The University of Dayton softball team opened its season unable to pick up its first win, playing five games over the weekend at the Lovelace Invitational in Denton, Texas, from Friday, Feb. 15, through Sunday, Feb. 17.
On Friday, Dayton opened its season with a pair of losses to the University of Iowa, 3-0, and 9-2 to the University of Nebraska Omaha. Following two more close games on Saturday — a 4-2 loss to Oklahoma State University and a 3-2 loss to the host University of North Texas — the Flyers lost 4-0 in another game against UNO on Sunday.
Despite the loss-heavy record, head coach Cara LaPlaca said the team didn’t necessarily play poorly in any of the games.
“We had a lot of consistency,” LaPlaca said. “Our pitchers had great outings and our seniors stepped up.”
Sophomore pitcher Kayla English threw a complete game in UD’s loss to Iowa, throwing six strikeouts and giving up just two hits. In the team’s first game against UNO on Friday, however, English contributed to a 12-walk outing, splitting time with junior pitcher Alysha Isaacson and sophomore pitcher Lyndsey Diggs. Isaacson, who started and pitched 1 1/3 innings, was credited with the loss.
“We aren’t a bad team, we just didn’t finish the way we wanted to,” LaPlaca said. “In each of our games, we’ve had good opportunities to win.”
In the Oklahoma State game, Isaacson pitched a complete game, giving up four runs in the second inning on a grand slam by OSU sophomore catcher Taylor Woodall. Senior outfielder Kathleen Maloof hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning to put the Flyers back in the game, driving home sophomore outfielder Natalie Mariano.
OSU junior pitcher Simone Freeman had a no-hitter through the first out of the sixth, and finished the game with 12 strikeouts.
“I think we have gotten a lot better at playing together,” Maloof said. “We know what we need to do to win, it’s up to us to do it now.
“Alysha did a good job pitching; that’s definitely not an issue for this team. We need to score.”
In Saturday’s late game against North Texas, Dayton led 2-0 entering the fifth inning. After English, gave up three runs on three hits, Isaacson (0-2) entered the game for UD, eventually ending the inning. English was marked with the loss but threw seven strikeouts on the evening.
“We have a really healthy pitching group,” LaPlaca said. “We have four pitchers who are at 100 percent, and another who is coming back from [an injury] and will be ready for us in the next month.”
On Sunday, English (0-3) returned to the mound, throwing 5 1/3 innings for UD and giving up five hits to go with six strikeouts. Junior shortstop Jordan Jennings was the only player to record a hit for UD, going 2-for-3.
Maloof said she agreed with LaPlaca that it was a rough start to the season but did not think that’s not particularly a bad thing.
“We can learn from this,” Maloof said. “Right now, we are [still] getting into the swing of things.”
LaPlaca said nonconference opponents are always hard to face this early, which is why the schedule is set up the way it is. She said the team wants to face top competition for means of improvement.
“Our schedule is strong, in that it puts us up against tough opponents and forces us to get better and adapt,” she said. “And we have the talent to do that.”
Dayton next plays from Friday, Feb. 22, through Sunday, Feb. 24, when it travels to Bowling Green, Ky., for five games in the Holiday Inn Hilltopper Classic, hosted by Western Kentucky University.