jess Mishinski supplied a single in three at-bats, and in her last six games she has six runs batted in. At least, that’s what the stats say. (The Bambies advanced to the semifinals to play Archbishop Wood. The game, scheduled for Monday, was rained out and was made up on Wednesday after the Times went to press.)
Mishinski has done much more than simply provide some offense from the seventh spot in the batting order. In fact, many might not realize just how much the likeable product of St. Bernard’s grade school has contributed to the consistent success St. Hubert has had.
“Absolutely,” said star junior pitcher Erica Ragazzone, who knocked in three runs and struck out nine batters against Carroll. “She is a very good player. She doesn’t get the credit that she deserves. She is very underrated.”
More than anyone, Ragazzone has benefited from Mishinski’s steady defense behind the plate. Since Ragazzone depends on a variety of different pitches, she needs to be confident that any misfired missiles will be either caught or, at least, blocked before reaching the backstop.
Coach Dave Schafer recognizes the steady, unselfish play in his catcher.
“She is a very important part of our team,” he said. “She is stellar. She does a great job of framing pitches. She waits until the very last second to move her glove. That’s really key with close pitches.
“She isn’t an outspoken type of player. She leads more by example, of how she goes out and plays hard,” he continued. “She’s very intense, very competitive. She never misses a practice, and she never takes any plays off.”
Unaccustomed to plaudits, Mishinski smiled when asked if she feels like a middle child on the field the same way that she is at home with an older sister and younger brother.
“Well, there are pros and cons,” she said. “At home, I never get to be first, and I never get to be last. So it’s good and bad. But really it isn’t a big deal. In softball, I really don’t care about being recognized. We have a lot of great players. We care mostly about winning, not who gets the credit. That isn’t important.”
“We all get along well, and I think that’s one of the big reasons why we have success,” she said. “Jess and I are also really good friends, so that is a big help, too. But it goes beyond friendship. We have a great connection. It’s very easy to talk to her.
“A pitcher has to trust her catcher, and I trust her completely,” Ragazzone continued. “If my pitches aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing, Jess recognizes it and comes out and lets me know what I am doing wrong.”
Mishinski says she rarely has to say anything to Ragazzone, who has been one of the top pitchers in the area all season.
“She’s one of the best in the Catholic League,” Mishinski said. “I am honored to catch her. She doesn’t get rattled easily. She is in the zone from the first inning until the last inning.”
Of course, being a catcher comes with tremendous physical demands. Never one to complain, Mishinski can point to many bruises on her arms and thighs, courtesy of some weird bounces or ill-placed foul balls.
However, despite being a catcher ever since her mother recommended the position 10 years ago, Mishinski is surprised at how well her knees have held up.
“You would think that would be a problem, but I’ve been lucky so far,” she said. “The thing that bothers me most sometimes is my arm. I do a lot of throwing for both here and my travel team (Philly Flash at Thornton and Comly roads), so it takes a heavy toll because I throw every minute of the game.”
That “toll” reached its zenith in the beginning of her junior season when Mishinski was diagnosed with a torn muscle in her throwing shoulder. The injury relegated Mishinski off the field and into the lineup as a designated hitter.
The result? She came back even hungrier this season.
“This is my senior year,” Mishinski said. “The longer the season goes, the better.” ••EndFragment