ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Harold on a roll at New Haven

WEST HAVEN — With the long list of things that Chelsea Harold has mastered, changing the way she batted for the University of New Haven softball team was just a brief fork in the road.

While she was surprised when her coach, Jen Starek, told her she was going to convert her from a right-handed power hitter to a left-handed slap hitter, Harold made the change for the good of the team. After two years it’s pretty safe to say she’s perfected it.

Harold enters play today in a doubleheader at American International ranked ninth in the nation with a .481 average.

“Two weeks before we went to Florida in my freshman year, (Starek) said I was going to hit from the left side,” Harold said. “I still miss hitting from the right side but looking at my batting averages and seeing how they’ve risen every year, I guess its paid off.”

Harold batted .342 last season exclusively slapping the ball and led the team with 45 runs and 33 stolen bases. She has a 3.7 GPA studying criminal justice, and also taught herself to play the violin, where she plays at weddings and other events.

Harold also is an artist, having sold one of her paintings. She also rides horses and, with her sister Lindsay, competes in rodeo barrel racing events.

Harold’s success at the top of the Chargers’ lineup is one of the main reasons that New Haven currently leads the Northeast-10 Conference. Picked fourth in the preseason standings, the Chargers were supposed to be in the process of rebuilding after losing all-conference pitcher Breanne Gleason and slugger Nicole Downs to graduation. But New Haven (16-7 overall) leads the conference with a 6-2 mark.

“It’s about using her speed,” Starek said. “She’s so fast. And she’ll do anything the team needs her to do. We needed her to get on base and score runs.”

Last season New Haven (42-8) won the NE-10 regular-season title but lost two straight games in the postseason tournament. The Chargers then hosted two rounds of play in the NCAA Division II championships before losing to Molloy 1-0 in eight innings in the super regional.

That loss still stings.

“That last loss was pretty hard and obviously I thought that was the team to go (to the College World Series) with,” Harold said. “Coming into this season with so many young players I thought this might be an adjustment year, but I hadn’t really seen these girls yet. Our lineup is actually deeper this year. Last year we relied on Gleason and Downs but this year we have the whole lineup to depend on.”

In fact, despite New Haven’s start, Harold, who played at Seymour High and lives in Oxford, thinks the Chargers could play much better.

“The fact that we’re winning the way we’ve been playing, I believe that we can stay (in first),” Harold said. “Getting off to the good start was great for the confidence. We’re solid but it was hard to judge what type of team we would be.”

Harold is the team’s spark plug and leader. During a recent game, she climbed atop the new six-foot fence in left field to snare a foul ball. She’s also hit two home runs just by slapping the ball through the hole and motoring around the bases.

“That was my goal,” Harold said. “I still think of myself as a power hitter so I wanted to hit a home run. I saw a tape of it and it was actually just a check swing.”

Harold was an all-conference pick last year. The senior said she is supposed to slap the ball into the shortstop hole and beat the throw to first base. She said that when she was learning the new style she struck out quite a bit. This season she’s fanned just once while walking twice.

The Chargers have also gotten a major boost from several other area products. Sophomore pitcher Alana Wesche, of Oxford, is 8-3 on the mound with a 1.96 ERA. While Harold leads the team in hitting, Derby’s Christina Gelardi is second at .409.


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