While every team’s preseason expectations include getting off to a fast start, often times, the results of early season games pale in comparison to the way a team builds chemistry and the emergence of players who can contribute to a winning season.
With Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play just around the corner and PSAC-West Player of the Year Kailey Myers struggling, two relatively unknowns emerged for the Slippery Rock softball team at the NTC Tournament in Clermont, Florida.
After losing its first four games, The Rock rebounded to finish the week with five wins over the next eight games. Sophomore catcher Leah Vith and redshirt freshman first baseman Adeline Nicholson led the way with breakout performances over the second half of the spring break tournament.
Vith, who was tabbed by her teammates as a breakout performer this season, finished the tournament on a seven-game hitting streak. Over the seven games stretch, Vith batted .571 with 12 hits to raise her season average from .150 to .366. Vith had three doubles, one triple, two home runs and drove in 11 runs.
Nicholson matched Vith an impressive seven game streak of her own. The redshirt freshman batted .500 with 10 hits. The 10 hits included four doubles, one triple and two home runs. Four of Nicholson’s seven RBIs came during Friday’s double header against the University of Bridgeport and Lemoyne College.
The Green and White began play with back-to-back double-header losses against Notre Dame College and Drury University on Saturday, March 9 and against Fairmont State University and no. 24 Wayne State University on Sunday, March 10.
Despite SRU picking up four losses in its first four games of the tournament, sophomore pitcher Camie Shumaker pitched a couple of gems to keep the Green and White competitive against Notre Dame and Fairmont State.
Shumaker pitched six innings against Notre Dame and seven (a complete game) against Fairmont State, and allowed just four runs on 11 hits. The sophomore ace received a lone run in support from a Myers’ RBI double against Fairmont State.
A Monday double-header against Concord University and Caldwell University was dominated by Shumaker who returned to the mound for back-to-back complete game gems.
Shumaker five-hit Concord and struck out eight batters in her first shutout of the season, a 2-0 victory. Returning on quick rest, Shumaker pitched eight innings of one-run softball while striking out six batters in a 2-1 victory over Caldwell.
An 11-2 explosion against Millersville University on Tuesday finally saw Rock batters provide support for Shumaker who picked up a third consecutive win after pitching all five innings.
Vith powered the offense with a double, a home run and six RBIs while Nicholson, junior outfielder Alexa Guglielmino, sophomore infielder Aubrey Allen and freshman infielder Maggie Moore all had multiple hit games.
Nicholson racked up a double and a home run to drive in three runs against Urbana University later in the day but an early surge from Urbana proved insurmountable as SRU fell, 6-4.
On Thursday, Vith’s hitting streak continued with a pair of hits in an 0-7 loss to no. 25 Winona State University. Her strong day continued with a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning against West Chester University.
Shumaker pitched another complete game, allowing just two runs on four hits. She racked up five more strikeouts against West Chester.
On Friday’s concluding double header, Nicholson and Vith combined for a double, a triple and pair of home runs and seven RBIs. A heartbreaking 8-9 loss to Bridgeport was avenged by a 10-1 win over Lemoyne to conclude the tournament.
After going 5-7 in Florida over spring break, The Rock begins PSAC play this Friday against Clarion University. The Green and White then host Lock Haven University on Monday to open up play at the SRU Softball Complex.
The double-header is set for 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday at the Memorial Stadium Complex in Clarion, Pa.