Over the course of this past March, the softball team has caught fire and is blazing through opponents with a 21-9 overall record.
The Spartans have won 10 of their last 12 games and the combination of strong pitching and clutch hitting have cemented the Spartans as a legitimate force in the Sunshine State Conference (SSC).
“We have been up and down throughout the season, but are definitely hitting our stride right now,” said head coach Leslie Kanter. “With our pitching doing as well as it is, we are able to fight for every win and we have developed into a strong hitting team.”
This is Kanter’s 21st season at the University of Tampa and she is looking to take the team to its fifth straight appearance at the NCAA South Regional Tournament. But to do, so the team will need to continue climbing the SSC standings
Currently ranked fourth in the conference, the Spartans have a 9-6 conference record and have won their three game series with top ranked Rollins College and Barry University.
“We are in a difficult conference that doesn’t let you take a breath, but one of the reasons our conference is so tough is because we are in it too,” said Kanter.
In this past weekend SSC series, the Spartans swept Florida Southern University and were able to shut out the Mocs on Saturday’s doubleheader. Senior pitcher Julia Morrow started all three games this past weekend and picked up her 16th, 17th and 18th wins of the season.
Over the course of the three games played, Morrow completed all of them and struck out 33 batters with only one surrendered earned run. She was named SSC Player of the Week, her third time this season, and has become an outright ace on the mound.
Over the season, Morrow is sitting at a 1.62 ERA (Earned Run Average) and has shut out teams on nine different occasions this season.
However, it has been the work at the plate that has separated the Spartans from opponents this season. This season, the Spartans have over 100 runs scored and the team has a respectable on-base percentage (OBP) of .333 and a batting average of .272. In comparison, opponents are averaging a .278 OBP and a .231 batting average.
Senior first baseman Meagan Burke and three other Spartans have over 10 runs batted in (RBIs) over the course of the season and the Spartans contain a lineup filled to the brim with talent.
Leadoff hitter and senior catcher Kandi Kuder has been a spark for the Spartan lineup and leads the team in batting average (.347) and hits (33). Kuder and freshman shortstop Sahrina Cortes have found themselves on base often as they share the team leads in stolen bases (four) and runs scored (15).
With a strong on-base presence from the top of the batting order, the power hitters have benefitted greatly. Burke has been the slugger of the team as the third batter and leads the Spartans in home runs with five on the year.
Batting clean-up in the fourth slot in the lineup is sophomore third baseman Bre Setree, who has excelled in the role and leads the team with 17 RBIs .
Despite the power in the lineup, the quality that the team has shown strongly this season is its focus. When the time demands it, any player on the team is capable of coming up with a hit or making a play.
“When our power hitters aren’t doing as well, other people in the lineup know they need to step up and they pull through with a clutch hit,” said junior second baseman Alyssa Colletti. “The lineup has definitely gotten stronger throughout the season and every batter is getting more confidence.”
With every win, the team is gaining more and more confidence and are playing with focus and determination as they head into the final leg of their season.
The Spartans are riding a four-game winning streak into this week’s SSC clash with rival Eckerd College. The team is firing on all cylinders and, with dominant pitching and a focused lineup, are showing no signs of slowing down.
Marcus Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.