What makes this team better than last year, even with a worse record?
“I think they hate to lose this year,” said coach Wendy Hogue. “I think last year, not that they didn’t want to win every game we played, but if we started off slow, there was no coming back.”
This softball team is of a different breed than others in its conference and across the nation.
The Golden Eagles are well underway in their second season under coach Hogue, and she has already put her stamp on her squad.
“You can be a stumbling block by saying one thing and doing another and that’s the hardest, just trying to expect so much more of them and not accept mediocrity,” Hogue said. “At the same time, continue to remember it’s for [God’s] glory.”
Religion aside, this team does have a different “feel” than in years past. You can not tell on the scoreboard yet, but the wins are well on their way.
The Southern Miss softball team currently sits at 10-8, just a slight step back on where they were last year at 10-5.
At this point, the team is not experiencing the on-field success of last year, but Hogue believes this team should experience even more on-field triumphs than they did last year.
With newcomers such as Tori Dew, Lauren Holifield and Beth Taylor, the roster has just enough new blood to mix in with the old.
The Golden Eagles look back at their wins in the Gulf Coast Classic against Southeastern Louisiana, Incarnate Word and Nicholls and see the productive offense that they are willing to output.
On the flip side, USM dropped contests against Baylor and McNeese State, getting blanked 15-4 on the losing side.
“Not only between the team [from last year], but the strength of schedule, we’ve played significantly better than we were than at this point last year,” Hogue said.
This team possesses just enough talent to make it to not just .500 for the first time since 2004, but to the Conference USA tournament exclusive to the conference’s top eight teams.
“Whether the record shows or not, I feel that [we are better,]” Hogue said. “I think our desire and our want to [greater].”
Getting to the conference tournament should not only be the goal but should be the milestone for these ladies. Not only do they have the talent, but they should keep that chip on their shoulder from a disappointing first season where the Golden Eagles recorded a disappointing 18-34.
You could make the excuse that last year was Hogue’s first season, but to say that this team is the same as the others is very near-sighted.
This team has everything it needs with power – Tori Dew and Rachel Johnson; pitching – Danielle Block and Samantha Robles; and a solid coaching staff to make this year somewhat of a redemption season behind last year’s disappointments.
Assistant coach Coy Adkins is in his first season as an Golden Eagle, and he realizes that this team is all he ever asked for in a job.
“The hospitality, the hometown feel of campus, the people involved in the booster club and athletic department,” Adkins said. “Without a doubt, that’s one thing that coach Hogue has established as a culture, she has a boundary for. With that boundary, you definitely have freedom to be yourself and show your individualism.”
In 2016, the Golden Eagles not only play a different style, but the morale of the team has vastly improved.
Players are talking more on the field, the coaches believe in the players when they are down on the scoreboard. Albeit not at the pace of last year, the wins will come soon enough for the Golden Eagles to reach their milestones.
With religion on their side, Hogue and her team are looking at more than just on-the-field goals.
“Softball is a tool that he’s given us to pursue our passion,” Hogue said. “My passion is not softball, it’s loving young ladies and helping them become the best they can be.”
If the run at redemption fails, Hogue and her team can go down to the Duff Athletic Center and ask the football team how they turned it around.