Juan Villa / The Collegian
Now that it is midway through the softball season, the lady Bulldogs are beginning to prove that even through the toughest defeats, they still have enough bite to last through the remaining season with a winning attitude.
Their recent three-game conference sweep against Utah State and wins against Pacific and Nevada secured their No. 25 spot on the latest ESPN.com/USA Today softball poll.
This comes after they were knocked out of the poll a month ago following a tough loss at the UNLV Invitational.
Head coach Margie Wright said being passed along by the poll the first time was disheartening, but not a setback by any means.
â€œIt was unfortunate because we shouldnâ€™t have been knocked out,” Wright said. â€œWe can beat teams ranked above us, but because weâ€™re not in big time conference play, we get overlooked. What matters in the end is the NCAA poll.”
However, now that they are back on the poll, they plan to stay there and with standout players such as Haley Perkins, Kristin Sylvester and Jenna Cervantes at bat, their prospects are looking good.
Standout Players/Life after Christina Clark
This year, the team is without its one time standout player, Christina Clark. When the All-American player graduated last spring, the team had to make some adjustments.
â€œWeâ€™re not relying on one person anymore,” Wright said. â€œEveryone this year is stepping up. Thatâ€™s what happens when you lose a great senior player. Everyone has to pick up the slack. The whole team is stepping up and doing their part. Everyone has an opportunity to hit home runs and RBIs.”
One of those players stepping up to plate is sophomore Haley Perkins, who was moved from third base to shortstop after Clark left.
Perkins, who is leading the team in hits, said teamwork and determination is the key to her success on the field.
â€œIâ€™m not going up to hit home runs,” Perkins said. â€œMy job is to do what I can do to get the runs in.”
Recently, Perkins was named the WAC Player of the Week. However she insists that is all due to great team effort. â€œEveryone on the team has great potential. When we play, we play as a team.”
Wright said it is the teamwork that Perkins displays that makes her such a great player. â€œHaley is a tremendous ball player,” Wright said. â€œShe is versatile and a true competitor. She is just a great hitter.”
That admiration is something the team has for each other, with Perkins saying of Wright, â€œThere is no better coach than coach Wright. She is just like a mother, friend, teacher and everything you could ask for in a coach. She wonâ€™t let you be complacent and she wants you to strive to be the best person and athlete you could possibly be.”
Getting over the hump
Two players who have shown improvement since last season are Jenna Cervantes and Kristin Sylvester.
With heavy hitting in games against Nevada and Ohio, these two have proven to be quite the competitors.
Cervantes said her key to becoming a better hitter is having belief in herself. â€œYou just have to have to confidence to do it,” Cervantes said.
That confidence is something Wright sees as a great attribute in Cervantes.
â€œJenna is a real Bulldog,” Wright said. â€œShe is one of the toughest players. She is just having a great year. I hope it gets better for her. She is a great, great athlete. Sheâ€™s smooth, confident and great to watch.”
Kristin Sylvester has been having an equally impressive season, which included being named the gobulldogs.com Player of the Week and the WAC Hitter of the Week at the same time.
â€œIt feels really good,” Sylvester said of the honor. â€œIâ€™ve always had a goal of getting there and it feels good to be there finally. It just makes you want to work that much harder.”
Like Perkins, Sylvester said it all comes down to the team effort. The team has a lot of good hitters and that makes it easier to win when the team is good, Sylvester said.
â€œKristin is a tough, hard ball player,” Wright said. â€œShe can play in a lot of different places. She is a real competitor with a real love of the sport.”
However, Wright said all of the players on the team are standout players at different times. â€œThey are spreading the wealth and that is what it is all about.”
The marquee win
Overall, the team is doing pretty well so far, Wright said. â€œWe won some games and we lost some games we shouldnâ€™t have lost. Right now, the team is just progressing.”
Among the better games was the 6-1 win against No. 2 ranked Arizona State in the Judi Garman Classic less than a month ago.
That win against Arizona State was clearly the best and so was the win from behind against Cal and Nebraska, Wright said. â€œIt was exciting games for us. In situations like that, it just shows that if you can beat the No. 2 team, then youâ€™re capable of anything.”
Perkins said that game was a favorite of hers because the team really came together to accomplish that win.
â€œWe got to go out there and make them look silly,” Perkins said. â€œThey saw how good we could be. We put pressure on the defense and producing runs any way we can. It was a team win. Robin [Mackin], especially, was good. She got the runners out and got them in.”
However, following that win was an upset against two unranked teams, Notre Dame and DePaul.
Wright said that kind of inconsistency, along with hitting, is something the team needs the most work on in order to get better for the remaining season.
â€œEverything is well most of the time, but we need to start doing everything well and be consistent,” Wright said. â€œWe need to get more timely hitting because theyâ€™re leaving a lot of people on base.”
The team initially opened WAC play with a win against Nevada. They now hold the No. 2 spot in the WAC standings with a 5-1 record. To keep that momentum flowing, Wright said the team just needs to keep contributing and playing well.
â€œEveryone is coming through for the team,” Wright said. â€œWhen players play their best, we can beat anybody.”