0

Of one mind: Wolves' pitcher, catcher only get closer over time

Wesleyan senior Brittany Mitchell, left, who did the majority of the Wolves’ pitching last season, and sophomore catcher CaraMia Tsirigos, who set school records for home runs and RBIs, return to lead the Wolves this season. 

Wesleyan senior Brittany Mitchell, left, who did the majority of the Wolves’ pitching last season, and sophomore catcher CaraMia Tsirigos, who set school records for home runs and RBIs, return to lead the Wolves this season. 

Wesleyan batterymates CaraMia Tsirigos and Brittany Mitchell each came reluctantly to softball.

It didn’t take long for either of them to love it.

It took only slightly longer for them to bond over the 40 feet that separate the senior pitcher and sophomore catcher.

“We get along really well and we play each other in travel ball, which helps with the chemistry,” said Mitchell, looking at the younger Tsirigos, who nodded. “Last year I felt like we were really close, but as the games keep going, we keep getting closer. We kind of know what each other is thinking.”

“It’s pretty cool,” said Tsirigos, the Wolves’ top hitter as a freshman in 2009.

“Last year was the main year we played together, but it feels like a lot longer,” Mitchell said with a laugh.

“Yeah, we clicked,” Tsirigos said.

“Yeah, it was great,” said Mitchell, who has been playing since she was 6 and pitching since she was 8 — though neither of those steps were by choice.

“My dad forced me to play softball, but I ended up liking my first team so much,” Mitchell said laughing. “Then he forced me to play first base and I loved it. Then he forced me to pitch and I loved it, too.”

Tsirigos switched to softball three years ago. Her older brother played baseball and was coached by their dad. Tsirigos followed in their steps until she was 12.

“All the guys were getting bigger, stronger,” Tsirigos said. “I mean, I could hang with them, definitely. But it just seemed like the right time. I didn’t want to play, but I embraced it. I tried it a little bit and realized, ‘OK, this could be something.’”

Tsirigos, with her wealth of baseball knowledge, earned the confidence of her coach and pitcher. She calls all the signs and Mitchell rarely feels the need to shake her off.

“We’re usually thinking the same thing,” Mitchell said.

“If she does, I don’t worry about it,” Tsirigos said.

Tsirigos is a calming presence.

“Yeah,” Mitchell said. “Or making me laugh if things are going wrong, she’s really good about that. She’ll call timeout or even I’ll call timeout if I think she needs one and we’ll talk.”

“It might not even be about the game,” Tsirigos said.

Her baseball background has contributed greatly to Tsirigos’ success at the Norcross private school.

“CaraMia is just the type of player that knows the game well, is a coach on the field, and she does a very, very good job of knowing how to get Brittany into a pitching rhythm,” Wesleyan head coach Nichole Dixon said. “I think that’s a huge benefit this year, now that CaraMia’s a sophomore. As a freshman it’s hard to kind of play that role.

“Now they’re both upperclassmen, they work especially well together. They do function as a unit and she always does a good job at settling Brittany down and knowing how to talk to her if she gets flustered.”

It’s not just Mitchell, the team’s only senior, that benefits from Tsirigos’ presence.

“She’s got a great demeanor,” Dixon said. “She knows when to be serious, she knows when to joke around and have fun. I think it keeps our younger kids relaxed, which is what we need with a young team. They can tend to get a little too nervous.”

Tsirigos and Mitchell also set the tone at the plate. Tsirigos led the Wolves with 19 RBIs and a .345 batting average last year. Her five home runs and .741 slugging percentage were school records, even in a season that included 11 rainouts. Showing discipline, Tsirigos also tied a school mark by drawing 19 walks as a freshman. Mitchell hit .307 as a junior and set a new school career mark with 63 RBIs.

“If those two are hitting, the rest of our team will be,” Dixon said. “We have a really, really young team. We’ve got five sophomores that start. Out of all those, only two played a substantial amount of time.

“That’s the biggest thing that’s exciting about our team, we know that if these two do well, everyone wants to do well.”