Syracuse softball creates in-game rituals in the field and at the plate

Eddie Natal | Staff Photographer

Syracuse has developed several in-game rituals throughout the season, which continues on Thursday in the ACC tournament.

Sammy Fernandez and Hannah Dossett leapt as high as they could. At the pinnacle of their jumps, they pretended to shoot a basketball and follow through.

Then Fernandez and Alicia Hansen got within inches of each other near second base and performed a dab, a simple dance move where one slants his or her arms in the air, both pointing to the same side, and tucks the head into the crease of the elbow.

A few minutes before that, Fernandez and Maddi Doane pretended to sword fight before they went to bat.

“It’s almost picking each other up constantly,” said SU assistant coach Alisa Goler of the gestures. “I would be concerned if they stopped because then I think it would be more of a, ‘They just don’t want to be there.”’

Seventh-seeded Syracuse (27-25, 9-14 Atlantic Coast) will perform all the in-game rituals it can as it looks to knock off No. 2 seed Louisville (34-14, 15-8) in the first round of the ACC tournament on Thursday at 5 p.m. in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the plate, the handshakes motivate batters to work the count and get on base. They also keep the team loose in the field, which helps explain why the Orange leads the ACC in fielding percentage (.976).

That strong defense, SU players and coaches say, stems in part from the team’s loose mentality in the field. New to the team this year, the colloquial handshakes started randomly. A player will notice something, bring it up in practice or in the dugout, and the whole team might jump on it.

What started as something small, where Fernandez and Hansen would put their feet on second base then dab, turned into something much more. When SU played UCLA in March, Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” played. As Trainor sang “‘Cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top”, the infield duo put their hands on each other’s head.

“Every time we hear a song, we’re like, ‘Oh let’s just add this in it, let’s just add this in it,’” Hansen said. “Now it’s this huge thing.”

Before every inning and after every out, the pair also puts their hands on top of each other’s head. They’ll hold the position for several seconds and finish with a dab. Then, Fernandez turns to each outfielder, whom Fernandez has a choreographed gesture with. Right fielder Rachel Burkhardt might pretend to send a bow and arrow shot in Fernandez’s direction.

“We always do a ton of stuff,” Hansen said. “I can’t even begin to start how that whole thing at second base started.”

“It’s a routine we don’t want to change,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez also turns to her right to try to out jump Dossett, who has the team’s highest vertical jump. Fernandez said they pretend to shoot a basketball because when Dossett makes her throws across the infield, she looks as if she’s following through on a basketball shot. When Fernandez is finished with all the rituals, she lets out a big smile.

The team’s in-game rituals don’t stop with handshakes and dabs. Before an inning, SU assistant coach Kristyn Sandberg has a simple tactic to motivate players to get on base.

“Come get your fish at first base!”

“Go fishing”

“Come get your fishes”

When players reach first base, Sandberg will hand them a Swedish Fish to snack on. When players hit a double or triple, they’ll usually call timeout to hand Sandberg her protective gear. And then the players will reel in the fish.

They’ll act as if she’s holding a fishing rod. They’ll pretend to weather a bout of resistance from the fish. Then, as they walk toward Sandberg, they’ll begin to reel rapidly. Players meet Sandberg and exchange their batting pads for Swedish Fish.

“One game I wasn’t getting on base and the one hit (I got) was because I got a Swedish Fish from her bag and put it in my pocket for good luck,” Hansen said. “When I got to first base, she was about to give me one, but I was like, ‘I already got one.”’

The Swedish Fish made their debut in the Orange’s contest versus North Carolina in March. Sandberg has since come to each game fully stocked: she brings a family size pack to each game. The team goes through an average of one bag per week.

Sandberg will pick the fish up from either a Tops Friendly Market, CVS or Rite Aid. She estimates she’s spent about $50 on Swedish Fish since the UNC series.

“They were all getting to first base surprised when I was pulling Swedish Fish out of my pocket,” Sandberg said. “Now, they’ve kind of just grown into it. It’s something they look for.”


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