Softball Able to Break Four-Year Streak
By Sam Lebowitz
CitrusTV Softball Beat Reporter
It had been nearly four years since Syracuse softball (5-7, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) had taken down a ranked opponent. That streak met its end when the Orange took down No. 20 Texas Tech (10-5, 0-0 Big 12) in a thrilling walk-off win that required extra innings to decide on Sunday. Syracuse nearly took down the Red Raiders in an exciting 4-3 loss on Friday but were able to pull it off in their second attempt.
The feat of beating a ranked team was last matched by the 2016 Orange squad, who took down the then-No.19 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish on March 26th of that year. That game was a 6-4 win and capped off a series victory for Syracuse in which they took the bookends from the Irish. Before that series, the Orange had not won a ranked game since 2014 and had not taken a series against a ranked opponent since 2012. Chances for wins against ranked squads don’t come around too often in the ACC.
The ACC is generally not one of the premier powerhouses for softball in Division I athletics. Currently, just two of the top 25 ranked teams in the coaches’ poll are in the ACC: the Florida State Seminoles at No. 9 and the Virginia Tech Hokies at No. 24. At the moment, Florida State is the only currently ranked opponent on the Syracuse schedule, whom they play in Tallahassee in April. Chances to beat the top talent in the country come few and far between for teams outside of the top four conferences.
The SEC boasts an astounding nine teams within the top 25, followed by the Pac-12 conference with 5, including an impressive three in the top five, four in the Big 12, and three in the Big Ten. An ACC team has only won the NCAA Women’s College World Series championship once since its inception in 1982, with that championship belonging to Florida State in 2018.
Florida State has won by far the most ACC softball tournament championships with 17, including the last six. Syracuse has not won the ACC tournament since joining the ACC for the 2014 season. Syracuse won the Big East tournament in both 2010 and 2011, making the NCAA tournament each of those two seasons as well as the following year in 2013. However, Syracuse has not made the NCAA tournament since.
No current player on the Orange’s roster had ever been a part of a ranked victory before. This is the kind of victory that a young team like Syracuse could use as the momentum booster as they head towards the back stretch of tournament play. As Shannon Doepking tries to change the culture of the entire program, a ranked win boosts morale and contributes to the team’s identity as they move further along in the season.
Syracuse has just one more weekend of out-of-conference games before ACC play begins starting with a March 6th series against North Carolina. Next weekend, at the USF Tournament, they’ll face a tough task in a Rutgers team that has already beaten them twice this season.
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