To kick off the 2017 University of Indianapolis softball team’s season, senior utility Natalie Lalich was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Schutt Sports Division II Player of the Year Award watchlist.
Lalich is the third Greyhound to be named to the list in the three years it has existed, with alumna pitcher Morgan Foley being named in 2015 and 2016 and alumna Casey Williamson in 2014. Lalich said she was honored to be named to the watchlist, but there is a lot of season left for new players to be ranked.
“It’s a nice honor, but I think that there’s a lot of work to still be done,” Lalich said. “I think there’s a lot of time that people who aren’t ranked could be ranked or that won’t be. I think it could change any time, so I really don’t think about it too much.”
Head Women’s softball coach Melissa Frost said she believes that Lalich deserves the placement and that another year in UIndy’s program will make Lalich even stronger.
“I think definitely she [Lalich] put some power covers last year, and we would expect her to do the same thing this year,” Frost said. “I think that with the hitters that we’re going to be able to surround her with, they [opponents] are not going to be able to throw around her as much anymore. I think that’s a key component for her. She’s really developed and continued to get better and better as a player.”
Last weekend the women traveled to Hendersonville, Tenn. to participate in the Music City Invitational. Overall, the women went 3-1, capturing their first two wins on Feb. 17.
First, the Hounds battled the Ohio Dominican University Panthers. After two scoreless innings senior outfield Dani Turner and freshman infield/outfield Ariana Liceaga were the first to step on home plate after a single from junior center fielder Jessie Noone. Hits from senior infielder Tayler Weck and Lalich scored the Hounds’ last two runs of the inning.
In the bottom of the third, the Panthers struck back with home run to right field scoring two runs. The Hounds kept it together, and ended the inning with a strike out and two line outs.
The Hounds and the Panthers tied the score to six in the fourth inning. Through the fifth and sixth innings the Hounds reached a score of nine, while keeping their opponents at six. The Hounds won 9-6.
Later that day, the team battled Saginaw Valley State University. The Hounds dominated over the course of four innings, scoring all seven runs between the third and sixth inning. Noone and senior infield Katie Kelly both hit home runs, scoring two and three points respectively.
On Feb. 18, the Hounds took their first loss of the tournament to the University of Montevallo Falcons 4-2. The Falcons scored the first four runs of the game; a lead they would not give up for the duration of the game. UIndy’s two runs came from Lalich’s RBI single scoring Noone, and Weck’s sacrifice fly that scored Turner.
In the final game of the weekend, the team notched their sixth win of the season against the Trevecca Nazarene University Trojans.
Noon’s double to right field hit in Kelly to score the first run of the game during the first inning. In the second, an RBI from freshman pitcher/outfield Lauren Honkomp and a home run from Liceaga scored another three runs for the Hounds. The Hounds scored once more in the fourth, and gave up only one run to the Trojans during the fourth inning to win the game 5-1.
Before stepping onto a field in Alabama to play their first game of the season, the Greyhounds spent the off-season working on getting to know each other as a team and the fundamentals of the game, according to Frost.
“We try to do as many little things right as possible, because that makes the bigger things fall into place,” Frost said. “So we focus a lot on our hitting, strict conditioning, pitching, and just getting our ladies ready to go.”
The Hounds played their first five games between Friday, Feb. 10, and Sunday, Feb. 12, and walked away from the weekend 3-2. Friday kicked off with a game against the University of North Alabama Lions, in which the Hounds fell 4-5. Turner hit a double and Kelly hit a single back to back in the third inning and both were able to come around on errors to score the first runs of the game in favor of the Greyhounds. The Hounds scored their final two runs in the sixth inning, when Liceaga scored on a UNA throwing error, and Weck made base on a fielder’s choice and was able to score, thanks to sophomore middle infield/outfield Taylor Podschweit’s sacrifice fly. Freshman pitcher Lauren Honkomp was able to keep UNA from scoring for the first four innings, but the Lions fought back in the fifth, scoring four runs. They rallied again in the seventh, scoring the final run needed to give them the lead, and a win, over the Hounds.
The Hounds fell in their second game against the Delta State Statesmen 3-1. Delta scored two runs in the fifth. Turner scored a home run, halving the Statemen’s lead, in the fifth as well. Delta scored a run in the seventh inning, giving them the win.
The rest of the weekend played out in the Hounds favor, as they won all three of their Saturday and Sunday games. Feb. 11, the Hounds faced Mississippi College. Turner scored another home run, giving the Hounds an early lead. The fourth inning saw a home run by Podschweit, and Weck plated due to a hit-by-pitch. She also scored. In the fifth, Turner hit another home run and scored. Honkomp earned her first career victory in the circle, only surrendering two runs and two walks for the Choctaws. The Hounds won 6-2.
On Feb. 12, UIndy played its first game against Lee University. Freshman pitcher Crystal Sicard earned her first career pitching win. She threw a five-hitter, striking out two and walking three. The Flames’ only player to reach third base was thrown out at the plate by Noone.
The Hounds three runs were scored by Turner, who was plated by a Weck groundout and Kelly, who crossed after a single by Lalich, both in the first inning, and junior infield/catcher Julia Liceaga, who was plated after a bases-loaded walk by Kelly in the fourth.
The second game of the day was against the Shorter University Hawks. The first scores of the game were made in the second, when Lalich hit a homerun, allowing Weck to score as well. Freshman outfield Becky Gibbs hit a grounder, which helped plated Podschweit to score the third run of the inning. Turner’s single allowed Noone to cross home, bringing the score to 4-0 in favor of the Hounds. The Hawks scored two off a homerun in the second, halving the Hound’s lead.
A bases-loaded walk by Gibbs in the fifth plated Lalich, and a Shorter homerun brought the score to 5-3. The Hounds scored two off a Weck home run in the sixth, with both the batter and Turner plating. The final score of the game was made when Podschweit was plated after junior center infielder Samantha Beckwith hit a single. The Greyhounds won 8-3.
The Hounds’ goal was to walk away from the weekend 5-0, according to Frost. In addition to that, however, Frost said that she expected her players, both veteran and freshmen, to continue to contribute to the program over the course of the season and their time at UIndy.
“Really, for us, it’s to have a good performance,” Frost said. “We have a lot of young kids that are going to contribute quite a bit, and we clearly expect our veterans to step up and do what they’ve done in this program for the last couple of years. They’ve put us on a national level with this program, and we just expect our freshmen to follow suit.”
Lalich said that personally she has a similar goal to Frost’s team goal. She wants to help improve the program and help the team go as far as she can, she said.
“[I want] to just leave the program better than I’ve found it, better than when I got here,” Lalich said. “I think my personal goal is also a team goal, is to make it as far as we can. I think that making it to the world series and win, I think that’s the goal every year.”
Lalich said the most important thing for the team to do is to hit the field and play their hardest at every practice and game.
“I think it’s just going to be important for us to go out there and play our hardest every day,” she said. “It’s been said a lot like, ‘Oh this is going to be a rebuilding year.’ We had Morgan [Foley] last year which was great but, it’s been said a lot ‘oh, is pitching going to be a struggle.’ But I think just going out and doing what we’ve always done, performing and winning is what we’re going to do this year.
The Hounds’ next games will be at the Midwest Region Crossover in Evansville, Ind., on Feb. 24 and 25.