Due to a sluggish 2-4 start to the season the Rowan softball team has dropped out of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s Top 25 ranking.
lack of experience on the Profs’ roster became an early obstacle that was insurmountable during their opening weekend in North Carolina.
“You can only do so much in practice, you can’t duplicate game experience,” says head coach Kim Wilson. “At one point, we had three brand new infielders on the field.”
Experience has been an issue, but there are plenty of players lining the roster who have an excess amount and have already spoken to the team.
“Going into the Salisbury game we were 1-4, and [senior pitcher] Allison Nolan took the team aside,” Wilson said, “and she’s not normally your vocal leader, but she took them aside and told them to just do the things we’ve asked them to do.”
Rowan went on to defeat Salisbury, tied for 11th in the NFCA rankings.
During their North Carolina stint, the Profs saw teams which had already played a handful of games. The competition was among the country’s best.
Youth is certainly a mark of the brown and gold this season, but as an entire team they lacked the in-game action needed to compete with the top-end talent at the time.
“We were 10 games behind a lot of the teams we played, which isn’t apples to apples,” Wilson said. “I’d rather get the experience. We played much better teams this year at the beginning of the season compared to last year.”
The team’s lengthy 11-day break to work on their issues before an upcoming trip to Florida for the Rebel Spring Games, starting Friday, March 11, should help to spark the lineup.
According to Wilson, freshman Gianna Genello will assume full-time center field duties during the Florida set. Genello earned a starting nod in four of the first six games, and holds a .167 batting average with a .286 on-base percentage.
In turn, the move places junior Sammy Vradenburg back into one of the corner outfield positions where she played last season.
Wilson does not see the move as a demotion for Vradenburg at all, but more of a testament to the depth of the squad. It also allows for playing the “matchup game” with the opposing pitcher.
“We have lots of options, depending on if we want a righty or lefty,” Wilson said.
Of the outfielders who saw time during the first six contests, three are left-handed batters and two are right-handed. Wilson has the luxury of a lineup comprised of hitters from both sides of the plate — something that’s rare among most clubs.
While her team did not churn out runs at its normal rate during the North Carolina contests, the coach is not concerned.
“Normally we tell our kids if we can score five runs nobody should be able to compete with us,” Wilson said.
The Profs are averaging 5.3 runs per game this season, but due to the team allowing 7.8 runs per game, the lofty win total has yet to arrive.
“I think [the defensive issues] are game experience,” Wilson said. “Throwing under game pressure is different than making a throw in practice. There’s all those little things that come into play that you just can’t duplicate.”
Following the week-plus layoff, Rowan will now get the chance in Florida to prove to the country that its top-10 preseason ranking was no fluke.
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