DURHAM, N.C. – Less than two weeks stand between the Duke softball program and the start of the program's inaugural season. As the Blue Devils continue to work towards their debut in early February, GoDuke.com sat down with Marissa Young, Jill Ferraro and Jazmine Moreno to take a look at the program in the second edition of the 2018 Blue Devil Softball Weekly Notebook.
The Grind Carries On…
Week three of the Blue Devils' preseason is wrapping up, as Team One continues to move into more live practices ahead of game one on Feb. 8. Friday marked the first day for Duke's pitching staff to face live hitters and progress was shown on both sides of the ball.
“It was good for us to get out on the field today and do some live work," head coach Marissa Young said. "Our pitchers struggled at times, but that’s to be expected on the first day facing live hitters. I thought our hitters were tremendous at the plate with being aggressive and capitalizing on mistakes.”
The coaches, who lean on live play to help game plan for the season, are not the only ones who are benefitting from the live action at practices. Redshirt freshman Jazmine Moreno has used the game-like situations to improve both behind and at the plate.
“For me personally I think it’s really good because then I can see live runners when I’m catching and I can see live pitching when I’m hitting," Moreno said. "It’s definitely different from doing fundamental work, but it is definitely beneficial for everyone.”
As the season closes in, many continue to point out that the Blue Devils' dedication to hard work over winter break and fast start to preseason will be crucial come opening day.
"When we got back we were able to hit the ground running," grad student Jill Ferraro said. "I feel like we’ve been getting better every day and the coaches have done a good job of not pushing us too much with the season getting close, but identifying and focusing on what everyone needs to work on."
"We started out preseason really strong," Moreno said. "We are all a little bit nervous to get the season going, but we’re going to be fine and we’re pumped. I know our team is going to do really well this season and it shows in our practices.”
Spotlight On Softball…
The Chronicle will be taking an in-depth look at the Duke Softball program as it prepares to begin it's first season in program history. In the first installment, The Chronicle's Mitchell Gladstone opened the series by talking with coach Young on the process of building the program and getting to game one for Team One.
“Every season has brought different things—hiring a staff, getting the facility done and now the team is on campus,” Young said. “We’re preparing for the season to come, and what I think has been really exciting is every part of this journey has been a new challenge. I think every day has been a new day here, and that’s really exciting—seeing the growth has been really exciting and just getting this group to jell as a unit, because there are no parts that have been here. Everything is brand new.”
Read more of the series' first installment by clicking here.
Blue Devil Softball Q&A...
The GoDuke.com Blue Devil Softball Q&A series carried on this week with redshirt freshman infielder Kortney Dry. For Dry, it's been an unforgettable experience so far and she is excited to lay the foundation for future softball Blue Devils.
"We’re setting the standards, starting the traditions and building the culture for the future of Duke softball," Dry said. "The fact that I get to be a part of this building process with this team is awesome."
Read up more on Dry, from her favorite moment at Duke so far to what Netflix shows she likes to binge watch by clicking here.
All Smiles For Duke's Veteran Leader…
Thursday seemed to be just another day on the grind for the Blue Devils as they circled up next to the third base dugout after practice. That all changed when Young called upon Ferraro to come to the front of the group a read from a sheet of paper.
“Being a great leader isn’t just about winning. Great leaders positively impact and inspire those around them.”#TeamOne’s leader, @j_ferraro24, is now on scholarship. 😎#GoDuke 🔵😈 pic.twitter.com/i8XPqwF8N0— Duke Softball (@DukeSOFTBALL) January 25, 2018
It was a moment filled with tears and celebration as the veteran leader of Team One was officially put on scholarship. For Young, who coached Ferraro while she was an assistant at North Carolina in 2014 and 2015, it was one of the proudest moments of her career.
“That is one of the proudest moments to be able to do something for a kid like that, who has done so much for our program," Young said. "As we said, it’s not about the wins, it’s about her leadership and she’s been the mother hen who has taken these guys under her wings. We just wanted to show our appreciation for that.”
For Ferraro, there's two people that came to mind after being awarded the scholarship: her parents.
"It means a lot to me. From the aspect of my parents, grad school was not the plan," Ferraro said. "From the moment I said ‘hey, I think I want to use my fifth year, can I go to grad school at Duke?’ there wasn’t one second where they weren’t all in. That’s huge. It’s not cheap to go to Duke or to keep me on all of their bills for another year, but they were just 100 percent on board from the start. To get a scholarship helps them a lot and it makes me feel good that they had no intention of ever having that, so for them to have a little bit of relief is nice."
Ferraro saw action at catcher in a number of contests in her career at UNC before pursuing her master's degree at Duke. When she made the decision, she took advantage of her fifth year and came to Young looking for an opportunity to play one last year.
"I came in and asked coach if I could play. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I was going to get a scholarship and I never came out here looking for it," Ferraro said. "I was caught really off guard. I’m very grateful for this coaching staff and Duke University. It’s been awesome.”
While Ferraro's final collegiate season is one she is highly anticipating, it's business as usual for the veteran. Ferraro has been a crucial part of helping the younger members of Duke's squad prepare for their first collegiate action.
"With season coming up, you have to calm the nerves, try not to press," Ferraro said. "For me I’m not exactly where I want to be, but knowing that we have 56 games, I’m going to get there. I just have to keep working the way I’ve worked the entire year and trust the process, trust my coaches and know that I’m going to be good."
Some of the staples of the collegiate athletics preseason are video and photo shoots and the Blue Devil softball squad took their turn in front of the camera this week. The team took to Blue Devil Tower and the Duke Softball Stadium for a pair of video shoots, while also getting in the photo studio for some head shots.
The content will be used for hype videos, social media content and more throughout the season. Fans can catch those on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @DukeSoftball and on GoDuke.com at www.goduke.com/softball. Fans can also follow along on Duke softball's Instagram Story for behind-the-scenes looks at what the program is doing on a daily basis.
Game One For Team One…
The Blue Devils will open their first season in program history in Boca Raton, Fla., taking on Florida Atlantic in a doubleheader Thursday, Feb. 8 starting at 5 p.m. ET. Duke will also face Ohio State, Michigan State and Boston University to wrap up the opening weekend.
For more information on Duke softball, follow the Blue Devils on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by searching for “DukeSoftball”. You can also find all-access coverage of all Duke athletic programs on SnapChat by searching for “dukeathletics”.