Confidence is something that, when present, can make your season special. This has been the case for the Spartan softball team, who won seven of their eight games in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina a couple of weeks ago.
Myrtle Beach is typically a highly competitive site, and has posed some difficulty for the team in the past, but the team jumped all over the opportunity to open this season.
“We have a lot of experienced players, and a large number of seniors that have been through this early season format. They know how to prepare, and what to expect,” said head coach Eric Ramey.
And they definitely were prepared.
The team kicked off its season on Feb. 24 with victories of 12-4 against NVU-Lyndon, and a 9-0 shutout against NVU-Johnson. They ended up stretching that winning streak to seven games, before dropping the final game against Shawnee State University, 6-4.
Despite the loss, Ramey claims this was the team’s best game, because Shawnee State was their toughest opponent.
“That was a good game. That was the game where we learned a lot, and taking that team into the seventh inning tied 4-4 showed a lot,” Ramey said.
In addition to this start to the season, the team brought home some serious hardware.
“It was pretty awesome, especially with it being the first week out there,” said senior Jamie Boyle, who was awarded LEC Player of the Week.
In Myrtle Beach, Boyle tallied 11 hits and 10 RBIs on her way to a .550 batting average.
“I wanna get the job done and get on base, Especially if there’s people in front of me. I want to move those runners, and bring them home,” Boyle said.
Boyle is part of the large group of seniors on the team, and her impact stretches farther than her presence on the field.
“Experience matters. We lean on her for a lot of our leadership, poise and calmness,” Ramey said. Along with Boyle, Ramey added a list of seniors who add depth and talent to the team.
“You’ve got Kate LaPan, who’s kind of our glue-kid, she keeps everything together for us. She makes big plays and bats in the lead-off spot,” Ramey said.
“Then there’s Hannah Mosher, and when she’s going well, she’s as good of a player as there is anywhere, she’s just so talented,” Ramey praised.
“Then you mix in the rest of those seniors that have all been through it. We played them all when they were freshmen. They all played, and they really have each other’s backs,” he added.
This senior class has clearly made their presence known in the locker room too. Reigning Rookie of the Week Blake Riche mentioned the role they played in her success in Myrtle Beach.
“The veteran players, especially the seniors, have had such an impact on my success so far. They have been so supportive and have already taught me so much,” Riche said.
Being a freshman, Riche initially had to battle her nerves in her first trip to the plate.
“I was nervous my first time up to bat, but when I made contact with that first pitch all my nerves went away. I just kept reminding myself, ‘I’ve done this a hundred times, I know what to do’,” Riche said.
She also finds a lot of value in the mentorship from her teammates and coaches. She mentioned that these lessons are vital in her adjustment to college-level softball.
“Along with my teammates, Coach Ramey and Coach Lambert have already taught and showed me so much more about the games in just a couple months,” Riche said. “I can’t wait to have three more years with them to learn so much more,” she added.
Another crucial part to the team’s success is the arsenal of pitchers at Ramey’s disposal. Of those pitchers, Olivia Joy took home Pitcher of the Week honors, following her two shutout outings and 20 strikeouts.
“When Olivia’s arm is healthy, she’s really, really good. She was really effective, and her arm felt really good,” Ramey said.
Every pitcher has been told that they have fielders behind them to make plays on balls in play. It’s a saying that means to trust your teammates, and it’s a saying that Joy has no problem realizing.
“My teammates have a huge role in my ability to go on the mound and pitch. In order to be a team and play well, you have to have trust, and I trust my team so much that I know if the ball is hit, I can trust them to make a play,” Joy said.
Joy acknowledges the team’s perseverance and how eager they were to get back out onto the field.
“We can finally have a full and normal season. We’ve had a lot of setbacks these past 2 years. Last year we were not allowed to go to Myrtle, so having this opportunity to go and compete with other teams was exciting and I think we were all ready for that,” Joy said.
In addition to Joy, the rest of the pitching staff is loaded up.
The team boasts a strong setup of six pitchers, three of which are starters.
“Having Kylie Wright come back is a big piece for us. It adds to our pitching staff, but it adds to our entire team make-up,” Ramey said.
Also returning this season is Katie Gallagher, who was given Second Team All-Conference honors last season.
“You mix in two other seniors who are kinda our relief kids, who can get some starts, along with a first-year player in Jess Heinrichs, I’m really happy with our staff,” Ramey said. “We don’t have to throw our arms off, we can stay fresh,” Ramey added.
The team has embraced an underdog mentality moving forward with this season in the LEC.
“We’re by far the smallest University. The eighth biggest school is twice as big as us. But, we feel like we’ve earned the respect of the teams in this conference,” Ramey said.
If the team hadn’t earned respect before this season, then the showing in Myrtle beach definitely got them some attention.
“A lot of teams took us for granted, and we were kind of underdogs, so starting off this strong shows to the other teams that we’re capable of going a long way,” Boyle said.