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Swinging into a new era

By: Zach Harnischfeger

Former Brockport softball head coach John Dumaw stepped down as head coach of the program after 25 years, at the conclusion of the 2023 season. In those 25 seasons, Dumaw compiled 498 wins and 14 SUNYAC conference tournament appearances. The team finished the 2023 season with a 5-27 record placing eighth in the conference. 

In August of 2023, Mary Karen Wheat was hired as head coach of the Brockport softball program. Previously, she served as an assistant coach at the University of Rochester where she helped guide the Yellowjackets to two Liberty League Conference Championships. She also spent time at RIT and was the head coach at Brockport High School in 2015 and 2016, leading the Blue Devils to the 2015 Section V Championship game. 

Wheat feels confident and is looking forward to the upcoming season.  

“I’m really excited,” Wheat said. “The girls have adjusted really well to everything that my assistant coach and I are asking of them and each day we kind of take it up a notch. I think we have the opportunity to shock a lot of people, but we’re just focusing on trying to be 20% better.” 

Three of the top hitters from last season are returning for the Golden Eagles. Sophomore Riley Barrett, junior Kellie Gentile and senior Emma Dejesus all hit over .300 in 2023. Wheat believes the trio will do big things this upcoming season.  

“I’m really excited about the three of them,” Wheat said. “I think that they are working really hard and I think that it's a challenge for anybody when you have a new coach come in and you've had successful seasons to turn it up a notch and we haven't really had to ask too much of them to do that and they're just ready to go.”  

Barrett led the team with a .323 batting average and a .371 on base percentage last season. She is hoping to have the same success in 2024.  

Barrett at-bat in a game last season. (Photo Credit: Brockport Athletics)

“I kind of just took it game by game,” Barrett said. “I know we weren’t really doing well as a team but I tried my best to do whatever I could to just get on base and help the team succeed in any way that I could and I hope to continue that this season.”  

Gentile led the team with 30 hits and 18 runs scored last season. She is excited for Wheat’s first season leading the program. 

Gentile at-bat in a game last season. (Photo Credit: Brockport Athletics)

“She is so full of energy,” Gentile said. “She has brought the program up already. She has amazing ideas. Our practices have been great and she has just been super positive and supportive of everyone and I am looking forward to seeing her in action this spring.”  

Gentile has also been impressed with what she has seen from the team so far this pre-season.  

“Everyone is very committed,” Gentile said. “We all have the mind set of being 20% better, if we do that then we should be able to make the playoffs this year and make ourselves a team that people can be worried about. They’ve all really bought into the process, and everyone is truly committed to being there.”  

The team welcomes 10 new faces this season with freshman and new transfers. Wheat loves the progress she is seeing from them so far this season.  

“I have been unbelievably impressed with our freshman,” Wheat said. “That class is really working hard and they’re pushing the upperclassmen in the weight room and in practices. They fit in perfectly. The upperclassmen respect the freshman and vice versa. They communicate really well with each other."

Emma Dejesus is entering her final season with the team. She enters her final season boasting a .304 career batting average and 59 career hits. Both Barrett and Gentile have played a big role in her success at Brockport. 

Dejesus making a nice catch last season. (Photo Credit: Brockport Athletics)

“I’ve gotten to know Riley when she was a freshman and Kellie when she was a freshman,” Dejesus said. “They’re both amazing players. They’re really dedicated to what they do. I know me and Kellie, we’re in the outfield with each other and we always try to make each other better.  I am always there for her through everything either in softball or outside of softball.”  

Being one of three seniors on the team, Dejesus is hoping to make the freshman feel at home and build a happy atmosphere.  

“It’s going to be different,” Dejesus said. “There is going to be a lot of pressure on them to perform well and try and get a spot. So, I just want to make it as welcoming as possible. I don’t want them to think that this is a big competition. We are sisters, it’s a sisterhood. We’re with each other every day and I just want it to be fun and I want them to have the best year with us.”  

Wheat has enjoyed her time at Brockport so far and knows that the team will do some great things this season. 

“I just want to enjoy the ride,” Wheat said. “I love going to practice every day. The girls make it enjoyable. I'm fortunate enough that I get to coach with a friend who I've known for six, seven years. We’re having fun and I just want to enjoy the whole process and go one game at a time. If we can kind of stay in that mode, I think we’re going to do some really great things.” 

The Golden Eagles open the 2024 season in Clermont, Florida on Saturday, March 16 with a doubleheader against the University of Wisconsin at 10 a.m. and Susquehanna University at 12 p.m.  

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