Mike Fisher was looking for a new challenge.
The self-proclaimed “softball lifer” — who spent a good chunk of his adult life around the game — was looking for a position to occupy his down time. And he found the perfect fit as the new head softball coach at Bronx Science.
“I recently sent my youngest off to college, so we downsized to Tarrytown,” Fisher said. “Then I thought, ‘You know what? I’m already teaching down here in the Bronx so I spend most of my day here anyway, so why not?’ It’s a great job.”
So Fisher, who teaches physical education at an elementary school in the East Bronx, signed on as the Wolverines’ new head coach, and so far, it has been a rewarding experience. Even as he takes over a program that has won three consecutive division crowns and posted a 37-5 regular-season record during that time — but lost program cornerstones Anna Leidner, Alexa Asch, Alex Feeley, Fiona Sullivan and Sinaia Keith Lang to graduation.
“All I knew is that they had a few successful seasons and had graduated a very successful pitcher,” Fisher said of Leidner, “and there weren’t any kids left who had any pitching experience.”
On top of that, Fisher’s prospective starter last week against Manhattan Center — freshman Alyia Fisher, no relation — was sick and could not play. That forced Caroline Bradley, usually the starting shortstop, into her first career start on the mound.
The results were mixed, but the Wolverines still pulled out a victory when Maya Schuchert’s infield single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh scored Christina Satina with the game-winning run in a thrilling 18-17 Bronx Science victory over the Rams. The win upped the Wolverines’ record to 2-0 on the season after opening with a 12-8 victory over Lehman.
“I love what I have here,” Fisher said. “Our pitching needs to become consistent, but we got some fielding and we got some sluggers, and these kids all have a great attitude. They’re also very eager to learn.”
Brett Zakheim is the Wolverines’ senior captain. She knows Science might not have the same kind of dynamic roster it had in the past, but thinks the win over a quality Manhattan Center team is a good sign for these Wolverines.
“We’re definitely still proving ourselves,” said Zakheim, who had two hits and three RBIs in the win over Manhattan Center. “We showed a lot of heart the way we were able to come back as a team.
“We have to be scrappy. We can’t rely on pitching anymore. We were spoiled for a while there.”
While Zakheim and her teammates adapt to their new coach, Fisher said he also has to make some adjustment of his own.
“I’m used to where all the kids that are playing for me, it’s their life,” the coach said. “For these kids, it’s not their life. It’s one of the fun things they do. They’re very dedicated and they’re into it, but they have a lot of other things going on, and that’s the adjustment I’m having to make.”
It was a recent conversation with one of his new players that gave Fisher a new perspective on his coaching style.
“One of the girls came up to me the other day and said, ‘Mike, are you going to come back next year?’” Fisher said. “And I said, ‘Are you asking because you want me to or you don’t?’ And she said, ‘I do, but I can tell that you get frustrated.’ And I said, ‘You’re right.’ So I need to be a big boy. I’m supposed to be a grown up.
“These kids are dedicated, but it is just a different atmosphere than I’m used to. And that’s not their fault, that’s my fault. So it’s me who has to adjust because I feel very lucky to be here.”
The Wolverines are off to a 2-0 start, and while they may not be the juggernaut they have been in the past, they can still be a very formidable team once they get their pitching straightened out.
Just ask the always-positive Zakheim.
“We have a lot of new players, which is exciting and not as much experience, for sure,” she said. “We know we’re not as stacked as we were last year so we just have to find different ways to win, and that’s what we’re all here to do.
“Hey, we just beat the best team in Manhattan.”