Softball crawls to pedestrian start

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The Slippery Rock University softball team has had a slow start to the season so far, with a 3-15 mark within the PSAC West. For the time being, The Rock resides in the division’s cellar, sporting what is tied with Mansfield for the league’s poorest winning percentage (.167).

Head coach Stacey Rice says that hers is a fairly young squad with a lot of talent, but it needs to click.

In the second half of the season, the team needs to “desire the need to compete more,” says Rice. Most of the losses are a combination of not batting well enough and fielding errors needing cleaned up. Other teams have strong pitching and, while Slippery Rock does too, it is still learning to be a cohesive team.

Despite the team having given up the PSAC’s fourth-least amount of hits, and its 3.81 ERA ranking within the top third of the conference, Slippery Rock trudged through a seven-game losing streak in March. It has also been swept in all but three of its nine doubleheaders.

An obvious reason for the lack of success could be SRU’s .241 batting average, the lowest of the 18 PSAC teams. If not for Mansfield, The Green and White’s 47 runs, 40 RBI, and three homers would also be the least in the conference.

The okay was given to the softball team to begin practicing on Feb. 1, only giving the team a short period of time to prepare and meet the new members of the squad. The most important rule at this point is to stay the course, Rice says.

Being that the team only has two seniors, the remainder of the team consists of a bunch of mature underclassmen who are getting the chance to play. The roster added eight new members with no fall practice, which didn’t help their cause. The main focus moving forward is the will to compete.

As for the positive mentality while the team is tallying losses on their record, it certainly isn’t easy, nor is it fun. Rice says she and the players are “staying aware, working hard at practice, and looking forward to the big picture.” She added that this young group has the chance to learn from this year as they have the future to look forward to.

Getting this game experience now, although not with the results they desire, is helping them grow in the long run.

“We’re going to control the controllable things,” says Rice. Most of the issues within the team are uncontrollable and fall on the unforeseen circumstances of the last year. One thing Rice is sure of with the student-athletes are the abilities to step up and perform.

“They’re capable and willing to rally around one another during this time,” she said, adding that they all want to see positive results in the scorebooks.

Ultimately, the desire to compete comes down to having grit, tenacity and aggressiveness. Rice said, “The competitive greatness throughout all seven innings and not giving up until the last out is what will set them apart.”

What’s been majorly affecting these players comes down to getting too comfortable with things. Every cut, rep and play matters and needs to be taken at 100%.

“Once they give all that they’ve got, the game speed and results will differ,” added Rice.

So, the question remains: Who’s going to step up and bring this team together to finish out the season on a high note with more wins than losses?

The Rock will next face off on the road with Clarion, currently third-to-last in the PSAC West.

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