Most coaches, managers and team owners, including Slippery Rock’s own extensively successful head baseball coach Jeff Messer, would agree that winning is easier with a team of experienced veterans. While true, there are few things more exciting to watch than a young star who can hold their own with the best of the veterans.
Alexsa Hurd has given that to the Slippery Rock softball program.
Before college, she lettered four times in softball and volleyball at Field High School. She was a two-time All-Ohio honoree, Portage County Player of the Year in her senior season, 2021 Metro Athletic League Player of the Year and an honor roll student.
She was immediately excited about Slippery Rock’s campus and environment. It didn’t take her long to come to a decision.
“The atmosphere around campus, just walking around, I really loved it,” Hurd said.
Hurd broke onto the scene as a freshman and hit .309 in addition to the team lead in slugging with .603 and triples with six. She was also second in both home runs and RBI, with four and 20 respectively.
She coupled her elite bat with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage on defense with 48 assists.
A two-way player, Hurd also pitched herself to a 4.67 ERA and 45 strikeouts over 66.0 innings pitched. Hurd has made herself valuable in many scenarios because of her versatility, and that can be a big boost to any roster. She wants to play whatever role she can.
“Whatever will help the team win,” Hurd said.
Her ERA was good for third on the team when considering pitchers who threw above ten innings, as was her strikeouts per nine. She was able to pitch the third most innings on the team as a freshman with 66.0.
Her best game of the season came against Clarion on March 31, as she went four for five with four RBI, two runs scored, two doubles and one triple.
These numbers got her honored as the All-PSAC West second-team utility/pitcher.
She also quickly bonded with the team. She said the team routinely makes plans off the field and all get along together well.
“It feels like an actual family,” Hurd said. “We’re all close.”
That bonding, along with adjustments from head coach Stacey Rice, has helped the team perform better on the field so far in the 2023 season.
Last year after six PSAC games, The Rock had fallen to 1-5 in conference play. This year, they have played the same number but have come out at .500 with a 3-3 conference record.
One two-game set in particular will likely be remembered by the squad for the rest of the season. SRU opened PSAC play against their bitter rival Indiana University (PA), a team they split with last year and had a -1-run differential against. Not only did The Rock sweep IUP, but they also dominated.
On March 21, SRU defeated IUP 7-3 in the first game, only to come back around and shut them out 8-0 in the second matchup. For a team that was .500 at the time, it was a boost to morale to take down such a long-lasting rival.
“It gave our team great momentum,” Hurd said. “It gave us the motivation to keep working hard.”
Hurd put forth a masterpiece in the circle for the second game, throwing a complete game shutout, her second of the year, and striking out nine while only allowing one hit.
If there was any doubt, she was also an offensive catalyst the whole day, going 5 for 7 with two home runs, eight RBI and four runs scored.
The next doubleheader didn’t go so well. SRU was swept in their home opener by Clarion by scores of 1-4 and 5-6. They also dropped the first game of their doubleheader at California University (PA) before rebounding to win the second game 7-4. Hurd advanced her record to 3-1 after striking out seven over six innings in the ladder game.
Every team will have rough stretches, but the resilience and ability to salvage a win in the midst of a small, albeit frustrating, three-game losing streak shows how The Rock has been able to band together and embrace the talent currently on the roster.
“We had a setback this past week but being able to bounce right back from those games will continue to motivate us,” Hurd said.
The last win against Cal-U is what brought SRU back to .500 in conference play, a mark that was good enough for a PSAC tournament berth one year ago.
Hurd and Slippery Rock softball returns home to Kasnevich Field April 1 for a doubleheader against Pitt-Johnstown as they look to continue strong play toward a shot in the PSAC tournament.