Having added 11 new freshmen to the roster this season, the University of Indianapolis softball team has successfully integrated them into the team, according to freshman pitcher Crystal Sicard.
The women had their third weekend on the road, participating in four games and finishing with a record of 3-1.The weekend kicked off with games against the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals then the Kentucky Wesleyan University Panthers on Feb. 24.
In the first game of the day against the Cardinals, senior infield Tayler Weck came out swinging in the first inning with a double, that scored senior infield Katie Kelly for the first run of the game. SVSU did not score until the third inning, when a Cardinal advanced to home plate on an error. Before the Cardinals scored again in the fifth inning, the Hounds scored in the fourth with a double to left field from senior utility Natalie Lalich. The score remained tied at two until the last play of the game, when junior catcher/infield Julia Liceaga hit a single, which scored freshman infield/outfield Cathy Skaggs. The Greyhounds won the game 3-2.
Next, the women suffered their only loss of the weekend to Kentucky Wesleyan. The Panthers scored four runs in the first two innings and did not allow a run from the Hounds until the third inning, when senior outfield Dani Turner scored with a home run. The Hounds fought for a comeback in the sixth inning with a double from sophomore corner infield Rachel Vander Wagon and an RBI from Lalich, each scoring one run. But the runs were not enough, and the Hounds fell to the Panthers 5-3.
The following day, the women took home two wins to finish off the weekend, first against the Ferris State University Bulldogs and then against the Northwood University Timberwolves.
The Hounds statistically dominated Ferris State over the course of five innings. UIndy scored 10 runs in four innings and did not allow a single run by the Bulldogs until the fifth inning. Both Turner and sophomore middle infield/outfield Taylor Podschweit hit home runs, each scoring three runs. Lalich went three for three at the plate with two doubles and a single.
The team took home its last win of the weekend against Northwood University later that day. The women racked up three runs in the third inning to start the game’s scoring. The Timberwolves scored their only run of the game with a home run in the next inning. Freshman pitcher Lauren Honkomp quickly shut down the scoring, striking out two batters and then the final out came from a groundout to the shortstop. The Hounds had another long inning in the sixth, scoring another three runs before taking the win 7-1. Honkomp totaled nine strikeouts and did not walk a single batter. Lalich added to the score with a home run and a double. Turner and Weck also contributed doubles scoring one run each.
So far this season, the freshman-dominated pitching staff has had to cope not only with being new to the team, but also being in a position of authority on the field, according to Sicard.
“In college you see a lot of more high-caliber players, and they are a lot older,” she said. “Some girls are like 23, and it’s their fourth year. So it’s been a lot harder [than high school] in that way. I think all the pitchers here were always the bigger fish in the pond in high school. Then you come here and see all these girls that were like that, so it’s been really hard competition.”
Although the transition may be tough on the pitchers, alumna pitcher Morgan Foley has been assisting Head Softball Coach Melissa Frost in helping the young players to cope, according to Sicard.
“It’s been really difficult just because it is hard to follow Morgan, but the coaching staff has been really great with Coach Frost and Morgan helping,” she said. “It’s been a really smooth transition going from the fall into our season… It’s been really great to have Morgan help coach us over the past couple of weeks and in the fall, and we’ve been working really hard on each pitch and knowing when we go out there, we need to hold the standard that Morgan left this program with. And we go out there and lead the team in the field.”
Upperclassmen on the team are helping not only the pitchers adjust, but also the freshmen on other areas of the field. According to junior outfield Jessie Noone, the team interacts on and off the field, including team bonding activities such as going to dinner and the movies.
“A lot of us upperclassmen that are still here had to step up a lot because there is only a few of us and more of the lowerclassmen,” Noone said. “We just stuck to the game plan and stuck to what the seniors [last season] left us with, and just built off that.”
Sicard said that the seniors and upperclassmen have been helpful in the transition and have kept the less experienced players in the loop.
“The seniors communicate with us really well, and that’s been a huge part of it [being successful],” she said, “because the freshmen don’t really know what they’re getting into. The seniors have been great about just communicating with us and letting us know how to do things around here, and just keeping us up to date.”
The women have two weeks off before traveling to Clermont, Fla., for the Spring Games series on March 11-15.