Softball: Hilliard Bradley's Macie LoParo happy to get back on field
Admittedly, Macie LoParo was rusty.
Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, her last softball practice had been March 13 with Hilliard Bradley. Returning to the field May 26 with her travel team, Sluggers Fastpitch Ohio, the experience was much like the day when, as a 6-year-old, she first started playing catch in her backyard with her father, Bradley football coach Mike LoParo.
She was a little unsure of herself and needed to get into the flow of the game.
"I was definitely rusty," she said. "I embarrassed myself and forgot how to play a little bit. But it was good to get back out there and get back to the drills.
"I was in the outfield, and I had trouble reading fly balls for a hot minute. I haven't had the practice in a while. After a couple of reps, I was right back into it."
LoParo was happy to be shagging fly balls, especially since she will play in the outfield at Walsh University. She pitched last spring for the Jaguars, going 13-6 with a 4.29 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 23 walks in 124 innings.
It was her first season toeing the rubber full time, and the left-hander was excited to show how much she had learned when playing this spring as a senior. However, the season was canceled because of the pandemic.
"(When the season was canceled), my mom (Heidi LoParo) and I were a mess," said LoParo, who batted .306 with one home run and 15 RBI last season. "I had learned so much from that one year (of pitching). It made me forget everything from my freshman and sophomore years.
"I'm disappointed I didn't get a chance to show what I could do. I never have been the fastest pitcher, but I wanted to prove that I have control (in the circle). My family and coach (Kevin Moody) know I had that capability. I have been pitching since I was 9 and wanted to finish up strong."
Moody said LoParo had grown into her leadership role and continued to improve as a pitcher. He believed she would have been that much better with the addition of freshman right-hander Chloe Sayre, who would have taken some of the pitching burden off LoParo this spring.
"I think through last year, Macie learned to be in control and gained confidence," said Moody, whose team finished 13-8 overall and 10-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division last spring. "We didn't want to have her pitch every game, but that was out of necessity. This year, she would have been able to pitch when she needed to, play the outfield when she needed to and hit the ball for us.
"She also is left-handed, which helps because there aren't as many of them and the batters aren't used to seeing the ball come from that side. Her curve is like a screwball for a right-handed batter. But no matter what, you still have to hit your spots and fool the batter."
LoParo said her time pitching made her a better hitter. It all comes down to the mental aspect of the game.
"Even when I was 9 or 10 or in middle school, coaches wanted you to build your mental game," said LoParo, who was special mention all-league last spring. "You can't show emotion or let (the opponents) get in your head.
"I'm able to transfer that to my hitting. Being a pitcher, sometimes I can tell what's coming by the way the pitcher holds the ball."
Now, LoParo wants to fine-tune her skills with her travel team before heading to Walsh.
"We had to wear masks in the dugout in our first practice, which was super hot," she said. "It will be an adjustment, but it's good to get out there and play.
"Everything that has happened (with the pandemic) has taught me that I take a lot of things for granted, and I need to slow down and enjoy it. It can be taken from you without explanation.
"I have to be thankful for what I have."