In the world of softball, teams are given a “bye week” once a season where they do not have to play any games. While this is traditionally a beneficial time for teams to get rest and practice, it can sometimes be a break in momentum for teams on a hot streak. The Spartans are hoping that their week off does not lead to this as they ride their seven game win streak into the last stages of the season.
“I usually look forward to our bye week because it is a nice break for all of our players,” said head coach Leslie Kanter. “But we are on such a roll right now that I wish we could be playing some games and stay hot.”
The team swept both Florida Southern College (FSC) and Eckerd College in their past two series and is boasting a 24-9 overall record. In the Sunshine State Conference (SSC), the Spartans are placed second in the standings and have a record of 12-6.
The only team ahead of them is Barry University, who the Spartans won their series against earlier in the season. After a relatively slow start to their conference season, the team is finding their form and becoming a true contender in the SSC.
This is due in part to senior starting pitcher Julia Morrow who has served as the Spartans’ ace this year. Morrow has put up a 1.46 earned run average (ERA) this season and has excelled on the mound during the past few series. In the Easter weekend series with Eckerd, Morrow struck out 41 and only allowed one earned run. For her remarkable outing, Morrow was selected National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Softball Pitcher of the Week, the first in the program’s 27 year history.
“This is a phenomenal achievement and we are thrilled that Julia was named as the program’s first National Pitcher of the Week,” Kanter said. “She is working really hard and playing very well and has earned this past week of rest.”
In her 26 started games this season, Morrow has completed all but two and has 21 wins. She has shutout 10 opponents this year and is striking out over 10 batters per outing. Not only has Morrow established herself as one of the elite players in the conference by becoming SSC Pitcher of the Week four times this year alone, but she has proven herself to be one of the greatest pitchers in Division II Softball.
However, it is not just from the mound where the Spartans are finding wins. The Spartan hitting has stepped up in a huge way and has complemented the shutdown aspect that Morrow brings to games. Unlike traditional lineups that rely strongly on the top of the batting order, every part of the Spartan lineup has the potential to break an inning wide open. While they may not be the hardest hitting or flashiest batters in the SSC, the Spartan lineup has been gritty in their at-bats and delivered hits when the opportunity calls.
In the series against Eckerd, the Spartans were able to score 11 runs and did so without any home runs but with solid base running and rallying hit streaks instead. The Spartans tend to wear down opposing pitchers inning by inning before erupting for runs late in games.
“During our week off we were really trying to focus on our hitting and preparing ourselves for our next series,” said senior outfielder Jenna Halper. “We have been pretty clutch with our work at the plate lately and we want to translate our hard work last week into runs this week.”
This weekend the Spartans will be taking on SSC rival Nova Southeastern University in a conference clash where the Spartans will showcase their hard work and preparation. Nova Southeastern sit at the bottom of the SSC standings with a conference record of 4-14, but the Spartans are still focused solely on the task at hand and taking no wins for granted.
“There is no such thing as an easy win in this conference,” Kanter said. “We will be looking to winning these games and are looking forward to being on our home turf this weekend.”
Marcus Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org