Softball’s opening weekend offers positive takeaways

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Photo by: Makayla Puckett Senior Sarah Van Schaik rounds third base.
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Southern Miss opened the season with a 5-0 start, which is already an improvement after the Golden Eagles started 0-4 a year ago. This team looks to have a new set of confidence backed with better hitting and now-proven pitching staff.

  1.    More power behind the bats

Last season, the Golden Eagles struggled to find consistency offensively. As a team, Southern Miss hit just 18 home runs with a team batting average of .264. In comparison, after the opening weekend, Southern Miss has four home runs from four different batters, and the Golden Eagles have a .400 batting average and a .617 slugging percentage. In the 5-0 start, the team mercy-ruled four out of the five teams and outscored opponents 46-12 and run-ruling four out of the five teams the team faced.

  1.    Any pitching staff worries should go away

A concern heading into the season was that the Golden Eagles had to adjust to a completely new pitching staff. It was thought that Saint Francis University transfer Abby Trahan would be the ace, and in fact, Trahan was named as one of the top 100 players in the nation by softballamerica.com. However, the rest of the staff proved that it will be just as reliable. The most intriguing performances were from freshman pitchers Kaylan Ladner and Makenna Pierce.

Ladner almost threw a no-hitter against Houston Baptist before it was spoiled in the final inning of the game. Pierce pitched against Houston Baptist on Friday night, finishing with a 1.80 ERA in five innings and allowed three runs on five hits.

Ladner, who made two appearances, finished the weekend with a 3.00 ERA and allowed two runs on three hits. Junior transfer Bailie Springfield made her appearance on Sunday against Jackson State, where she also almost threw a perfect game that was spoiled by a solo home run in the top of the fifth inning. Lastly, Trahan provided two strong performances, throwing nine strikeouts and allowing six runs on 10 hits in 12 innings pitched.

  1.    The team has a new set of confidence

The Golden Eagles had an endless string of injuries that contributed to issues that occurred in 2018’s 19-36 season. Southern Miss was forced to play multiple young players and from the way it looks, the amount of time that multiple inexperienced players saw last season is paying off. Sophomores Kaley Fruge, Alyssa Davis and Destini Brown are hitting over .400 currently, with Davis and Brown hitting over .500. With seniors Sarah Van Schaik, Samantha Papp and Chase Nelson mixed into the lineup, they each bring perfect leadership that gives the team a strong mesh.

  1.    The Golden Eagles still need to prove themselves

Even with a dominating 5-0 start, Southern Miss played teams that had a combined 63-125 record in 2018. However, this upcoming week Southern Miss will have to face Nicholls State on the road. Nicholls State won the Southland Conference last season. From there, the team will travel to Waco, Texas and compete in the Getterman Classic which will include UT Arlington, Baylor and Sam Houston State. Nicholls State finished 40-15 and were the runner-ups in the Southland Conference tournament. UT Arlington finished 30-28 last season but defeated Southern Miss last year early in the season by a score of 6-4. Lastly, Baylor finished 38-18 with an appearance in the NCAA tournament and also edged out Southern Miss by a score of 3-2 last year. The next four games look to be against competitive teams and will prove to be the true gauge for Southern Miss as they move through the rest of the season.