Softball bullpen catchers receive credit for team’s stellar pitching

Hornet sophomore catcher No. 9 Kortney Solis warms up fo their game against Weber State on Friday in the bullpen at Shea Stadium.

state hornet 2012

Hornet sophomore catcher No. 9 Kortney Solis warms up fo their game against Weber State on Friday in the bullpen at Shea Stadium.

Clifton Jones

In sports, every athlete plays a vital role in his or her team’s success on the field. Sacramento State softball’s success this season can be credited in large part to the bullpen catchers for the Hornets: sophomore Paris Prado and freshman T.J. Watts.

Sac State is leading the Big Sky this season with a 2.27 ERA. With the success on the field comes hard work. 

“The pitchers and catchers come half an hour early in order to get their stretching and workout done by the time the other players come to practice,” said softball pitching coach Lori Perez. 

When it comes to getting the pitchers ready for a game, communication is the biggest thing the bullpen catchers bring to the field.

“Paris and T.J. are really good at getting to me once they are done with a bullpen session by relaying the information to me in regards to what pitches are working the best for the new pitcher,” Perez said.

With the recent injury to senior catcher and first baseman Molly Smith, former Hornet and volunteer coach Marissa Navarro has stepped into her catching gear again in order to fill Smith’s spot in the bullpen.

Despite the injury, Smith still wants to go out and catch bullpen work with her team. Perez said that Smith texted her two weeks ago asking to be put on a bucket of balls so she can help warm up the pitchers any way she can.

“Molly really wants to come out and help catch with the pitchers because she loves to catch,” Perez said. “She has really used the opportunity to still be close with the team.”

Navarro’s ability to still connect with the young group of catchers helps Perez when she is not around in the bullpen.

“Navarro is able to work well with the catchers this year because she doesn’t assume the coaching role but rather a friend,” Perez said.

Watts said feedback is the most important process during any bullpen session.

“It makes a difference when the pitchers are comfortable when they are going into the game,” Watts said. “The friendship we have really allows us to be able to communicate well during the bullpen sessions.”

Prado has taken a dual role on the team in which she has taken over games for Solis because of her sore knees. Prado has embraced the role of being Solis’s immediate backup, she likes the responsibility that comes with the role she plays on the team this season.

“I have to make sure I help with the bullpen – getting the pitchers ready for the next game as well as keeping up-to-date with what is happening in the game because I don’t like coming into a game blind,” Prado said.

Prado said the ability for the Hornets to come to practice early has solidified the bond the pitchers and catchers have – into a sisterhood, so to speak.

“With the catchers and pitchers showing up early to practice, the bond between my teammates and I (has) grown to be really tight. We all push each other every day so we respect each other a lot,” Prado said.

Prado said she is amazed in how much time Molly takes out of her rehabbing to come and help with our bullpen work.

“Molly has helped me so much this season. Even though she is injured she is out here with us,” Prado said. “She helps by timing us and working on our catching position.”

Although Solis is getting most of the playing time, both Prado and Watts have been getting in time with each pitcher. Perez said she wants there to be a small transition between catchers when there is a defensive switch.

“I flip the catchers around with the pitchers so there is the familiarity with both the catchers and pitchers,” Perez said. “It is important to me that the bullpen catchers to know their pitchers.”

Perez said the younger catching group this season always wants to get better on the field because both Prado and Watts do not want any dropoff when they are placed in the game.

The Hornets’ bullpen catchers are the reason for the success of this year’s pitching staff, despite them rarely playing in the games.


Clifton can be reached on Twitter at @jonesSHsports