For a long time, Cheshire High School’s Karissa Spring has found a softball diamond to be a stress-free space. That’s because, playing mainly as a pitcher, she’s accustomed to having the ball in her hand and getting to control the game on the field.
“It is where I can feel most comfortable,” explained Spring. “It has gotten me through a lot of tough situations and brought my family together.”
She recently saw her years of hard work result in a milestone. On July 28, Spring announced that she had committed to play Division I softball at Manhattan College in New York.
A member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Jaspers play under Head Coach Cat Clifford.
“I’ve been looking to play in college since sixth grade,” said Spring. “I had to be on the right team and work hard. It is so relieving to have found the right place and coach.”
On and off the diamond, Spring liked the atmosphere she felt on the campus at Manhattan.
“When I first visited it, I was nervous because it is (located) in the Bronx and I’m not a city girl,” said Spring. “But, everyone was so friendly on campus. Even the students, who didn’t know me, were very nice.”
While she is a pitcher, Spring likes how Clifford will also allow her to hit.
“Hitting has always been up there with pitching for me. If I found a college that wanted me to give up hitting, it wasn’t the place for me,” reflected Spring.
Having played in the outfield and at first base, she believes that versatility will help at Manhattan.
“I want to contribute in any way I possibly can,” stated Spring. “I want to earn my time on the field.”
She loves how the school is less than two hours away from home.
“I wanted to be close enough to attend my (younger) sister’s graduation in the future,” stated Spring.
On Sept. 7, she will meet her future teammates at a recruiting camp.
“I’m so excited,” said Spring. “I’ve talked to Cat Clifford since the beginning of my junior season. The Assistant CJ (Morillo) is also very nice.”
Spring also looked at Iona University (New York), Florida Gulf Coast University, St. Joseph’s University (Pennsylvania), St. John’s University (New York), and Georgia Tech University. For a long time, she has been driven to play on the highest level in college.
“There is nothing wrong with D-II or D-III, but I felt that D-I is where I had to be,” explained Spring.
She wanted to finish the college process before starting her senior year.
“It has been such a stressful process with traveling all over looking at schools,” reflected Spring. “I’m excited to enjoy softball without being stressed.”
Cheshire Head Coach Kristine Drust had met Spring before she came to CHS. In reflection, Drust said she knew that Spring was locked into softball and wanted the absolute best and most from the sport.
“She has searched for the best opportunities to get better and (the) highest level of play she can find,” said Drust, who feels fortunate and grateful to have Spring on her team for another season in 2023. “The recruiting process, the last few years, has been tough on so many athletes. I’m so proud of her and her perseverance through it all. Manhattan surely picked a hard-working kid and I’m so very excited to see where the next level takes her.”
Spring started playing her favorite sport in first grade. After competing for Cheshire Youth Softball and Cheshire Wildcats, Spring decided to make a change after competing in the USA Softball 12-U All-American Games in Oklahoma.
“That (tournament) is where I knew that I wanted to take my game to the next level,” reflected Spring.
After having a conversation with her dad, she joined the Rhode Island Thunder program in eighth grade. With players coming together from the Northeast, the club travels around the U.S. for competitions.
Spring has played for the 14-U and 16-U teams. Next year, she will move up to 18-U.
“It was hard to not play with my (local) friends, but it has been a great experience playing against girls from around the country,” reflected Spring.
This summer, she traveled to Colorado, California, Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, and California.
“For college, it helps me to pitch against really good players,” stated Spring. “I can strike someone out and not think about it, but then I look up who they are and they are going to big schools.”
Spring feels that it is special to share softball with her sister Kaitlin, who also pitches for the Thunder.
“She has worked so hard to be where she is at now,” said Spring. “I know that she looks up to me and I’m so proud of the situations that she has succeeded in.”
With being a pitcher, Karissa enjoys being able to control the tempo of a game.
“The batters can’t hit and the fielders can’t make plays without me,” Spring said.
She loves to record strikeouts, but feels that the defense behind her also had a big role in her career.
