Softball team heads to state tournament after difficult season
The Palm Beach State College softball team will be one of 16 teams competing in the Division I NJCAA Region 8 championship beginning Friday at Dodger Town Stadium in Vero Beach.
However, the road to secure a spot in the tournament was not an easy task for the team that has endured an emotional and challenging season.
“I had big goals for the team this year,” said Head Coach Martha McCall. “Those plans, however, were constantly changing when we started losing players.”
One of the first major setbacks occurred last September. The softball team had recruited Benetria Robinson, who was a PBSC basketball player the year before. Robinson decided to switch to softball and began practicing with the team. However, soon after, she was killed in a shooting in Ocala, Fla. that left five others injured.
According to McCall, the players had gotten to know Robinson personally and played softball with her for over a month before the tragedy.
“Her death really affected my players emotionally,” said McCall.
In addition, McCall said several players suffered shoulder and knee injuries.
“We always try to come back from injuries, but several of these women had to have surgery so it took them out of play altogether,” said McCall. “We ended up having team members who had to play four different positions because of the setbacks. None of them ever complained, though. They just stepped up to the challenge.”
The team is currently ranked 4th out of 5 teams in the NJCAA Region 8 Southern Conference and has a 16-35 overall record. The top four in each of the four Region 8 conferences compete in the Regional 8 championship.
“We don’t have an outstanding record, but we have fought through a lot this year,” said McCall. “I’m really proud of this team, and I believe we are stronger because of it.”
Of the PBSC players who will compete in Vero Beach, two are identical twins: Xiary and Shany Emerenciana.
“I get confused a lot as to who is who,” said McCall. “I’ll look at one of them, try to make a decision in my head as to who it is and then if I get it right they give me a point. However, I haven’t racked up too many points,” she said jokingly.
Xiary and Shany are from Julianadorp, Curacao in the southern Caribbean Sea. They both started playing softball at the age of 5 and came to the United States at 17 to play for Trinity Christian Academy in Lake Worth.
Even though the two already share a lot in common, they say the sport has only strengthened their bond.
“It feels great having my sister at my side, and it makes the game a lot more fun,” said Shany. “We understand each other so well that it’s hard to explain to other people.”
In addition, Xiary says there has never been any competitiveness among them.
“We don’t ever try to outdo each other; we just lean on each other,” said Xiary. “Our parents and older sister are still back in Curacao so the only family we have here is each other.”
Shany plays shortstop and Xiary second-base and outfield. Both woman say they are looking forward to the experience of playing together in a state tournament as freshmen.
During the tournament, the team takes on Northwest Florida State at 1:30 p.m. April 29 and will follow with a 6:30 p.m. game on the same day against an opponent that will be determined.
McCall has been the head softball coach at PBSC for nine years. This year marks her second trip and second-in-a-row to the Region 8 championship. She also celebrated her 100th win this season during a game in January against East Georgia State College.
For more information on PBSC softball, visit www.palmbeachstate.edu/Athletics/Womens-Softball