Another member of the blue and gold has been recognized with a prestigious award. This past week, the coaches of the Southern Conference voted pitcher Alicia Bazonski in as the pre-season conference pitcher of the year.
“That’s a big recognition,” Bazonski said. “Especially since it’s based off of last year. So I was really excited about that.
Her statistics from last year showed a great improvement over her already solid freshman campaign in 2015. She improved from a 3.68 ERA to a 2.93 ERA and she won eight more games in the process. That improvement over last summer had to be on the coaches’ minds when they selected her as their top pick for pitcher of the year.
“That summer I just knew what I had to work on. I knew my strengths and my weaknesses, and just having the experience of freshman year really made it easier.”
Alicia also said that this summer was a similar process. “It’s hard because there’s no one to catch for me back home…but I made it work.” Bazonski is a flame-thrower—she relies largely on her fastball and her drop ball. Her approach to the game revolves around a competitive work ethic and practicality.
“I don’t have any pre-game rituals. One time after I had pitched a no hitter, I changed my cleats. Everyone was like, why would you do that? And I just said, well, I needed new cleats.”
Superstitious or not, she has a passion for the game, one that’s hitting its pinnacle now that the season is underway.
“I get very excited, hyped up. Everyone has been looking up their walk-up songs, and even though that’s only for our home games—it gets us really hyped up.”
UNCG is coming off of a 2016 season in which they finished 9-9 in the Southern Conference (33-26 overall). The main issue last season? Road games. The Spartans were just 4-11 on the road last year, 3-6 in the conference. Winning away games is surely going to be a major focal point for the team going forward.
Beyond that, the softball team is committed to being there for each other in a way that transcends the softball diamond.
“We all sat down and said, these are our goals, these are our long term goals. Have a purpose with everything we do, have each others back on and off the field—if someone needs help outside of softball we’re going to be there for them, if someone has a bad day we’re going to help them get through it.”
“We try to address things when they pop up. If everyone is having an issue hitting they’re going to address this issue. I think that’s how we stay focused, by addressing things as they pop up.”
As for her own contribution to the team, Bazonski plans on producing an even more successful season than she had last year. She’s put the work in, and now she’s just waiting for the payoff.
“I think just being consistent—consistent with my pitches. I know last year I started kind of rough and then kind of got into the groove of things. I’d like to not go through that again last year, so I just want to get off to a nice start and stay consistent.”
UNCG is already ankle deep into the season, but conference play won’t start until March 25, when they open up against Western Carolina. The team Bazonski is most excited to play this year, though, is Samford—the team that finished first in the Southern Conference in 2016 with a record of 15-3.
“Samford is the [most threatening team]. It used to always be Chattanooga. Samford is our biggest rival and we want to beat them so badly.”
While Alicia and the rest of the Spartans are preparing for the season, she’s keeping her eye on what she’ll really remember most from her UNCG softball days.
“Our team. Obviously the game is going to be important but the people you meet along the way, my team, my coaches, they’re people I’ll have around forever.”