Jasper Talk: Elena Bowman

Elena Bowman, catcher for the Manhattan College softball team, is in her final year as a Jasper and to say she has brought a lot to the team is an understatement.

Elena Bowman Jaspers Talk

Just looking at last season, Bowman was named MAAC Player of the Year, Capital One Academic All-District and All-America First Team just to name a few. When you ask her about her awards, she never focuses too much on herself. She always has a team mindset.

Her accomplishments so far this season include driving in four homeruns and hitting .455 in the St. John’s Invitational, part of the Jaspers’ 14-game road trip. The Jaspers had a comeback win against LIU Brooklyn on March 24 and Bowman notched one run in the team’s seven-run sixth inning.

The Quadrangle: You were just named MAAC Player of the Week, the sixth of your career, after your performance at the St. John’s Invitational. How does it feel to be honored like that?

Elena Bowman: It’s always nice to be recognized by the conference. It’s not something that ever really gets old. I let myself feel good about it for a minute but then I think it’s important to focus in on the big picture and what we’re trying to achieve. It’s not where you stand now that matters but where you’re standing in May.

TQ: After the team’s long road trip, you return home for four games. How is it for the team to play on home field?

EB: It’s so good to be home. We love playing on our field in front of our fans. It’s just a great atmosphere and makes for great softball.

TQ: In the LIU Brooklyn game, the team was down and came back to win with a seven-run sixth inning. What does that say about the team’s resiliency?

EB: This team is amazing. You put 22 hardworking girls on one roster and that’s what you’re going to get, straight grit. It’s just fun to be a part of. No lead is insurmountable. No team is unbeatable. Like I said, it’s a lot of fun taking the field with this team and I think that’s the way it should be.

TQ: How do you feel your season has gone so far?

EB: I got off to a little bit of a slow start but Pitt [Lauren Pitney, infield] and Jenn [Vazquez, first base] have been brilliant on either end of me in the lineup. So once I relaxed a little bit and let the game come to me, I feel like I’m finally starting to hit my stride.

TQ: What is an individual goal you have set for this season? Team goals?

EB: No individual goals this season. My goal is the same as the team goal, a MAAC championship. Everything else is just white noise.

TQ: As a senior, what has been your favorite memory from your years at Manhattan?

EB: I would have to say my favorite memory as a Jasper was last year when I broke the career homerun record in front of my family in California. It was the first time they had seen me play for Manhattan and I’ll never forget rounding third base, seeing how excited my team was for me and then looking beyond them and seeing all my family jumping up and down. Really just a special moment.

TQ: How does it feel playing in your last season as a Jasper?

EB: Very bittersweet. It has been such an amazing experience playing ball here. From my teammates, to my coaches and throughout the entire athletic department, I’ve met the most incredible people and enjoyed every bit of this journey. I’m sad to see it come to an end but I know when I hang up my cleats at the end of the season I’ll have given this team and I’ll have given this sport everything I have. That’s something I think I’ll always be able to take pride in.

TQ: Who has influenced you as a player?

EB: Bridget Hurlman, our previous assistant coach, was an incredible mentor for me. She taught me a lot about the amount of passion this game demands and the respect it requires. I am grateful for all the hours she spent making me a better ball player but to Coach Bridge and Coach P [Pardalis, head coach] I am forever indebted for making me a better person.

TQ: Do you have any plans set for after graduation?

EB: No formal plans yet but stay tuned.

Softball Concludes Long Road Trip, Record Now 9-7

As the Manhattan College softball team was practicing ahead of a six-game road trip in California from March 11 through March 13, it had one goal in mind: To win.

The team was in the midst of a five-game winning streak to get some early-season motivation. The Jaspers won a double-header against Hartford at home on March 1 and had three-straight wins at the Hampton Invitational from March 4 through March 6.

The Jaspers wanted to keep the momentum going, with preparations for the Saint Mary’s Tournament in Moraga, Calif.

“It’s awesome,” catcher Elena Bowman said of the win streak before embarking on the road trip, “it’s a great start. We’re making improvements in every game. I think it’s important for us to continue to go out and not be satisfied with that. It matters where we are in the end. Right now we’re playing some good softball so it’s exciting.”

Four of Manhattan’s six games in California were cancelled after rainstorms caused the field to be unplayable. Manhattan started and ended the tournament with rained-out games, but was able to play two games in between on Saturday. The Jaspers lost both, however, by one-run deficits. They fell to Towson and Saint Mary’s 1-0 and 2-1 respectively.

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The Jaspers bounced back later in the week at the St. John’s Invitational in Queens going 2-2. The Jaspers opened the tournament with a 6-0 win over Howard, however, dropped the next two games, 2-1 against St. John’s and 8-6 versus Samford. The Jaspers concluded the tournament with an 11-2 thrashing of Fairleigh Dickinson.

