Beyond the Box Score: A Deep Dive into Syracuse Softball
By Anthony Vasquez | @Ant_Vasquez3
SYRACUSE, NY – We’re already 29 games into the rollercoaster of a season that is S.U. Softball. The Orange are sporting a respectable 17-12 record but are only 1-8 in the ACC. That tally may not jump of the page and make you stop in your tracks, but if you consider the grueling demands of a 29-game road trip, it just might.
Syracuse has certainly been racking up its sky miles since the season kicked off February 11th. The travel book includes trips to Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Georgia, with only four games in New York state.
Despite the grueling trips to cities you can’t even find on a map, the Orange have been weathering these challenges during a season where the Salt City is still dealing with its own bone-chilling weather.
As Skytop Softball Stadium’s Opening Day looms as the weekend nears, let’s take a deep dive into some stats to figure out how key players have been faring through their first 29 games.
Break out the calculators and nerdy glasses because we’re going beyond the box score.
This lineup has had its fair share of ups and downs this season and its starting to become a pattern. S.U. jumped out to a blazing hot start by reeling off eight wins in 10 games. The beat kept on going during the Plainsman Invitational until they ran into the buzzsaw that was Auburn.
The Tigers exposed the lineup’s inability to hit rising fastballs and knee bucking breaking balls. Those pitches made Syracuse hitters look like they were swinging swords underwater. The troubles with the metal continued into ACC play as underwhelming performance after underwhelming performance raised questions about the lineup’s preparedness to face top-level pitching.
Through nine ACC games, Shannon Doepking’s lineup is hitting just .210 – 86 points lower than their season average. The Cuse’s OPS is nearly 230 points below the season mark while the strikeout rate nearly doubled. Even though there is still a lot more to be desired from the bats, some players are continuing to rake.
Neli Casares-Maher is once again proving why she’s one of the greatest hitters ever to put on an orange jersey. The graduate transfer is slashing .376/.448/.645 with an eye popping OPS of 1.093.
Out in right field, Angel Jasso is turning into the posterchild of Doepking’s efforts to rebuild the program. She’s backing up her promising freshman year by leading the team in doubles and placing second with 31 hits and an OPS just north of 1,000.
Finally, Kelly Breen has been the surprise of the season for the swinging orange. The freshman has been wowing with her team-leading seven homers to go along with 56 RBIs. Her miniscule walk rate and slightly above average K% shows she has the propensity to chase the long ball, but her growth in her first season on the hill has been special to see.
It’s going to be on hitting coach Katie McEachern to continue to develop hitters by empowering them with the right approach in the box.
One of the biggest questions pitching coach Sydney O’Hara faced heading into the season was how she was going to fill out her staff. The loss of Alexa Romero and bad seasons by younger players such as Lindsey Hendrix and Kaia Oliver meant the rotation’s ace was up for grabs.
Summer Clark was pitching like the great Cy Young to open the season but was slowed once the competition ramped up in the ACC. Ariana Adams was thought to be the ace by default but her role has shifted to more of a reliever rather than a starter. So with two names down that left just Lindsey Hendrix as the only reliable starter.
After a slow start to the year, the sophomore has been on her A-game. Outside of the four runs she gave up Friday night to Georgia Tech, Hendrix has only allowed three runs once since March 13th. Her measly .254 batting average against and her promising 1.36 WHIP proves the Florida native isn’t fazed by conference hitters. Her walk rate of just 9% also shows that tough hitters will not scare her out of the zone.
Like the hitters on the other side of the diamond, ‘Cuse pitchers are seeing their stats regress during the nine game conference stretch. The team ERA jumped from 3.79 to a hideous 6.16. The WHIP inflated 40 points while the batting average against the circle-dwellers has ballooned to .316.
Even though these stats may seem alarming, it’s important to know how crucial this season is to the Coach Deopking’s rebuild. The experience gained by the core of younger players is priceless. So as the stats may seem like nothing to celebrate now, the real rewards are set to come in the future as players continue to get innings under their belts.
The fresh coat of bright white snow dumped over the weekend may cast doubt on Friday’s long anticipated Skytop opener, but challenges like this are far too familiar for a team facing so much more.