It's amazing what a little confidence can do for an athlete.
Just ask former Salem star Katie Bettencourt, whose confidence was shaken last year as a freshman on the UMass Amherst softball team.
A fierce competitor who loves the game, Bettencourt was not accustomed to sitting on the bench, something she did plenty of a year ago. It wasn't until the end of the season that she saw any action, and even then it was mostly as a pinch-hitter.
In all, Bettencourt got up to the plate only seven times, coming away with just one hit.
"It was frustrating not being able to play, not even stepping on the field," said Bettencourt. "I'd always rather have my team win, but last year was tough.
"It was hard being a pinch-hitter. There's a lot of pressure. If you don't do well, you go right back to the bench and think about it instead of going on the field."
Part of the problem as a freshman was that, like most UMass rookies under veteran coach Elaine Sortino (1,058-441-5 in 30 years), Bettencourt had to learn an entire new way of hitting — not easy when you've had success hitting your entire life.
"My swing is completely different now," said Bettencourt. "It took a lot of getting used to. I started getting it last year, but I didn't feel completely comfortable until this year. After double sessions (in January), it clicked and I felt 10 times better."
Still, based on last year, Bettencourt wasn't taking anything for granted and she was not exactly oozing with confidence as the season started.
"I wasn't sure how it would work out ... I wasn't even sure I would be starting," she said.
But, Bettencourt was inserted into the opening-day lineup and responded by going 2 for 3. In her second game, she hit her first collegiate home run, a blast over the left-center field fence. Suddenly, her confidence was restored.