DEPTFORD TWP.-- Rachel Tuppeny notices a new exuberance in the Deptford dugout.
The senior shortstop is accompanied in the lineup by a group of talented freshmen that have the Spartans sitting at 13-9 after Wednesday’s 5-3 win over Triton in Tri-County Diamond play.
“It’s nice to have these freshman by me,” Tuppeny said. “I just know they really brighten the team up. They’re young-spirited, young-minded and really know how to perk us up. They’re in here cheering and we didn’t cheer much last year. It’s a completely different environment than it was in years before and it’s really fun to have them.”
The collection of first-year players came into the program with chemistry from travel ball, and in addition to thriving off their connection together, they’re benefiting from Tuppeny’s leadership.
“It’s nice because quite a few of them play on an ASA team together so they already formed a bond throughout the years,” Deptford head coach Mindy Coxe said. “ I have my senior shortstop (Tuppeny), I try to tell her to stay positive and upbeat and talk to them because they are freshmen, it is a lot for them, it is nervewrecking, but they’re doing a fantastic job out there.”
The offensive formula that’s worked so well for the Spartans begins with freshman Brianna Stocklin, who is a master at getting on base.
“I just want to get on base and help my team out,” Stocklin said.
“We have our two-hole hitter, who, a lot of times because of Brianna’s speed, we have her sacrifice to move her around so hopefully Rachel can come up with her at second, and eight out of ten times it works in our favor thankfully,” Coxe said.
Normally when Tuppeny steps to the plate, she is in a position to plate runs from the three hole, just like the first inning when Stocklin walked and Tuppeny brought the leadoff hitter in from third on a groundout.
“It’s very nice to have them in scoring position because they’re very good baserunners and then that sets it up, we score a couple runs whenever it’s the top of the lineup,” Tuppeny said.
While the experienced players in the Deptford lineup are happy to benefit from the skill of the freshmen, the first-year players are thriving because of the leadership Tuppeny and others provide.
“They help us a lot. When we get down on ourselves, they bring us up,” Stocklin said.
Wednesday’s game, as well as the handful the Spartans have left on the docket, are preparing them for the postseason, where they’ll be on the road as a projected No. 11 or No. 12 seed in South Jersey Group 3.
“Of course. It’s extra practice for playoffs,” Tuppeny said. “The heart of the season is over and we’re just setting our minds forward.”
With a 5-2 record in their last seven games, the Spartans are using the confidence gained to get excited for what could be a long playoff run.
“You always have to be confident ahead of your first playoff game,” Tuppeny said. “You can’t go in playing scared, you have to go in cocky. You have to have that mindset or else you’re not going to go far.”
“I think we’re going to go far,” Stocklin said. “I think we got it.”