USM still lacks offensive potency
These Golden Eagles have seen their ups and downs as a team this season. Whether they have beaten No. 23 Florida Atlantic on their field or have lost four straight series’ in Conference USA play, this team has been unpredictable to say the least.
Although the game of softball is not predicated on just one side of the ball, that one side has held the team back from rising in the standings.
“We’re getting runners on, we just have to get that big hit,” said coach Wendy Hogue. “We just have to get the big hits with runners in scoring position.”
The softball team’s offense has been inconsistent, to say the least. The team has been shutout eight times this season and failed to score three or more runs 21 times. Although it is not only about the offense, too much of a burden cannot be put on one player.
The team’s offensive prowess centers around junior Tori Dew, who is batting .353 combined with 11 doubles and two home runs on the season.
Dew believes this team is making strides towards prominence on the offensive side of the diamond. She sees that as a leader in several offensive categories, she has been thrusted to be a proverbial leader on the field by trade.
“I’ve never really been a follower, so I like being a leader,” Dew said. “I like making myself a statute for people. The weight on my shoulders doesn’t really bother me too much.”
That weight on Dew’s shoulders is a pretty big one. The back half of the rotation of Sarah Evans, Michelle Stringer, Rachel Johnson and Kaelyn Christofferson is hitting a .245 batting average combined, a drastic drop from Dew’s .355 or even fellow junior Lauren Holifield’s .295 average.
“We’ve been talking about the bottom half of our lineup having quality at-bats to turn it back over to the top of the lineup,” Hogue said.
Combined with Dew, Holifield also feels a weight on her shoulders offensively. She’s batting a .295 with 36 doubles and leads the team with eight home runs. Although she is not as vocal as Dew may be on the field, she feels that she doesn’t have to be.
“Just step in the box and do what I do, and try my best to help my team out,” Holifield said. “You don’t really make it happen, it just happens.”
The team as a whole may be turning a corner with the wins that it is accumulating.
After losing four straight series to start the season, the team has won its last two against Western Kentucky and UT-San Antonio. The offense in those games though, still failed to separate itself from the opposition. The Golden Eagles scored 21 runs, against the 19 runs combined by the Lady Toppers and Roadrunners.
Dew feels that it is her responsibility to get runners to cross home plate when she gets up to bat.
“You just take what you get,” Dew said. “You get runners on in front of you, you have to do something with it. When you have that on your back, you have to take it, and not let up and not let your teammatesdown.”
She said that she and the team must keep taking strides when they take the bat.
“You can’t take steps back — you [have] got to keep working,” Dew said. “[You have to] be that hitter for your team and for the university.”
At this point of the season at 20-23 and 7-8 in C-USA, the team sits fourth in the West Division of the C-USA standings. It is not unfathomable that the team can catch the top seed in the division, UTSA, but it will take some work.
“No matter who we play, no matter what uniform they’re wearing, we can play with anybody,” Hogue said. “If we’ll play consistent, we’ll win a whole lot of more ball games.”
Those ball games will come around as Dew believes this team can go nowhere else but up.
“We don’t really have anything to lose,” Dew said. “Just play the game that you’ve been playing since you were three years old. Don’t question yourself. We have no pressure, just come out swinging.”
Although the record may not be what is desired at this point in the season, the team still has a sense of optimism. Dew believes the work her team is putting in will pay dividends in the end.
“We have some big things coming and people might not think that and people might not see it,” Dew said.
Dew and her fellow Golden Eagles will start their run towards relevancy at home against North Texas in a three-game series starting Saturday with a doubleheader at 1 p.m.