Coming off a 16-20 record in the 2013 season, the Slippery Rock University softball team was picked to finish fifth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-Western Division during preseason polls.
“Just because we’re picked fifth, it doesn’t mean we’ll finish there,” head coach Rebecca Sciacca said. “It’s just lighting fuel to the fire and motivating our girls to work that much harder and prove to everyone that they placed us wrong.”
Sciacca enters her third season with the Rock this year. She led the team to a 16-17 record her first year (2012).
“My expectations for this year are that we are in the top three of our conference and make it to the playoffs,” Sciacca said.
The Rock welcomes back 14 players from last season. Senior first baseman Breanna Tongel, who started 35 games last season, hit .275, and was in the top five in four different statistics for SRU, is looking to feed off of her success from last season.
“My personal goals are always to do better than the previous season,” Tongel said. “As a senior, I need to be a leader on the field, and with a young team, it’s important to keep the team focused at all times.”
Tongel echoed Sciacca’s thoughts and said making the conference playoffs is the team’s biggest goal this season.
“We have come so close in the past and just haven’t been able to pull it off,” Tongel said. “As a team, we need to focus on winning big games early in the season to eliminate putting that kind of pressure on us at the end of the season.”
The Green and White will also look to lean on sophomore infielder Katie Kaiser, who, as a freshman last season, finished second on the team in batting average with .373, first in runs scored with 27, second in hits with 44, and third in RBI’s with 25.
The top pitcher for Slippery Rock last season, senior Emily Lobdell, finished with a record of 6-6 and a 3.29 ERA in nine games. In her first game last season, she pitched a no-hitter against Bluefield State College.
Sciacca said that the team will not look for any specific player to carry the team and the team goals will be a total team effort.
“Everyone on the team has different responsibilities to get us to playoffs this year,” Sciacca said. “I’m looking to all 26 players to get us there.”
The Rock will begin its season at the Shaw Tournament in Raleigh, N.C. on Feb. 21. They will face Winston-Salem State University, West Virginia State University, Alderson Broaddus University, Fairmont State University and Concord University during the weekend-long tournament.