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Control the uncontrollable

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

There is something about having confidence. Confidence can go a long way toward having someone reach their goals. The more confidence a player has, the better that will play.

Of course you need to have talent to compete at the highest level. But, even those that have talent sometimes struggle, because they lack the confidence to succeed when things get tough.

Grace Eagen did what most freshmen usually don’t, she came in and made her presence felt right away at Keuka College. While she was still getting used to playing a different position in the field, Eagen found her groove at the plate.

All it took for her to feel like she belonged was on Keuka’s spring training trip last year. On a sun-splayed day in Florida, Eagen stepped up to the plate against Clermont and realized she could play at the next level.

That’s when the then freshman hit a walk-off double to win the game. From there Eagen’s season just took off.

“As a freshman, I wasn't typically starting in my #1 position. As I didn’t feel as comfortable in the field, hitting was where I felt I could really show off. I hit a walk off double on my spring training trip to Clermont, which is where I really started to get in the groove,” stated Eagen. “I have always prided myself in my ability to adjust in the box. Facing various speeds of pitching each game was a huge adjustment, but my results remained the same. This gave me loads of confidence, and I tried my best to remain consistent throughout the season. I ended up with the 12th highest batting average in the conference at the end of the season, which made me very optimistic for my upcoming sophomore season.”

While Eagen made it look easy, moving from high school to college is not. Normally in high school you are only facing a few good teams, or players, as each teams play in certain divisions. In college, a player like Eagen is playing against the best of the best every single game.

That’s why her .357 batting average was so impressive her first year out of West Seneca West High School. There is always that transition period coming from high school, but it might not be what you think it is.

It’s really the independence you gain. Eagen went from high school life where you are more into a routine, to college where she is responsible for her classes and practices - and keeping those grades up.

“The transition from high school to college was definitely overwhelming. With that being said, coming in playing a sport is like being grandfathered into 20 new friends,” stated Eagen. “My team made me feel welcomed from the very beginning, which was a huge help. The biggest difference from high school to college is the independence you gain when you get here. Your main responsibilities are your classes and practice, and although it is filled with a lot of early mornings, it is all so rewarding.”

Everything Eagen might have done lost year is now in the past. Eagen knows other teams have a book on her now. She knows the game of softball is about adjustments. It’s a cat and mouse game between the pitcher and hitter.

The one who can make the adjustments quicker will be the winner. The big thing about Eagen’s game is she can make those adjustments in the box.

“I am skilled in adjusting in the box. Although my conference is full of very talented coaches and pitching staffs, I have faced countless obstacles when it comes to hitting,” stated Eagen. “I have hit off of some of the best pitchers in Western New York throughout my career, and making adjustments is just a part of the game. I am a firm believer in swinging at the first pitch of an at bat, as that's typically the best pitch you are going to see in an at bat. Just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing thus far.”

Eagen also knows how much of this game is mental. She knows that if she had a bad at bat that she can’t dwell on it. Whatever happened the last time out can’t affect what she is doing this time.

This goes for in the field, if she has a bad play in the field she knows not to take it to the plate. Thinking about doesn’t help her, or her teammates.

“Main thing most softball players are thinking about is laying off the rise. In all seriousness, I look for gaps in the field and try to place the ball where the defense isn't. Other than that, I go into every at bat with a clean slate,” stated Eagen. “Doesn’t matter what happened last at bat, last inning in the field, or a few minutes ago in the dugout. Each at bat is a new opportunity to do well for yourself and for your team. I tend to be a base-hit hitter, and singles/doubles are my specialty. I do not go in swinging for the fences, I am just looking for gaps to advance runners or get a rally going.”

Of course softball is just one aspect of college life. There is still the academic side that needs to be taken care off. Eagen knows to be a true student-athlete she needs to take scare of not just the sports side, but the academic side as well.

The psyche major knows there will be times when school will be overwhelming, and that school comes first. But, she also knows how to balance both. At West Seneca West, Eagen was a straight A student while playing three sports.

“The balance between school and sports has been the norm for me since I was 13. I was a straight A student in high school, and have always taken my academics very seriously. At the end of the day, we are students before we are athletes,” stated Eagen. “One of the main reasons that D3 softball was the best decision for me was because I would be able to focus on my academics while also being able to play the sport that I have loved for so many years. My team has ended with a 3.45 team GPA this past semester, so I am surrounded by academically successful girls who push me to do just as well in the classroom as I do on the field.”

With softball being such a mental battle at times, being a psych major can be a great help. It allows Eagen to step back and control the uncontrollable.

“I would argue that softball is the biggest game of mental toughness compared to any sport. In volleyball or basketball, they were all fast paced, never having time to stop and think type of games. With softball, you have time to overthink every single play you’ve made. It’s hard not to dwell on mistakes you’ve made in games when there's no guarantee the ball will be hit to you again,” stated Eagen. “My interest in psychology from a young age has definitely been an advantage for me. My motto in not only softball, but in life, has been to “control the controllable.” You can't control the umpires, the weather, the other team, or the fans. All you can control is yourself. Your mindset. Staying in a confident and competitive mindset has been my biggest asset throughout my career in softball.”

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