Coming off a junior season in which she helped Bridgewater State claim the MASCAC title, pitched in the NCAA Tournament, was named to the All-MASCAC First Team, and earned the conference’s Pitcher of the Year award, former Milford standout Kelley Reichert wasted no time, just two games, to add another honor to that list.
Reichert was named the MASCAC Player of the Week after helping BSU split two games of The Spring Games in Florida. Reichert went 4-for-5 with a double, stolen base and two runs scored and went 1-0 in the circle, striking out five over nine innings of work, as the Bears beat Penn State – Altoona and lost to Muskingum University (Ohio).
Bridgewater State won its first two games of its trip to Florida and, although the Bears lost the next three, Reichert was fully confident that the team could replicate its championship form from a year ago.
“I think we’ve grown as a program every single year and we look better and better each day,” she said a couple of days before leaving for spring training. “We show up and try to do our best and I think we’ve all developed really good relationships on and off the field and I think that’s really helpful. I think we’re going to have an even more successful season than last year.”
Expectations are high for the Bears this spring, the first full schedule they will be playing in three years. Bridgewater State was picked first in the MASCAC in the preseason softball coaches poll and will struggle to play the underdog this season following its win over Framingham State in last year’s conference championship series.
“As a captain and a pitcher, I stress taking it literally pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning,” Reichert explained. “You can’t rush 10 steps forward, you have to focus on that one thing you’re doing at that one moment. I think we know at the end of the day, we want to get to the MASCAC championship but you can’t look that far ahead.”
With a new season a couple of days away, Reichert took some time to look back. The Bears reached the championship series her freshman year, falling in three games to Framingham. The 2020 season held plenty of promise for a Bears side that felt it could win the title that had eluded it the year before, but only 12 games in the spring was wiped away by the pandemic.
Having a season taken away gave Reichert a different perspective as she entered her junior season.
“It’s just the difficulty of realizing that with COVID anything can change at any moment,” she said. “We worked hard for two and a half months to go down to Florida, give our everything for 12 games, and then be told on our last day that we’re not going to be playing any more softball for that year. You look at all that hard work we did in that preseason to then only play those 12 games, we’re grateful for those 12 games, but we had so much potential.”
According to Reichert, it wasn’t obvious that the Bears were going to be a championship team in the 2021 preseason. The team had struggled during the fall and was still trying to come together when the season kicked off. A pandemic schedule didn’t help.
Rather than playing a typical schedule that would see the Bears facing multiple teams in a week, the pandemic forced teams to play one team in a weekend series. Reichert could pitch against the same team four times in the span of 24 hours, requiring a lot of work between herself, catcher Madison Synan, and the coaching staff to keep things fresh.
“Just changing up the sequences, changing up our signs so they wouldn’t catch onto them, just the little things to try and come out on top,” Reichert said.
She had special praise for Synan, her “battery buddy,” who is back as a fifth-year senior this spring. “We work so well together,” Reichert said. “She always pushes me to be better and she has the smallest strike zone known to man, making me work 10 times harder so when it comes to games it’s a lot easier.”
The Bears entered the 2021 championship series on a roll, winning 13 of their final 14 games of the regular season, but they had to go through Framingham to win the title. The Rams won all six meetings in the regular season and then took the opening game of the best-of-three series 6-1.
Bridgewater rallied, winning the second game of the Friday doubleheader 3-2 to set up a winner-take-all finale the following day. Reichert threw a complete game five-hitter, striking out one, and not allowing an earned run, as the Bears completed the comeback to win the MASCAC title and book a place in the NCAA DIII Tournament.
“I think we all just wanted it so so bad,” she reflected. “I was emotional after the first game because sometimes when you want something so bad you try too hard to accomplish it. I didn’t have my best first game but my teammates were there for me and my coaching staff was great and we just dug deep.
“Just wanting it for our teammates and wanting it for our team as a whole, I think we were all selfless at that point, wanting to prove to people that we could do it because we were sick of people saying that Framingham was better. It was just big, giant relief. All those days and all that time spent working hard to perfect something, literally blood, sweat, and tears, we had finally done it.”
Now the Bears are looking to experience that winning feeling again and this time to carry that over into the NCAA Tournament. After coming close and falling short and then having a season taken away, Reichert, who has a 25-18 record with 32 complete games and 180 strikeouts in her career, doesn’t want to let an opportunity to win more silverware slip away.
“You just have to show up and work hard and be there for each other,” she remarked. “That’s how we’re going to be successful. We’re super grateful for our opportunities and the time we get to spend with each other. We don’t want to waste that.
“I think we look really good. Our skills are growing every day and we’ve been really focusing on our mentality. Not only will we have the skills for the season ahead but we’ll have that mental strength.”
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