“Playing at this high level, you can’t overpower all of the hitters,” stated Spring. “When you get ground outs and pop outs, it keeps your pitch count down and makes going through the game a lot easier.”
For pitches, Spring uses a fastball, a change up, a rise ball, and a curveball.
“I just picked up my curveball in my sophomore year of high school,” recalled Spring. “I’ve learned to use it as my ‘out pitch.’”
Back in 2020, she was excited to join the CHS program, but because of the pandemic, the spring season was wiped out entirely.
“It was definitely really hard because it was my dream to play for Cheshire High School softball,” said Spring. “Coach Drust still made it me feel like a team because of all the activities she planned, but it was tough not to play.”
After a year hiatus, Spring was able to make her debut for the Rams. As a first baseman/pitcher, she helped CHS win the Southern Connecticut Conference crown.
In her first start, Spring tallied 11 strikeouts in a 8-4 win over North Haven.
“To finally get back on the field and show the love I have for the game was amazing,” stated Spring.
She believes that she learned from working with four-year starter Bri Pearson, who is now pitching at Adelphi University (New York).
“She was such a good role model,” said Spring. “She pushed me to be my ultimate best. It was inspiring to see her get to where she is now.”
After Pearson graduated in 2021, Spring became Cheshire’s starting pitcher this past season.
“It was definitely hard because I knew the pitchers were looking up to me,” said Spring. “I didn’t want to make a mistake.”
In a memorable game this year, she pitched her first no-hitter and posted 15 strikeouts in a 4-1 win over Lauralton Hall.
“It meant a lot to me,” stated Spring. “I was so close to getting a no-hitter the day before (in a 13-1 win over Mercy). To not get it fired me up for that next game.”
From there, she faced adversity after fracturing the ulna in her forearm.
“There were so many struggles that I had to go through,” recalled Spring. “Luckily, I pushed through everything.”
Even with her injury, Spring was able to hit her first home run in a 15-3 win over North Haven.
“I couldn’t grip the bat with two hands,” said Spring. “I had like a 17-pitch at bat and my arm was hurting so bad, but I swung with everything I had and it went out.”
After the game, she had to sit out and allow her injury to heal. Spring had to miss three games, but she felt good about sophomore Karla Carangelo stepping in at pitcher.
“To give up my spot to my best friend made it feel better,” stated Spring. “She did so well. I’m proud of her.”
Despite her injury, Spring still went 13-4 with 161 strikeouts and a 2.50 earned run average in 102 innings. She also hit .419 with 24 RBIs on the way to earning All-Class LL and All-SCC First Team honors, as well as being Cheshire’s Defensive MVP and a Junior All-Star.
With a young team, Cheshire went 16-7 and made the SCC and Class LL playoffs. In states, CHS beat Simsbury 11-1 and then lost 3-1 to host Bristol Central.
“I’m proud of the girls,” said Spring. “No one is selfish on the team. If we are going to win, it is through each other.”
Spring credits Pitching Coach Kelly Hennessey for helping her understand concepts in the circle.
“She is the best. No matter what I do, she always has something positive to say,” explained Spring. “She has a special way of telling me things to pick them up fast.”
She is also thankful for the leadership of Drust and CHS Assistant Jaymie Sommers.
“They are absolutely amazing,” stated Spring. “In my freshman year, I think that I would have been a disaster without them. They have helped me appreciate the game and push me to work as hard as I do.”
Spring has finished her summer season. Heading into next year at CHS, Spring and Jordan Chymbor are the lone returning seniors.
“I’m happy that the other senior is Jordan. She is the nicest person and will have your back, no matter what,” stated Spring. “We’ve had a lot of seniors show us what we have to do for the team.”
With her sister Kaitlin starting her freshman year, Spring looks forward to them finally becoming teammates.
“It is going to be so much fun,” said Spring. “I want to create a positive environment for her and all of the freshmen.”
Spring would like CHS to make a run in states in 2023.
“This is my senior year and I want to make memories with these girls,” added Spring.