April 22, 2013

2013 Lady 'Cane Softball: "A Season of Firsts"

AMERICUS – Prior to the start of the 2013 Georgia Southwestern softball season, head coach Eddie Ward declared it would be a "season of firsts" for a program that recently finished its seventh year in the NCAA Division II level as a member of the Peach Belt Conference.

Ward, the tenth year head coach of the Lady Hurricanes, was proved correct as GSW finished a banner season April 20 on the campus of Flagler College, the site of the 2013 Peach Belt Conference Championship Tournament.

Highlighted by wins over then No. 8 Rollins College and No. 4 Armstrong, Georgia Southwestern finished with an NCAA-era best 29 victories, the most wins by the program since 2005.
 
The Lady 'Canes earned a program-most nine Peach Belt Conference victories to earn a seventh place finish in the PBC. The best finish in GSW's seventh season as a conference member.

With that, Georgia Southwestern qualified for the conference tournament for the first time since 2009 and the first since the championship was narrowed to the top eight conference teams.

Statistically, the 2013 squad broke several team records both offensive, defensively, and on the mound.

Offensively, this year's team produced many firsts at the plate.

Southwestern led the Peach Belt Conference this season with 411 hits, smashing the previous program NCAA-era record of 338 set in 2011. In addition, GSW led the PBC in doubles finishing with 73 on the year.

The Lady 'Canes ranked third in the Peach Belt with NCAA-era bests in both runs scored (248) and runs batted in (221).

The long ball proved to be essential for the Lady 'Canes as GSW hit an NCAA-era record 27 homeruns on the season. Third baseman Jordan Miller's eight slams led Southwestern's aerial assault while catcher Nellie Moore finished with seven homers for the Blue & Gold.

Led by Mason Moreland's 31 thefts, good for second best in the Peach Belt Conference, GSW finished with an NCAA-era most 55 stolen bases on the season.

Overall, the 2013 squad set new NCAA-era program records in both hitting percentage (.248) and slugging percentage (.396).

On the mound, GSW's pitchers were led individually by junior Allison Pastor who earned the most wins (13) for the Lady 'Canes in 159.2 innings pitched.

"Allie made great progress throughout the season and I feel like she was throwing her best down the stretch." said first-year assistant coach Jennifer Martinez. "She was crucial in leading us to the post season and I'm excited for her future with the program."

As a team, NCAA-era bests were set in strikeouts with 237, along with shutout efforts (8) and complete games (31).

Led by two All-Peach Belt Conference performances by outfielders Hayley Knight and Rachel McElroy, GSW set an NCAA-era record in putouts with 1,057 on the season.

"The outfield performances by Knight and McElroy were key for us defensively." Coach Ward stated, "Both had great seasons and I'm glad they received all-conference recognition."

"Overall, I feel like we made great progress as a program," Ward continued. "Although I definitely feel that there is more room for improvement, I am proud of these kids for setting a new bar for future teams to strive for."