After finishing last place in the American last season with a 20-35 record overall and 5-16 record in conference, the Huskies get a chance to start fresh in 2019.
Struggles at the plate last season were the team’s Achilles heel, hitting just .210, a full 30 points behind the next lowest finisher. They also crossed the plate the fewest times last season, as their 148 runs scored (about 2.69 runs per game) were 24 fewer than East Carolina who was the only other school to score less than 200.
Their pitching was the stronger aspect of the squad, as their 3.05 ERA was good for about the middle of the pack. However, the defense was an issue, finishing with the lowest fielding percentage and giving up the second most unearned runs in the conference.
However, Head Coach Jen McIntyre has seen a lot of improvement, specifically in one area of the team.
“I think the biggest asset for us this year is gonna be our depth,” McIntyre said. “It’s something we have worked really hard to try and build and try and gain, and I’m really interested to see what kind of versatility they are going to have.”
The Huskies only lost three seniors from last season and gained six freshmen: One pitcher, two outfielders and three infielders.
One big loss is sophomore outfielder Hollis Wivell, who had to undergo an unexpected offseason knee surgery. While she went only 9-50 at the plate last season, Wivell was the team’s leading base stealer, going 7-7. With the team only stealing 23 total bases, this loss of speed is certainly going to hurt. Her timetable is unknown.
A large factor to the team’s success this season will be if senior Jill Stockley can repeat her career year, putting up a team-leading 2.40 ERA and 111 strikeouts over 169.0 innings last season.
“She’s done an unbelievable job both on and off the field for us, so I’m anxious to see her be her best this year,” McIntyre said.
The Huskies will take on three squads in their first tournament of the season, starting with a doubleheader against Bryant and Michigan State on Friday.
They faced off against Bryant once last season, winning 4-1 on the back of a Stockley complete game and Briana Marcelino two-run blast. The Huskies last played the Spartans three years ago, when freshman Jill Stockley gave up six runs (five earned) in a 9-0 loss in the first game of a double header that they would split. With the two teams combining for just six seniors, it will be a much different look this time around.
They follow up their Friday doubleheader with a day-night on Saturday, starting with another game against the Bryant Bulldogs at 10:00 a.m. and then taking on the Florida International Panthers, the hosts of the tournament, later that night. FIU, who went 30-25 last season, is the only team that the Huskies will be playing this weekend who finished last season with a positive record.
This will be the first of many tournaments and classics to kick off the 2019 season, as the Huskies will not have their first home game until March 27.
“I always laugh when it comes middle of March, late March, and you’re seeing a lot of southern schools on Twitter and they’re like ‘Hey look our first flight,’ and it’s like our seventh,” McIntyre said. “We have really strong students in the classroom who take care of their studies before they get on the road, which is very important.”
After this tournament, the Huskies will head to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where they will take on Boston University, Virginia Tech, Bowling Green and the University of South Carolina Upstate.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.