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Sunday, May 05, 2019 at 5:31 pm

Shoddy Defense Does Syracuse No Favors as Orange Are Swept by Seminoles

By Tom Russo

CitrusTV Softball Beat Reporter

On February 8th, Syracuse committed five errors in its season opener against San Diego State. Three of those errors came in the seventh inning, allowing the Aztecs to score an impressive six unearned runs and overcome a five-run deficit to beat the Orange 9-8.

Almost three months later, a similar problem plagued SU as the Orange committed three errors in their regular season finale on Sunday. But this time was a blowout as No. 5 Florida State (48-8, 19-5 Atlantic Coast) swept Syracuse (21-31, 8-16 ACC) in a 14-5 run-rule victory at Syracuse Softball Stadium.

Every game in the series failed to reach the seventh inning as game one ended in six while games two and three both lasted only five frames.

Sunday was different as the offense, which combined for just five hits and one run in the first two games, finally showed up, but the defense failed to catch up.

The Orange are no strangers to errors, having committed 58 errors in 52 games with Neli Casares-Maher and Lailoni Mayfield holding the dubious distinction of committing ten errors, each. Through the series, the team racked up six errors.

“I think we were really shaky on defense the whole weekend,” said Alicia Hansen.  “I think if we could clean up our defense, we would’ve held them.  At one point I looked at the scoreboard and if we cleaned up the defense it could’ve been 4-4.  That’s a totally different vibe and a totally different game.”

All three Orange errors on Sunday took place in the infield with Gabby Teran committing one. She made it clear that these are mistakes that can, and should, be corrected.

“We just needed to move our feet better,” said Teran.  “That’s stuff we can clean up, move our feet, get in good position to field the ball, get in good position when you get a bad hop, and just go 100% effort all the time.  We can clean that up that’s definitely controllable.”

The other two errors were slow rollers right back to the pitcher.  In the first inning, Miranda Hearn attempted to pick the ball up ranging to her left, only to drop the ball out of her glove. Sophie Dandola had a slow dribbler come directly back to her feet in the circle, but as she attempted to backhand the ball, it kicked off of her glove in the second.

Head Coach Shannon Doepking took responsibility for the poor fielding of her pitchers on the routine grounders.

“We as a coaching staff probably need to do a little bit better job of including them into our defensive plans cause they stay down in the bullpen a lot of the time,” said Doepking.  “100% that’s on me.”

Overall, Doepking’s attributed Sunday’s miscues to sloppy play.

“They were bouncing everywhere but out gloves,” said Doepking of the balls put in play.  “It was just sloppy.  I don’t know what it was, to be honest.  I think the only thing to chalk it up to is a lack of focus.  A lot of them are just routine plays.”

Syracuse finishes the regular season with an 8-16 conference record, giving them the ninth seed in the ACC Tournament this week.  For the players, it’s about going into postseason play with a clear mindset.

“We need to put everything aside from the entire season and just work on winning one game,” said Hansen.  “And once we win one game, we have to win one more game, and at that point we just gotta keep going for a total of four games.  We’re more than capable of winning one game at a time, we just need to be all in together and give our all and I think we can do it.”

Doepking thinks this team will need to make improvements if it wants to go anywhere.

“We gotta be better,” said Doepking.  “If you wanna win big softball games, we gotta clean the defense up.  We need to be very, very disciplined in the box when we swing at pitches we can actually handle and let the other stuff go.  On the mound we gotta keep the ball in the park a little bit.”

No. 9 Syracuse will face No. 8 NC State (29-26, 9-15 Atlantic Coast) in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m.  The Orange took two of three from the Wolf Pack on a road trip to Raleigh in April.

twrusso@syr.edu ǀ @TomRusso24