Ramapo’s softball team has entered this season with a completely new look.
Ish Falcon, who served as an assistant coach for the past three years, has taken over as head coach. After playing for the Roadrunners over the past four years, Tiffany Fischer traded in her bat and glove for a clipboard as their new assistant coach.
Senior Janet Brown, an infielder and one of the team’s four captains, said the shift was simplified due to their familiarity with Falcon.
“He knows the whole team. Everyone is comfortable with him, so it’s a pretty easy transition,” Brown said. “We know that whatever he is doing is the right thing for the team.”
For Falcon, the major differences are behind the scenes, where he has taken on daily procedures such as scheduling buses for road trips and setting up umpiring crews.
“This was my office,” Falcon said, pointing to the field. “Now I have two offices.”
The roster itself has also undergone major renovations. Ten freshmen make up the roster, nearly half the squad. The coaching staff likes what they see so far from the rookies.
“As a group, we’re really happy with our freshmen,” Falcon said. “They’re fearless. I feel comfortable using our freshmen any time.”
Fischer credited the incoming freshmen to giving the team some much-needed depth, but the slew of newcomers also led to some early growing pains. Ramapo is 9-7 to start the season prior to today’s doubleheader against Drew University. Senior and captain Amanda Kent noted that the team usually fares stronger in their opening stretch of games in Clermont, Fla., that annually kicks off the season. This year the Roadrunners went 5-5 in Florida, which the captains attributed to Falcon testing all the freshmen from the get-go.
“We’ve had a little bit of a slower start than normal, but we’re getting to the meat of our season,” Brown said. “So it’s very important we start playing well now.”
The hot start is occasionally met with a sluggish finish. Senior Lisa Orlando, who also serves as a team captain and catcher, said the team is trying not to burn out early in order to not “die out at the end of the season.”
Falcon and Fischer stressed communication on the field as a prime area of importance. While they both said the team has made significant strides during the young season, there is still work to be done.
“Our defense has been sloppy due to not communicating with each other,” Falcon said.
“We haven’t settled into ourselves yet,” Fischer added.
Albeit in a small sample size, the Roadrunners are currently undefeated (4-0) on the road but winless at home (2-0). The captains all agreed that there is no trend there. Both losses came at the hands of The College of New Jersey, the second in an extra-innings affair that Brown said “could have gone either way.”
Last season, Ramapo defended their home field with a 10-3 record while going 5-8 in away games. The squad will need to re-channel that success this year with eight of their final 12 games taking place in Mahwah. The home-heavy schedule is a welcome sight for the players, who enjoy the routine.
“That’s exciting,” Kent said. “We get to have more fans. That hypes us up.”
Falcon, however, did not share the same sentiments. He feels the team performs better on the road without the interference from friends and family.
“Personally, I don’t like it. I think when they’re home there are too many distractions,” Falcon said. “Maybe it’s good we’re called the Roadrunners.”
Fischer took the middle ground, saying, “We just have to be ready to play all the time.”
The players and coaches alike all praised increased team chemistry within the squad. Brown credited Falcon for creating a more organized culture, but Falcon pointed the finger right back at the captains. Their leadership, he said, has helped him adjust to his new coaching position and made everything “a lot smoother.”
After losing to Montclair State University and TCNJ during last season’s New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) tournament, the Roadrunners are hungry to advance deeper this time around. While Kent echoed Falcon’s philosophy to take it one day at a time, Orlando could not help but look ahead at the ultimate goal.
“We never won the NJACs, so we want to do it our last year,” Orlando said.