York Catholic making big strides
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Mark Baum knew what he was getting into.
He knew the York Catholic softball team was coming off an 0-16 season and had won just one game the year before that.
He knew the players' fundamentals needed plenty of improvement.
But prior to this season, Baum took the York Catholic softball head coaching job anyway. And the team's steady progress since then hasn't surprised him.
With five games remaining in the regular season, York Catholic is 5-7 and in position to make the District 3 playoffs in Class 2A. While that record might not seem impressive on the surface, it certainly is for a team that went 1-30 the past two seasons and lost by a score of 41-0 to Kennard-Dale a year ago.
"They just needed some direction," Baum said. "We have a lot of inexperience, a lot of young girls and some older girls that didn't have any direction but are now coming along. I knew they would do well, just not how well because I've never played any of the competition."
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A longtime travel coach in the area, Baum had no history with the York Catholic program but knew some of the girls on the team. While Baum recognized early on in practice that he had some talent to work with, he also realized his players were extremely raw. So he started teaching the basics.
Things like catching fly balls, taking good swings and stepping into throws had to be reinforced. But the Irish caught up to speed quickly, and on opening day beat York Suburban 6-2 to earn the program's first win since 2015. From there, York Catholic won three of its next five to establish itself as a team to be respected.
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"Coach Baum is very instructive and positive," sophomore Alexis Logsdon said. "I definitely knew we would improve. I thought it would be a good year, but maybe not this good. It's crazy and exciting."
York Catholic certainly plays like a team enjoying every moment of its season. In a 2-1 win over Biglerville on Friday, the Irish cheered every time one of their teammates made a routine catch. When the team executed a double-play to end the fourth inning, players enthusiastically exchanged high fives and hugs as they ran off the field.
But fundamentals and a good attitude only get you so far in softball. You need a pitcher to win, and the Irish now have one in Baum's daughter Rebecca. Only a freshman, Rebecca Baum has pitched every game for the Irish and has struck out 131 batters for an average of nearly 11 per game. She also bats cleanup in the team's lineup.
"She helps immensely, takes the pressure off the other girls, not having to make as many plays," Mark Baum said. "With her pitching, most of the balls are pop-ups, and I preach catching the ball."
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Added Rebecca Baum: "I saw the scores before (in years past) and they were a big difference, like 41-0 and all that. I was hoping when I came and more people came we would win some games and we did. At the start everyone was discouraged but it was about positivity and staying together."
With a number of players coming back next season including Baum, freshman first baseman Grace Gardini and junior catcher Kate Dannczyk, the Irish could be competitive for the next few seasons. Still, Mark Baum knows the Irish have plenty of work to do before they can get complacent.
"We need to get the ball more in play instead of these pop-ups," he said. "We're learning how to win."