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Sports Person of the Week
Swiatek Goes All-SCC in First Varsity Season
Jamie Swiatek earned the starting second baseman’s job for the North Haven softball squad as a junior and came away from the campaign with All-SCC accolades. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Swiatek)
After playing JV her freshman year and missing her sophomore season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamie Swiatek finally got her opportunity to become a varsity starter for the North Haven softball squad as a junior. Jamie took her chance and ran with it by earning the nod as North Haven’s second baseman in a season that saw her collect All-SCC honors.
Jamie was participating in dance when her father Steve introduced her to softball. One day, Jamie’s dad brought home a bat and a tee and encouraged her to learn the sport. As she started to play, Jamie found that she really enjoyed the game.
“I was doing dance at the time. My dad brought up softball. He brought a bat and tee home. I was just trying to learn how to play,” Jamie says. “I went to rec softball and tried it for a year. I learned how to hit, and I just fell in love with the sport. I just liked the game. I liked making friends on a team. When you’re playing, it’s like a family.”
Jamie started playing softball in North Haven’s recreational league in the 1st grade. She liked being on the diamond so much that she stopped doing dance in 3rd grade. Jamie played rec softball through 8th grade and also spent a year with the CT Eliminators travel team in middle school. Now that she was going up against live competition rather than just hitting in the backyard, Jamie started to get a better understanding of the fundamentals of softball.
“I learned more of the sport. It just really helped,” says Jamie. “Once I reached middle school, I started getting hitting lessons. I knew I wanted to get better if this is something I wanted to do in college.”
Jamie spent her freshman year competing for North Haven’s JV team. While she was unable to play for the high school squad as a sophomore, Jamie did play for the Connecticut Shock whenever the team had a game on the weekend. Between her experience with the JV team and the Shock, Jamie felt better prepared to make the leap to varsity.
Jamie stepped in the varsity arena as a junior this spring. It was a difficult transition, especially after having sat out her sophomore season, but Jamie felt more and more comfortable as the 2021 campaign unfolded.
“JV was laid back compared to varsity. At varsity, you have to be really experienced,” Jamie says. “During JV, we would practice with varsity sometimes to help us out. It was a little hard jumping to JV to varsity missing a year. I was nervous. But as the year went on, it got better.”
Jamie had primarily played third base as a freshman, but she moved over to second base as a junior. One of the biggest adjustments for Jamie was catching pop flies on the edge of the outfield grass from a different vantage point. Jamie says that working with Assistant Coach Roy Castagnola helped her improve her footwork at second base and get used to playing the keystone.
“When the ball is coming at you, to me, it still feels like you’re playing third. Sometimes it’s hard to cover all the ground. I had to be aware of where the first baseman would play and where I needed to be,” says Jamie. “Coach Roy got a tennis racquet and a tennis ball and hit it to me. I was acting like a dog, running to get the ball. It helped a lot with my drop steps.”
Jamie wound up settling in quite nicely at her new position and went on to garner All-SCC Second Team accolades for North Haven. Jamie was joined an All-Conference honoree by senior captain Alex Ferriouolo, who made the First Team; and junior Caroline Toni, a fellow Second Team selection.
Jamie never expected to make the All-SCC Team. Jamie’s main goal this season was to improve as much as she could every day, and her All-SCC recognition was the result of that process.
“At the beginning of the season, I didn’t really think I would get that. I didn’t think I was varsity level,” Jamie says. “I worked as hard as I could before the season. I worked even harder during the season and would go home and hit balls off my tee. During the season, I was in a slump and it scared me. I went to a new hitting coach, which helped. My goal was just to be as good as I can.”
Jamie helped North Haven win the SCC Housatonic Division title and qualify for both the SCC and Class L State tournaments on its way to an overall record of 11-9 this year. Head Coach Karen Castagnola says that Jamie’s performance proved a big factor in North Haven’s success.
“Jamie played an important part in helping North Haven softball achieve the goals we set out to accomplish in the 2021 season,” says Castagnola. “Her hard work and dedication both in the field and at the plate paid off for her personally as well, being named to the All-SCC Second Team. We are looking forward to bigger and better things from Jamie next year as a senior.”
As soon as she picked up that bat from her dad, Jamie kept working hard to realize her potential on the softball field. Jamie felt honored to earn her spot on the varsity roster this year and is eager to get back on the field as a senior.
“It feels really good. I didn’t think I would make it this far,” Jamie says. “With my dad helping me and finding people to help me and me working as hard as I could, it made me feel good that I could make the varsity team.”