The transformation from being a good pitcher to a dominant pitcher occurred last fall for Seymour’s Raeanne Geffert.
That’s when Geffert joined the Connecticut Charmers, an elite showcase travel team coached by Wildcats assistant Neil Swanchak. There, Geffert competed against some of the nation’s top players.
“She faced teams from California and struggled a bit,” Swanchak said. “But as she went through the season, she knew she had to pick up her game if this is what she really wanted to do. And she did. All the credit goes to her.”
Playing at that advanced level helped Geffert, just a sophomore, become one of the state’s top hurlers. The Register Area MVP finished 26-1 and guided Seymour to the Naugatuck Valley League and Class M state championships.
“She was good as a freshman,” Swanchak said. “She became very good as a sophomore, with more room to advance. Her seeing the next level was the best thing that ever happened to her.”
In addition to a spot with the Charmers, the off-season was a productive one for another reason for Geffert. Swanchak connected Geffert to renowned pitching coach Jen Hapanowicz, who owns and operates USA Elite Training out of Durham. Hapanowicz helped Geffert fine-tune her craft. She now throws six pitches.
Photos: The 2014 All-Area Softball Team [Link fixed]
“I learned that I just needed to up my intensity,” said the 5-foot-9 Geffert. “I learned different pitches, how to throw them, and I learned using my legs was a big deal since I am pretty tall. You have to get as much power as you can, so using the legs is important.”
Geffert’s lessons with Hapanowicz continued during the season.
“If something wasn’t working one day, she would go to a lesson and fix it,” Seymour coach Ken Pereiras said. “That made her better.”
Geffert has evolved into a consistent strikeout pitcher. She struck out 312 batters against just 25 walks in 188 innings. She finished with an earned run average of 0.71.
Geffert had a solid season as a freshman — leading the Wildcats to the NVL championship game and the Class M quarterfinals — but she dominated opponents this season.
“The biggest difference between last year and this year, when people were on base, she was able to get a strikeout when she needed it,” Pereiras said.
“Last year, this one batter from Torrington went eight pitches and then got a hit. This year, with that same batter, Geffert threw three pitches and got a strikeout. That’s been definitely key, getting the strikeout. Last year she wasn’t getting those strikeouts.”
Geffert admitted she wasn’t particularly surprised by her success this season, mainly because of the work she put in during the off-season.
“I worked really hard over the winter and these past two seasons,” Geffert said. “This was the payoff.”
Added Pereiras: “She works hard. She worked hard over the summer. And, again, she went and played for a travel team that was a little bit better, so she was playing with the studs. I think that helped her get better. And she wanted it a little more.”