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  • Matt Ondesko

Providing a spark

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Buffalo State Athletics

Seniors are the country dream of this day: Senior Day. A chance to be honored for all the hard work that was put in during the past four years. If you are a college senior, than it’s all the hard work that you put in throughout your career.

It’s a chance to be celebrate one last time. A chance to stand on the field with your parents as you show them how much they have meant to your career on and off the field.

This year, there are seniors who never were able to celebrate their Senior Day. With the virus wiping out spring sports throughout the country, seniors are left wondering what if. The offseason workouts went for not as many athletes didn’t even get on the field before their season was cancelled.

It’s not exactly how the athletes pictured it four years ago. As a freshmen they were wide-eyed wondering how to get through the first day of class, left alone getting on the field to hit a softball. Four years later they were hoping to stand on the field one last time.

“This is not how I envisioned my senior year to go at all. Every single one of us put in a lot of hard work on and off the field leading up to when our season was cancelled and it was absolutely devastating,” said Buffalo State senior catcher Chelsea Davis. “My frustration level was extremely high because I was so excited to start our season, and I knew we would have accomplished a lot this year. I was feeling really confident in myself, and my team as a whole. When we got the news our season was cancelled, I was so disappointed, especially with this year being my senior year. I did not necessarily end the way I would have hoped to and I was really ready to bring my all this year.”

For Davis it has been one hell of a ride. A standout out at Lancaster High School, Davis took the circular root to Buffalo State. While most high school athletes will look to go right to a four-year college, Davis got her feet wet first at a two-year school.

Erie Community College is a great step for those student-athletes who want some playing time right away, while still figuring out what they want to major in. It’s a stepping stone that a lot of players don’t take.

Davis loved her time at ECC as it helped her get acclimated to college life both on the diamond and in the classroom. It was a way for Davis to figure out what she wanted to do for the rest of her life, while still getting accustomed to life as a student-athlete.

“Going to ECC and playing there helped me a lot with getting acclimated to the game and academics. It helped me with learning how to balance a lot at once from softball, to academics to still being able to work,” stated Davis. “It was a lot of hard work and it was not easy to get used to, but I loved it because it constantly kept me busy. It also helped me significantly with getting used to life at Buff State. I needed to be able to balance everything and it was an adjustment.”

Two solid years at ECC helped Davis get noticed. After her sophomore year with the Kats, Davis was looking to continue her softball career while achieving her degree. Being from Lancaster, Davis knew all about what Buffalo State had to offer academically.

Davis also knew the softball team was young, but poised for big things. It was a match made in heaven, you could say. Davis had the college experience the coaches were looking for. She could mold a young staff, and help them through the ups and downs of a college season.

“Buff State was one of the first colleges I looked at as a four-year school to finish my academics and softball. I went on a visit and absolutely loved what coach Brown was planning on doing with the program, and I wanted to be a big part of that for my last two years,” stated Davis. “I also heard good things about the criminal justice program, and I knew that’s where I wanted to finish my college career.”

As a junior transfer Davis wasn’t expected to sit on the bench. She was expected to contribute right away. Since she wasn’t with the program since the beginning, Davis knew she would have to put in the extra work it takes to learn the pitching staff.

That meant more time off the field and in the cages or behind the plate doing what she needed to do so be successful. While she was a transfer student, Davis already knew some of her teammates from her time playing travel ball.

That helped her as she got ready for the season.

“I did put more time off of the field in my time at Buff State. I knew this program had high expectations coming in, and I wanted to make sure I was prepared. Whether that meant getting more reps hitting, catching or even in the weight room. I really wanted to be in the best shape possible going into our season,” stated Davis. “t was not really too difficult for me to learn my pitchers and the different pitches they threw, and what they preferred to throw in different scenarios. Marissa and I played travel together for a little bit before we both ended up at Buff State, so it was not hard to have a trusting bond between the two of us. OC and I also had a good bond and it did not take long for that to happen. I really focused during our bullpen sessions to learn what each one of them threw, whether it was their best pitch, or their worst pitch. We constantly communicated as well and we were always pretty much on the same page when it came to what pitch should be thrown in that given circumstance.”

Behind the plate, Davis was as steady as they come. At the dish she provided a spark in the lineup as well. Davis came in and raked right from the beginning given the Bengals that extra needed spark in the lineup.

Her bat allowed the lineup to get longer. There were no easy outs as the Bengals got better as the season went on. That was the type of dedication the coaching staff from getting from Davis. A hard worker behind the plate and at the dish.

“It was hard coming in as a transfer as a junior not really knowing what to expect. Everyone was extremely welcoming and I believe we clicked pretty fast on and off of the field. Every single time we stepped on the field I knew my team had my back and they knew I had theirs,” said Davis. “I would prepare myself mentally for each at bat different for each game depending on what the opposing pitcher would throw mostly. I would look for my pitch, and if it was there I would go for it. I knew I struggled more with outside pitches, so I would not usually swing at those especially if I was ahead in the count. If I was ahead in the count, I would go for pitches that were left hanging over the middle of the plate or more so inside and up a little bit.”

While Davis has made it look easy it really wasn’t. Softball is both physically and mentally tough. Davis plays a position where she gets beat up daily with foul tips and players sliding into her. That type of beating can take a toll on a person physically, not to mention, mentally.

But, there she is, everyday going out and giving her teammates what they need. Davis is out there battling. She is making sure as a catcher that she knows every signal and every cut off play.

Davis considered herself one of the leaders on the field, and so did her teammates.

“Softball is definitely a mental game. A lot of preparation goes into it. Being a catcher, I considered myself one of the big leaders on the field. I had to know at all times the amount of outs we had, the runners on each base, and the count. I also had to know what to do as soon as the ball was hit and where to go, because I was responsible for relaying that to my team,” said Davis. “Catching is definitely a tough position especially because you can take a pounding behind the plate. I tried to maintain my stamina the best I could in the weight room. It was also important for me to focus on different drills in practice, that I could transfer into game situations. Catching work outs were extremely tough during practice. Catching multiple games a week can take a toll on your body, and that is why it is so important to take care of yourself after games. Ice baths were also something I would do to help with that.”

If the last couple of months have taught us anything it’s that life can throw some curve balls even the best hitters can’t hit. Back in February Davis was getting ready for her final year of softball and classes. She was walking to class and laughing with her friends.

Now, Davis is taking online classes and, as of right now, not even able to walk with her class for graduation. She went from early morning workouts in the weight room to going to “Class”  in her living room.

It just shows how life can throw the ultimate curve ball.

“This entire situation has definitely shown me that you never know what it going to happen in life, and you have to appreciate every little moment that you have. I was not expecting our season to be ripped away from us,” said Davis. “This just shows me that anything can be taken from you at any time and you have to enjoy it while you can. This entire situation has definitely helped me realize that you can’t take things for grated and you need to appreciate what you have in life no matter how little it may seem.”


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