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Soaring into the Wheat era

By: Zachary Harnischfeger

BROCKPORT, NY--- The Brockport Golden Eagles softball team finished the 2024 season with an 8-28 overall record and a 2-16 conference record. First-year head coach Mary Karen Wheat earned her first victory as head coach of the Golden Eagles during the team's trip down in Florida, a 10-2 win over Keuka College on March 17.

Despite the record, Wheat highly enjoyed her first season as head coach of the program.

Coach Wheat and assistant coach Christina Sakran (pictured left) observing the game. Photo Credit: Katie Wilson / Brockport Athletics

"I have never been happier," Wheat said. "From the moment I stepped foot on campus, everybody's been so welcoming. I love the support of the coaches here, the administration has been really supportive and fantastic and the girls were just wonderful. It couldn't have been a better year for my first year."

The first conference win for Brockport came against the Oswego State Lakers in game two of that doubleheader. It was a 7-3 victory. The second conference win was a 1-0 eight-inning victory over the Fredonia Blue Devils in game one of a doubleheader. Senior Emma DeJesus had the walk-off hit to lead the Golden Eagles to victory.

Three hitters for Brockport batted over .300 on the season, including transfer student Olivia Simone. At Cazenovia College in 2023, Simone was named North Atlantic College (NAC) Player Of the Year. For Brockport, Simone batted .321 and led the team in hits (34), runs scored (18), RBIs (17) and SLG% (.491). Simone credits her teammates for the success she had this past season.

"It's easy to perform well when you have a group of girls behind you constantly supporting you," Simone said. "We really worked together and learned how to work together throughout the whole entire season. It's easy when everybody is constantly supporting each other."

Simone at-bat in a game against Fredonia. Photo Credit: Kat Althouse / Brockport Athletics

Simone appreciates how much Wheat helped the team grow and made things fun in her first season as head coach.

"I'm really happy that I was able to play for her," Simone said. "She made it really easy. I think our record doesn't show how much we grew as a team and how much progress we made. And every day, practice and games, were all really fun and it was because of coach [Sakran] and coach Wheat."

Despite, the Golden Eagles' three hitters that bat over .300, the team ranked ninth in the SUNYAC in hits with 236 and had a .258 overall batting average. Brockport also struggled with pitching as they gave up the most earned runs with 196 and had a team ERA of 6.23 which was the most in the SUNYAC.

A bright spot on the pitching side for the Golden Eagles was freshman Kendall Phillips who had a historic 2024 campaign. In her first season at Brockport, Phillips' 135 strikeouts and 9.23 K/7 were SUNYAC-leading figures.

Phillips about to deliver a pitch. Photo Credit: Katie Wilson/ Brockport Athletics

Phillips appreciates the chances she was given and how much her teammates and coaches helped her transition from high school to college softball.

"I'm so grateful for all the opportunities that I have been given here," Phillips said. "It's definitely been tricky going from high school to here. You don't know the girls, it's a new coach, it's a new atmosphere, you're playing new teams, and it's just a lot of unknown. It's great to have that team behind you, like 'hey, they got some insight.' You can go talk to the teammates who have been here, like 'hey what's up with this team', and that they've got your back and know things."

Although the season didn't start off the way she wanted it to, Phillips really enjoyed her first season with the program and is excited for the future.

"It got off to a little rocky start in Florida," Phillips said. "I didn't perform as great as I wanted to. Once we got back, we got back to business and the coaches and the players were all very supportive and it was a really enjoyable season. I'm glad I got to spend it here and I'm looking forward to the future."

Seniors DeJesus, Rose Stroh, and Tori Angelo will not return to the program in 2025. DeJesus had a career .295 batting average and 80 hits in four years with the program. Stroh had a 6.82 career ERA and 44 strikeouts in her three years with the program. Angelo had a .208 career average with eight walks and 11 RBI's in 44 games played in her two seasons with the program.

The Golden Eagles are leaving the SUNYAC and are moving into the Empire 8 conference in 2025. Coach Wheat is looking forward to the change and is excited to start new rivalries and knows that the focus of the team remains the same.

"I think that it's going to be exciting to create new rivalries," Wheat said. "We are so self-focused on internally what we do that it doesn't matter who we play, it's just about performing at our very best. I don't think we've really even conceptualized that change. I'm excited for the challenge and to see what it brings for us."

Brockport will have to go up against St. John Fisher, Utica, and Alfred, three of the top teams in the Empire 8. St. John Fisher has won back-to-back Empire 8 championships and nine overall in program history since 2001.

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