“We have to take it game by game,” first baseman Jenn Vazquez said of the long road trip. “From these past couple of games on the road we’ve made our mistakes and its different than playing at home. We’re trying to find our groove and I think we are definitely picking up on it. We’ve won five on the road but it’s important to never be satisfied. Keep moving forward.”

Manhattan will return home and have four games within a span of about a week. That will follow by the start of the Jaspers’ MAAC play on April 2 against Siena. Vazquez and Bowman said that the team has been preparing and what they have learned on the road trip will help get them ready for tournament play.

“It dusts the rust off,” Bowman said. “It shows us what we need to work on. It shows us our areas where we are weak. When we come back to practice during the week, that’s what we focus on. It overall makes us stronger going into MAAC.

A major aspect that the Jaspers are focusing on this season is defense. They want to have strong pitching and defense every game, both Vazquez and Manhattan’s assistant coach Cat Clifford said. The team knows that it can produce offensively but that defense is the most critical.

“It’s important for us to just go out every game and play our best” Vazquez said. “We want to focus on things that maybe we aren’t so good at and to become great at those. I think the most important thing for us right now is to go out and play our defense. Keep winning games.”

“We’ve had some issues with giving other teams opportunities,” Clifford said. “Luckily our bats have been alive so we’ve been able to save ourselves. But we really need to make sure that we have good defense.”

So far this season, the Jaspers stand at 9-7. Freshman Lauren Pitney earned MAAC Rookie of the Week on March 8 after hitting a combined .412 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in five games the week prior, all Manhattan victories.

Stephanie Kristo, also a freshman, was named MAAC Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 23 after recording two wins during the season-opening invitational in Florida. She went 2-1 with 12 strikeouts over 14.1 innings pitched in three tournament appearances.

“We’ve had a good season so far and we want to keep that going,” Clifford said. “Go in with a good mindset.”


Amy Bright Leading the Jaspers in Her Final Season

“’Attitudes are contagious.’ One person with a bad attitude can ruin a lot. It’s a strong reminder to always stay positive and always be a good teammate and player.”

Senior starting pitcher Amy Bright was asked about the best advice she has ever been given. Bright has this mindset before going into every game and it helps her succeed on the mound.

“Amy is awesome,” assistant coach Bridget Hurlman said. “She definitely always wants the ball. She’s our number one. She definitely owns that mound and we are lucky to have her.”

Two MAAC All Academic Team selections and three MAAC Pitcher of the Week awards are just some of Bright’s accomplishments at Manhattan and in softball altogether. She has been posting great numbers over the years and this season as well, including a 2.68 ERA and 14-7 record. Now preparing for the playoffs for the last time, she looked back at her four years on the team.

“MAACs last year were definitely the best,” Bright said about her favorite memory. “We came in and we were 6th place. We won three games in a row. It was so awesome. It was definitely the coolest thing.”

Back to back shutouts and a streak of 15 scoreless innings. This is just one highlight from Bright’s career at Manhattan. This happened on a trip to California earlier this season in March where the team played opponents including Brown and UC Santa Barbara. Despite their 2-4 record out there, Manhattan had some important competition to get prepared for MAAC play and Bright led the team to an overall successful trip, earning her second Pitcher of the Week title.

“The pitchers of the week awards are really awesome,” Bright said. “It’s great to be recognized and having two of them this season was really cool.” I don’t really think about it while I’m playing. It was really fun to be out there. When I finished that second game and still hadn’t given up a run, I realized what I had done and it was really cool.”

“Amy has done an amazing job of really putting this team on her shoulders,” catcher Elena Bowman said. “She comes out every start with the same fire and the same intensity. It’s going to be a big loss for us. We are really going to miss not only her physical presence but especially her emotional presence and the way she leads us.”

Bright began playing softball at the age of 8. While she played other sports as well growing up, her focus became softball. She said that one person who has influenced her as a player over the years is her pitching coach growing up. He was her pitching coach from when she first started playing through the years until she went off to college. Seeing him two or three times a week for practice or games, he became a big influence on Bright as a person and a player.

“He taught me a lot about the game, the physical and mental stuff,” Bright said.

Every team and every player improve and develop each time they step on to the field or court. By the time someone gets to their senior season, they are able to look back on their time as a player, noticing their strengths and weaknesses and how they have improved over the years. One of Bright’s improvements has become noticeable as she took her position as starting pitcher and one of the leaders of the team.

