Upcoming ACC Schedule Presents New Challenges for S.U. Softball
By Anthony Vasquez | @Ant_Vasquez3
CitrusTV Softball Beat Reporter
Syracuse Softball wrapped up its non-conference slate with an ugly 9-0 blowout loss to Auburn Sunday. The string of 13 out of conference matchups included up and down offensive showings and stellar pitching performances.
S.U. kicked off its season by sweeping the Best on the Bayou Classic and taking three of five in the Tarleton Softball Invitational a week later. The ‘Cuse followed that up with two sub-par performances that raise alarms about the stability of this team.
A 6-2 loss to Bradley, a mid-major team, could easily be discounted as just a bad game. Unfortunately, bad losses to below average teams like Texas A&M CC and Tarleton St. makes the four run loss to the Braves a trend.
Stemming from these losses are questions that still remain unanswered as conference play kicks off this weekend at North Carolina State. Doepking’s lineup card has been boom or bust all season long.
If you’re not careful, they can explode for 10+ runs and make you beg for mercy. But when the opposing pitcher is tossing well, the offense can muster only a few runs. Despite the ugly showings, Syracuse has enough firepower to get back on track.
The ‘Cuse still have three players hitting over .400 and three more raking in hits at a better than .300 mark. If this season is going to be one to remember, it has to start with Tessa Galipeau, Angel Jasso, and Neli Casares-Maher.
Together, they’re slashing a mind boggling .448/.542/.781. Now, it’s important to not forget a return to the medium may be in the cards, but a slash line like that through 13 games is incredible.
There’s no doubt Doepking will lean on those three players as her squad embarks on a daunting journey through the ACC.
Paris Woods, Carli Campbell, and Kelly Breen will need to continue their hot paces in order to lengthen the lineup. The more headaches the Orange can send to the plate the better.
Look for Taylor Posner to keep her spot as the team’s DH considering she’s hitting a respectable .286. With all of this hitting, it’s fair to wonder why S.U. gets shut down at all. A .347 team batting average and a .981 team OPS is nothing to gawk at.
On the other side of the ball, Syracuse’s pitching staff has been nothing short of sensational.
Pitching Coach and ‘Cuse Softball legend Sydney O’Hara is doing a tremendous job with the staff as they continue to sort out who the team’s ace will be.
Emerging as an early ace candidate and dark horse team MVP is Summer Clark. Even though the southpaw is just a freshman she’s lighting things up as if she’s a seasoned veteran.
Clark has a perfect 6-0 record and an ERA less than 1 before a bad inning against Auburn raised it to a still respectable 2.14 clip. Outside of her stellar performances, she hasn’t been getting much help when she’s not on the mound.
Ariana Adams has been struggling after a complete game shutout in her team debut. She currently sports an inflated 5.20 ERA. Fortunately for her, an above average WHIP of 1.20 shows some of her struggles have been attributed to bad luck.
Rounding out the rotation is a sturdy innings eater in Lindsey Hendrix. Expecting ace-like numbers from the sophomore may be a little too much, but there’s no doubt she can hold her own in the finale of a three game series.
The questions about the staff stem from its ugly showing against 22nd ranked Auburn. Clark, Adams, and Hendrix were ineffective throughout. Their rough day was magnified considering the Tigers were the only power five opponent the Orange have faced thus far.
Hopefully it’s just a bad day at the office for the whole staff because if this issue persists, it’s going to be a long road towards the end of the season.
With the team ERA sitting at 3.53 and the team batting average hovering around .350, it’s fair to say Syracuse Softball is overachieving. An 8-2 mark after the trip to Stephenville, Texas was its best start to a season since 2011.
But ACC play is a completely different animal ready to munch on the ‘Cuse if it’s not ready. Matchups against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, and Duke represent the toughest tasks remaining.
If both sides of the ball don’t come up with answers soon, it doesn’t matter who S.U. faces. Any softball team that’s got issues in the circle and the box is going to have a rough season. Especially in a stacked conference like the ACC.