A season filled with adversity
Despite a season filled with obstacles, softball still eyes NCCAA berth
By Joshua Reid / Sports Editor
April 16, 2012
Each team has to battle through some type of adversity to achieve its highest potential each season, and the 2012 softball season hasn't been any different for the Sailfish of Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Starting off the season with a 13-6 record, the Sailfish looked prime to not only reach the NCCAA regional tournament, but also compete for their second national championship in the last four years.
"Our main goal this year as a team was to make it to NCAA Regionals," said senior infielder Mari Stokes, who was part of the 2009 NCCAA championship team as a freshman.
"In order to go there it was very important to beat the Sunshine State Conference teams," Stokes said. "Since we lost to many of those teams, we will not be going and our new goal is to keep our record above 500 so we can make it to NCCAA Regionals."
The Sailfish have had more than their fair shares of tough times, most recently suffering the loss of PBA baseball coach and Major League Baseball hall-of-fame catcher Gary Carter.
Carter passed away on Feb. 16 after a nearly nine-month battle with brain cancer.
Softball head coach Kimmy Bloemers is the daughter of Carter, and succeeded as a catcher herself while playing at Florida State University from 1998 to 2002.
Bloemers is currently in her sixth season as softball coach.
She has taken a program that won just eight games the year before her arrival to four consecutive 27+ win seasons.
She also led the team to its first ever NCCAA national championship and the program's first ever NCAA regional tournament birth in 2010.
Bloemers said Carter's presence at PBA impacted the softball team as much as the baseball team.
"Before my dad was sick, he would come to my games, give advice to the girls and was one of our biggest fans," Bloemers said.
"Dad always loved coming to my games whether as a player or as a coach," Bloemers said. "We talked about baseball and softball all the time.
"I loved coaching at the same university as him; it was an honor and blessing," Bloemers said. "Every one of my girls attended my dad's memorial service and have supported my family through this entire journey"
"My girls got wristbands made to wear every game that say 'THE KID 8.' I was touched and it brought tears to my eyes," Bloemers said. "My girls all wear the blue Team Carter bracelets too all the time. They have prayed with me and loved my dad and family every step of the way."
In addition, the team also wears sweatbands and hangs his old jersey in the dugout. The team also reads Carter's favorite Bible verse (Isaiah 40:31) before every game.
"Many schools have had a moment of silence for him before our games start," Stokes said. "I know it has been such a hard time for coach and her family so it's so nice to see people show their respect to the Carter family at this time."
The team had a tournament in Alabama the weekend Carter passed away and after they heard the news.
"When we went back to our rooms, we found the microwave sitting at :08," Stokes said. "His presence is always felt and he is always remembered every time we take and leave the field."
"We've been trying to stay strong for Coach and perform well on the field for her," sophomore first baseman Camille Benito said. "That definitely made us respect Coach a lot more and see how great a strong woman of God she is, despite everything she and her family have been going through."
"She was able to stay strong and was able to make it to all of our practices and games, and that shows a great example of what we as players want to be like," Benito said. "We want to be an encouragement to her on the field by finishing the remainder of our season on a positive note."
The Sailfish have also been in a slump, recently ending a seven-game losing streak that featured three shutouts.
"The toughest test for our team has been bouncing back from games we could have won," Stokes said. "We lost many games by one or two runs that could have easily been a win for us.
"I hope the remainder of this season can be a growing experience for those who are returning next year and before going to the postseason," Stokes said. "I hope we can get some more wins to improve our record and finish on a good note."
"We've seen how we've been struggling, and we've been supporting each other by helping out through slumps and errors, and not letting losses against top teams get the best of us," Benito said. "We've tried to keep our head up and remain confident for the following games despite the close losses and recent losing streaks."
"It's brought us closer as a team, as we see what we need to work on to get better mentally, as well as physically."
Going into the weekend, the team's record was 24-21. The Sailfish had a home game against Florida Southern College on April 12.
They close the final week of the season with three home games against Lynn University (April 18), Rollins College (April 21) and Northwood University (April 25), which will be the team's senior day.
"I hope the remainder of this season can be a growing experience for those who are returning next year and before going to postseason," Stokes said.
"What we've been through has impacted us all year, but the girls are continuing to work hard every day" Bloemers said. "We want to close the year by winning the rest of our games and have fun doing it."