After going 10-6 in the Ohio Athletic Conference during the 2010 regular season, no one gave the John Carroll University softball team much of a chance to do some damage in the conference tournament as the third seed.
JCU was 2-4 against the other three teams in the postseason tournament, but coach Erin Brooks’ team ran off three consecutive wins over the University of Mount Union, Muskingum University and Ohio Northern University to win the postseason tournament.
The win over the ONU Polar Bears, then ranked fourth in the national polls, in the championship game earned the Blue Streaks their first conference title. However, the OAC awards their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament to the regular season champion, so JCU’s 2010 season ended with the conference championship game.
This year, they want more.
The program lost Laura Boselovic, Julie Marlowe and Sam Thompson to graduation – a trio that was instrumental in guiding the 2010 team and left as the winningest class in school history.
Replacing them won’t be easy, but players on the team are familiar with how things are done around the program.
“We lost a great group of seniors from last year’s team and they were a huge reason why we were able to do what we did,” said Brooks. “At the same time, we have players on our team that will step into more of a leadership role and show the freshmen how things are done.”
This year’s team again has three seniors in Jamie Colley, Katie Knox and Angela Vistocco to set the example. The freshman class has 11 players on the roster.
“We’re excited about the freshmen that we brought in. We think they’re a good group and will certainly be able to help us out this year.”
The freshmen have already contributed early in the season. Trisha Pike has started three games in the circle behind junior Brittany Danilov, a first team All-OAC selection in each of her first two seasons.
Pike is 1-1 with 2.17 ERA in her three appearances. Danilov is 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA and will have high expectations once the team begins conference play as she was 6-3 in conference competition last season.
Rookies Samantha Becker, Anna Fach and Ally Kleinhans have all become fixtures in the starting lineup. That trio is led by Becker who was second on the team with a .444 batting average and a team-best 12 RBI entering last night’s doubleheader with Ohio Wesleyan University.
Offensively, the Blue Streaks can lean on junior Olivia Mathews, a 2010 first team all-conference selection. She’s off to a hot start, leading the team with a .448 batting average.
Sophomore catcher Mackenzie Griffin was a 2010 second team All-OAC selection and is tied with Mathews to lead the team with 13 hits so far this season. Junior Elena Cotton will be an option to spell Griffin behind home plate.
Juniors Michelle Murphy and Erin Riccardi, both of whom hit over .315 and drove in over 30 runs last season, can provide a spark with the bat.
The team has their home and conference opener on Saturday when ONU comes to University Heights. The first game is at 1 p.m. at Bracken Field.