Absegami's Becca Roesch capped off record-setting career with power packed senior seasonBy GIUSEPPE UNGARO
Becca Roesch is more than just a star softball player. She is even more than a third-team All-State selection. When it comes to Absegami softball, Roesch is the G.O.A.T.
The younger generation likes to throw the term around often, but the moniker, signifying the “Greatest of All Time,” is being used by longtime Braves coach Pat Esemplare, who has seen some great athletes wear the Absegami gold and brown.
If his opinion isn’t enough — and it should be — Roesch’s offensive numbers cement the recent graduate as the best player in school history, as she owns seven career records. The shortstop was also the unquestioned and unselfish leader of the Braves.
“I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss her,” Esemplare said.
He added, “She was the captain. When she broke those records and we got her a ball, and our athletic secretary got the engravings on the ball with all her records, the very next morning she went right to her office to thank her for being a part of her career at Absegami. That is the type of person she is. The softball is great, but everything else is even better.”
The coaching staff wanted to do something special for Roesch for being the heart and soul of the program. Braves assistant coach Paul Steelman came up with the idea to retire Roesch’s No. 15 jersey for the next four years, meaning no player will wear it until the 2022 school year.
“I can’t even talk about that,” the 18-year-old Galloway resident said when asked about being considered the best player in school history. “That’s just crazy that anyone can even say that about me. I think about the legends of Absegami softball, and I think of Kelly Lupton (’12). Now I’m next to her? That blows my mind.”
Good first impression
Esemplare was aware of Roesch before she even entered the halls of Absegami, but didn’t get a chance to see her play the summer before her freshman year.
However, Roesch impressed the Braves coach a half a year before her first high school tryouts. Roesch, a confident yet humble freshman, approached Esemplare and started asking questions. She wanted to be ready for the spring even though the leaves hadn’t even started falling yet in fall.
She asked about drills, philosophy and expectations. She asked all the write questions, and more importantly, listened. The coach clearly was impressed with the freshman, but the feeling was reciprocated.
Roesch believes she turned in into the player she is because of the way Esemplare treated her that first season.
“He is absolutely amazing. Honestly, I couldn’t have had a better coach the last four years. I remember back to my freshman year, you wouldn’t expect someone to pretty much say, ‘hey I trust you.’ I was a second-hole and first-hole hitter my freshman year. He told me I didn’t have to bunt, just get on base,” Roesch said. “The amount of trust he placed in me as a freshman was outstanding. Luckily, I was able to deliver for the team. The past four years he has been one of the most supportive coaches I ever had. He is always coming to me, asking questions, asking what I think.”
She added, “I hear a lot of stories of varsity coaches not trusting their players. But the way he treated me, I wanted to go out there, every game and win it for him and the team, not just to do good for myself. It’s more like, ‘wow my coach is awesome and he deserves this more than we do.’ He works really hard to keep us all happy and keep us all together as a team while we are getting great.”
Roesch, like many young athletes, began her career as a soccer player. She didn’t expect to spend so much time on the pitch, but she played to spend time with her friends, and turned into a quality keeper.
“My foot skills are absolutely terrible, so for me to play soccer that was really the only position I could probably play,” Roesch said.
Absegami girls soccer coach Elizabeth Lee is glad she did stick with soccer. Roesch played a pivotal role, helping her team to a 10-win season in 2016.
“She is one of the hardest workers I ever coached. She’s a competitor. She loves to win and, even more so, hates to lose, which is really good for a competitor,” Lee aid. “We knew that soccer wasn’t her first love but you wouldn’t know it when she’s out on field. She was competing, making crazy saves most people can only dream of making. She would pull them out of her pocket. She would make saves with her little finger, and it would be enough to deflect it and keep us in the game. She had a lot of shots on her in her career. The last couple of seasons were much better and more competitive and a lot of it had to do with her and her effort.
“She is just a great athlete. I was the JV softball coach, so I got be around her a lot. She is just an incredible athlete and so easy to coach. She took things very hard, but it didn’t affect her in a negative way. It just made her work that much harder. She was more than a pleasure to coach. She is going to be tough to replace. In softball it’s not even a question. She is irreplaceable.”
When coaches talk about players being tough to replace it’s not just about the numbers. Roesch, by all accounts, is a leader, and not a reluctant one either. It was Roesch who brought the team together, leading the way in practice and also coming up with different team-bonding rituals.
The star player made her years at Absegami about the team and not the individual despite her gaudy numbers. She inspired, motivated and taught, all the while bashing Cape-Atlantic League pitching.
“All of us are all inspired by her, especially me. She made me want to work harder,” said rising sophomore pitcher Kaylin Flukey, who got to know Roesch well on car rides to travel softball. “To see all the things she achieved this year made me want to get better.”
She added, “She doesn’t rely on her natural skills; she is a mentally strong player, too. If she is dealing with stuff outside of softball, she lets that stuff go and focuses on the game every single day.”
Roesch credits getting her mental toughness from her family, especially her mother, Karen, who is on the Absegami Athletic Wall of Fame for her achievements as a field hockey goalie. The elder Roesch battled through breast cancer when Becca was in the eighth grade. Even at that young age she was able to recognize the strength her mother showed in the face of adversity.
“She is such a strong woman,” said Becca. “She showed her strength to power through that and that helped our family to get through that, too. She is one of those people that keeps going no matter what hits her.”
Becca also appreciates her father, Tom, and older brother, Drew, for their support throughout her career. And what a career it was, especially this past season.
Roesch smashed 10 home runs, a school record for homers in a season to give her the career home run record at 13. She also has the career record for hits (114) batting average (.407), runs (95), RBIs (81), doubles (26) and extra-base hits (49).
Her play throughout her career at Absegami got her noticed. She plans to continue her softball career at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pa. She fell in love with the campus immediately, as well as the approach of the coaching staff. Slippery Rock is getting an eager player with a willingness to work hard and do whatever it takes to ensure her team is victorious.
“The Rock” also is getting Absegami’s G.O.A.T.
Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDgisepu