Northeast Times

Playing catch-up: Mishinski shines behind plate

— With the spot­light on pitch­er Erica Ragazzo­ne, her catch­er Jess Mish­in­ski has been key for the Bam­bies.

St. Hubert catch­er Jes­sica Mich­in­ski. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

Start­Frag­ment

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.”

Ragazzo­ne agreed.

“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

You can reach at jknebels@gmail.com.

comments powered by Disqus