“I used to get rattled very easily,” Bright said. “I did not keep my composure when I was a freshman and even younger. As I’ve grown and worked with Bridget and Elena and my team, I have so much more confidence in the team. I am able to stay focused on the mound and stay positive. That has been a huge change. From freshman to senior year, that has definitely been the biggest change.”

Something that is crucial to a successful softball team is the relationship between the pitcher and catcher. They need to have strong communication and to be able to understand each other in order to win the game. Despite being completely different positions with different responsibilities, these two players need to be on the same page and have the same game plan. This has been a key to Bright’s success and the team’s success so far this season.

“We work really well together,” Bowman said. “One thing we really pride ourselves on is always being on the same page. We work a lot in bullpens and spend a lot of time together to make sure that we are always going with the same approach at batters. I would say as far as that relationship goes, we are close because we work together so often and so well together.”

“Each game is different,” Bright said, “the teams are different. Elena and I talk before the games. We always have a game plan and talk about specific people. We’ve seen these people multiple times, so we know what we are going to do. Mentally, when you go in, it is nice to know when you are starting and you can get that game plan.”

With the regular season coming to a close, the Jaspers are preparing for the upcoming MAAC tournament and now is the time to shine. After making it last season for the first time since 2011, Manhattan has goals set for this season and so does Bright. Along with the three other seniors on the team, Bright is making the most of her final games as a Jasper.

“Her senior season is important to her,” Coach Hurlman said. “She’s trying to put her best foot out there for her team and do her job in the circle.”

The team stands at 25-16 overall and 13-5 in the MAACs. They are tied for first place in the conference and the team is prepared to achieve their goals going into the tournament because, for some, it is their final opportunity.

“As a senior, it’s the last chance,” Bright said. “I came into this season knowing I had nothing to lose and that this was it. The four of us have put everything into this season. If we are going to win, this is going to be the year. You go into every game knowing that.”

Kate Bowen Shines in Her Senior Year

 Kate Bowen has started in all 45 games so far this season. She leads the team with 54 hits, 13 doubles and a .331 batting average. In pitching, she sets the tempo with 10 wins and 3 shutouts. These are just a few of Bowen’s many accomplishments, on and off the field.

“When it’s game time, nothing else matters,” sophomore Zee Pierce said. “She’s a gamer and very competitive.”

She was named to the Capital One Academic All-District I softball team for a second straight time. The selection requires at least two semesters of competition and a cumulative GPA of 3.30 or higher. Bowen now can be nominated for the College Sports Information Directors of America(CoSIDA) Academic All-American ballot.

Bowen also earned a nomination for a Senior CLASS Award. This recognizes the top 30 Division I athletes in the nation. It focuses on character, community, athletics and academics for the distinguished athletes.

“That was one of the biggest awards I’ve received,” Bowen said. “It wasn’t just based on academics or athletics. It was truly everything. I was really honored to receive it.”

One important contribution she has made to her community was her organization of a dedication game for Sandy Hook, Connecticut after tragedy hit her hometown. Proceeds from the game and t-shirt sales benefitted the 26 Angels Foundation, which assists the Newtown community. Sandy Hook students and Newtown residents were in attendance. The students joined the Jaspers on the field.

“It was so awesome because the whole team wanted to do it too,” Bowen said. “It was such a nice day for them. The feedback from everyone who came was great. Softball wise, win or lose, go out and play your hardest.”

“To be able to come out and do something for the kids was really nice,” Pierce said. “You could tell she was happy doing it.”

After the Newtown tragedy, she had a new perspective on softball and life altogether. She was given motivation to honor her hometown. “You just want to go out and play your hardest everyday. You want to remember that it is just a game and that there is a bigger thing to life than just softball. If you’re having fun and playing hard, that’s kind of what it’s all about, not the wins and losses.”

She was also able to bring a Sandy Hook teacher here to Manhattan. At the Kappa Delta Pi honor society induction last year, the night was dedicated to Newtown. Teacher and survivor Natalie Hammond was there to represent Sandy Hook and Newtown. “It was a great night for her,” Bowen said, who also stated that everyone would stand up and clap whenever Hammond’s name was called.

One of Bowen’s goals for the rest of her final season as a Jasper is to make it to MAACs. The team hasn’t made it since 2011, her freshman year. After a hard loss in a tiebreaker last season to end their chances, Bowen hopes her senior year will be the year to return to MAACs. The team currently stands in 5th and the top six teams advance.

Another accomplishment of Bowen is being named valedictorian for her graduating class. “I’m really honored to represent the class of 2014,” Bowen said. “I hope everyone will enjoy my speech.”

As Bowen finishes her senior year at Manhattan and looks forward to her future, she will keep Newtown close to her. “When you play, you want to hold yourself in a way that Newtown would be proud of,” Bowen said.