The Bishop England softball team is trying to return to its former glory when it was a state contender just about every spring.
The team won the Class AA state title in 2004 and finished with a 32-5 record. The Bishops were 23-8 as recently as five years ago but have struggled to stay above .500 the past few seasons.
This year, the winning has returned. The Bishops posted a 12-3 record and won the Region 6-AA state championship. Still, the team was noticeably absent from the state coaches poll for most of the season.
“To be honest, we don’t have a lot of competition,” said Melissa Wiegel, a Bishop England graduate who shares the coaching duties with Allison Czerski, also a BE alumnus. “People know our region isn’t the toughest. But right now we’re just trying to build the program back up. We want to get the numbers up to where they were in past years.”
Wiegel and Czerski are filling in for coach Mark Pender. His wife took a job in Hawaii, and athletic director Paul Runey doesn’t know if Pender will return.
The Bishops breezed through region play. They had a three-game stretch in late March in which they beat three opponents by a combined 66-0. The competition will be tougher in the playoffs.
“We have a very young team,” said Wiegel, who played softball for the Bishops and the College of Charleston. “We have three seniors who have been through the ropes and are trying to help build the program. And, we have some young players who make the future bright.”
One of the young stars is Gabby Pinillos, a pitcher whose older brother, Fernando, helped the Bishop baseball team win a state crown in 2011.
The younger Pinillos is a sophomore who owns a 12-2 record and a 2.30 ERA. She had 95 strikeouts in the regular season while hitting .353 at the plate.
“She’s been playing for us two years,” Wiegel said. “Obviously, we’d love to have another pitcher to take the pressure off her. But she understands what she has to do.”
Junior shortstop Eran Artigues leads the team with a .600 batting average, while sophomore second baseman Sophie Berg is batting .511. Third baseman Elena Salmorin is an eighth-grader with promise, and at first base is freshman McKenzie Clarey.
Wiegel has been an assistant coach at Bishop England for eight seasons.
“I really love coaching,” she said. “It keeps me out there connected to the sport I used to play.”