If you told Caroline Baratta during her freshman year in 2018 that she would go on to be arguably the best softball player in Marist history, she would’ve thought you were crazy. Now she’s continuing her softball journey at Marist, only this time, it will be as an assistant coach.
When Baratta was recruited back in high school, she knew nothing about Marist, as it was the first time the school had been brought to her attention. Marist softball coach Joe Ausanio gave her a tour of the campus, and she instantly fell in love.
She was intrigued by what the school had to offer academically, and the location was also appealing to her. Baratta, who hails from Gladstone, New Jersey, liked that Marist wasn’t too far away from home.
“Ever since I stepped on campus here as a freshman I felt so welcomed and I just loved the atmosphere of this place,” Baratta said.
Over the course of five seasons, Baratta grew a lot on the field, helping her to become a better player, teammate, and leader.
“My leadership grew from freshman year to my fifth year,” Baratta said. “I was obviously the starting shortstop my freshman year and being a shortstop, you kind of have to be loud on the field. You’re kind of the leader of the infield and being a freshman I was obviously nervous because I had seniors playing next to me, so I didn’t know if I could have that voice as a freshman and I thought each year I got better and better with that.”
“By my fifth year I think everyone, especially in the infield, looked to me,” Baratta said.
She was a star from the jump, playing in all 59 games during her freshman year. She set the program’s single-season record with 164 assists, led the team in hits (66), runs scored (38), hit .324, and struck out only 11 times in 208 at-bats.
On top of that, she was named MAAC Rookie of the Year and First Team All-MAAC. Over the course of the next four seasons, Baratta continued to lead the Red Foxes and put together impressive seasons.
The most challenging season for Baratta was her senior season in 2021, which was greatly affected by COVID-19. The season was cut in half, the team played zero non-conference games, didn’t start playing until Apr. 17, then played 27 games in a month.
“It was tough because we had to be ready to play any given day. And being a senior on that team I definitely had to be a leader and keep them (the younger girls on the team) together physically and emotionally,” Baratta said.
She went on to mention how grueling it was playing 25 games in 30 days which was tough on their bodies from a physical and emotional standpoint.
However, despite the challenges from that season, Marist pulled off a massive accomplishment when they upset the number one-seeded Monmouth Hawks in the quarterfinal round of the MAAC Tournament. Monmouth was the reigning MAAC champs, and Marist was only the 8-seed, yet managed to pull off the improbable win.
“Those two games were probably my favorite. The energy our team brought that day was just insane,” Baratta said. “We knew we could beat them and they knew that we could beat them too. The rivalry between us back then was awesome.”
The thing Baratta said she will miss the most about playing softball is the competition, as she describes herself as a “very competitive person when it comes to anything.” She is looking forward to still being around a team atmosphere, even if it’s as a coach.
Ausanio first approached her about the possibility of being an assistant during spring break last year, talking to Marist Athletic Director Tim Murray, who was also on board. Baratta is currently in the second year of her MBA program, so the timing for her to stick around another year made sense.
“I’m very grateful that Tim gave me the opportunity for this too because I love the atmosphere at Marist. So there’s no better place I’d want to start my coaching career than here,” she said.
One of the biggest reasons Ausanio wanted to keep her around was her familiarity with the program.
“I think she sees everything in the best interest of the program, which is really nice. It’s refreshing how mature she is as a coach already after such a short time doing it,” said Ausanio.
At first, Baratta tried not to think too much about it because she was focused on finishing her last season, strong. However, she described the feeling as “surreal” and acknowledged that ever since she started playing sports, coaching has been something that has always been in the back of her mind.
What drew her to coaching was seeing people succeed on and off the field.
“It brings me a lot of joy watching someone get their first collegiate hit,” Baratta said. “It makes me so happy. I’m so proud of them because I feel like they work so hard, watching any team win a championship it kind of just gives me the chills because they worked so hard for that.”
As an assistant, Baratta works a lot with fellow assistant coach Kristin Erb on tasks such as scouting opponents, finding places for the team to eat on the road, and making sure practices run smoothly.
Baratta helps run a lot of drills throughout practice, and during the games tries to help the players make any kind of in-game adjustment if necessary. She also is the first base coach.
Having two assistant coaches for the first time in a while is something that Ausanio is really pleased with because it takes a lot of pressure off his shoulders. “It’s always difficult to coach with just two coaches and to have that third coach this year has been amazing in making practices more efficient and having that extra leader on the road when we’re on the road,” said Ausanio.
One of the things that have changed for Baratta now that she is an assistant is her relationships with her former teammates. Since she is now a coach, she can’t hang out with the players the same way she used to, but she still has a good relationship with all of them.
Graduate student pitcher Calista Phippen who played with Baratta has enjoyed having her as an assistant.
“It’s nice having someone who’s been in our shoes. So when we do have something to say to her she understands, she can relate more than the coaches who haven’t played with us can because she’s seen all the behind-the-scenes and she’s experienced what we’re experiencing,” said Phippen.
“It took a little bit for them to call me coach and just figure out the whole line between being a friend and being a coach. But they’ve done a really good job of it. I really appreciate them making it easier on me too,” said Baratta.
Baratta doesn’t have a clear-cut answer for is how long will she continue coaching, as she is focused on enjoying the moment.
“Starting my coaching career here is definitely something I would never I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I really love it here at Marist. We’ll see, I’m not really sure what the future holds, but I wouldn’t be opposed to continuing coaching,” she said.
Although she won’t be the leader of the infield for the first time in five years, Baratta’s presence will surely be felt in the dugout this season for the Marist softball team, who look to build on their recent success with someone else playing the shortstop position for the first time in five years.
Edited by Luke Sassa and Andrew Hard
Photo from Marist Athletics