Rock softball falls just short of the playoffs despite winning season

Published by The Rocket, Author: Stephen Cukovich - Assistant Sports Editor, Date: May 3, 2018

The Slippery Rock University softball team had their season come to an abrupt end this week after falling just one game short of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) playoffs.

SRU ended their season with an overall record of 24-19, with a conference record of 11-9, placing them in fourth place in the PSAC West.  This regular season comes as head coach Stacey Rice’s most successful season in her four years as head coach, despite falling just short of the postseason.

“Quality of players, recruiting classes, things of that nature, but also our student athletes buying into what I’ve been selling,” Rice said regarding her success this season.  “Finally things start to click, that’s why a lot of head coaches are given that time to develop a program.”

If The Rock would’ve won both of their final regular season games against then fourth place California University of Pa. (18-16), they would’ve been able to secure third place in the PSAC West and a playoff birth.  The Green and White split their double header with the Vulcans, leaving their fate in CalU’s hands the following day, as they needed two wins over Edinboro University (6-25) to jump SRU in the standings, which they did.

Throughout the season, the team has had more than their fair share of weather cancellations, with some instances going more than a week without playing a single game, or even getting a nice practice outside.

“I don’t want to make excuses obviously, we’re not in that business, but in the game of softball and baseball you need to play in order to fix things and get better,” Rice said.  “It’s definitely hard when you’re at a standstill, you don’t know when you’re going to play, it does create its own challenges.”

The Rock finished the season with a team batting average of .293, landing them in 11th in the PSAC in that category, but placing fifth in hits with 340 on the season.  Pitching wise the Green and White finished with a team ERA of 3.69, while holding opposing batters to an average of .272 on the season.

“I really feel what we did offensively was enough,” Rice said.  “Our defense did great too, but I think when I’m looking at our pitching they obviously are strong, but I feel like we fell short on a couple games where we should’ve relied on them to pull through.  We can’t put the whole team on their shoulders, but they understand that our success depends on their arms.”

Looking into next season, The Rock has plenty of positives going for them such as a new ace pitcher in now freshmen Camie Shumaker, along with offensive fire power in junior Kailey Myers who came almost out of nowhere, Rice said.  In addition, Rice had high praise for freshman Becca Roesch, who finished her first year with a batting average of .318, while playing shut down defense in the field.

There is one thing though Rice says that worries her and also gives her reasons to look forward to next season.

“The same thing that gets me excited is the same thing that terrifies me,” Rice said. “We’re going to be a young team, so that excites me because of the fresh mindset, the ability to reset and not take anything with us from this season.  But at the same time, inexperience also can create some issues… but I’m looking forward to working with a whole new set of girls.”

In the end, The Rock’s 24 wins are the second most in a season since 2008, where the team won 27 games that season.