February seems so far away for the Rowan softball team, sitting 22-6.
The squad started their season Feb. 26 in North Carolina. They ran into a cluster of highly-talented opponents, which caused the season to commence in surprisingly poor fashion.
Since then, the Profs have strung together strong performances in all aspects of the game.
Their 5-1 conference record has proven why they were tabbed as the favorites — Rowan received nine of 10 first-place votes cast by the league’s head coaches — to win the New Jersey Athletic Conference prior to the season.
“Overall we’re getting good pitching, we’re getting good defense and our hitting is outrageous right now and I’m pretty happy with that,” said head coach Kim Wilson.
In the six conference contests that Rowan has played, they have posted astronomical numbers. The Profs’ ace-laden pitching staff has minimized opponents to 13 runs, while the bats have been swung to the tune of 55 runs in the six-game span.
Perusing the leaders in the conference statistics, a three letter abbreviation — ROW — seems ubiquitous.
The brown and gold have a player leading the conference in hits, stolen bases, total bases, runs scored, runs-batted-in, doubles and home runs. Plenty of those categories have multiple Profs in the top five.
“I think our confidence has gone up,” Wilson said. “It’s much better than it was. When you’re seeing beach balls, it’s pretty easy to hit.”
And the Profs are forcing people to recognize their brilliance, even nationally. Junior Ashley DeYoung earned Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III National Player of the Week honors, as well as NJAC Player of the Week, with her absurd numbers at the plate: .889 batting average, 10 runs-batted-in and three home runs. Meanwhile, freshman MacKenzie Juodaitis received her third conference Rookie Pitcher of the Week honors of the season.
Pundits are not only being captivated by the individual star power of this roster, but they are also recognizing the talent of the team as a whole. The most recent NFCA poll ranked the Profs as the 14th-best Division III team in the country.
“I really like our team’s attitude and energy going into these [conference] games,” said senior pitcher Beth Ann Hyland, who has not allowed a run in three consecutive starts.
Hyland’s most recent lineup obliteration of Ramapo College moved Rowan up to third in the NJAC standings, just two conference points behind The College of New Jersey and Kean University for first place. Rowan will see the latter of the two teams in doubleheader action on Saturday.
Kean is led by junior second baseman Emily Sabo, a second-team NFCA All-American last year, and junior outfielder Dana Knapp.
Knapp is second in NJAC standings to Rowan senior Shilah Snead in batting average (.500), and is one of the most capable power hitters in the conference. Last week, the junior tied her school’s single-season home run record when she blasted her seventh of the season against William Paterson.
But it was Sabo who Hyland pegged as the player to scout for, calling her a “star” and “a great player.” Sabo is tied for first on her team in hits (38), and is second in on-base percentage (.505). And when she gets on base, she puts pressure on the opposing defense, stealing a team-high 12 bases.
The Profs can put themselves in prime position to take hold of the top spot in the NJAC if they can win both games on Saturday.
So, what will be they key to snatching four conference points?
“Come out strong. Coming out strong is how we dominate as a team,” Snead said.
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