By: Daniel Massa – Staff Writer
It is a common belief in college athletics that first years, just as they do for college life in general, need a little time to acclimate to the differences between the college game and the last level on which they competed.
Don’t tell that to University of Dayton softball pitcher Manda Cash.
Cash, a first year southpaw from Columbus’ Worthington Kilbourne High School, has quickly made a name for herself as one of the best pitchers on a Flyers staff that, as of April 3, leads the Atlantic 10 in several pitching categories, including earned run average (2.56), batting average against (.217) and strikeouts (224).
Cash leads the staff with 23 appearances, six of those being starts. She has a 6-1 record and four saves with a 1.91 ERA. She also leads the staff with 89 strikeouts, which is second in the conference behind Fordham University’s Rachel Gillen. The Atlantic 10 Conference has honored Cash twice so far this season as the A-10 Rookie of the Week.
Head coach Cara LaPlaca is not necessarily surprised by the way Cash has performed so far this season, but is impressed by her demeanor on the mound.
“Her poise, I think, is beyond her years,” LaPlaca said. “She’s definitely mature in terms of her poise and her presence. Her skill and ability is not surprising. We knew what a talent we had when she first committed to UD.”
The Flyers did not have to do much selling to Cash during the recruiting process; Dayton had already had a big impact on her and her family.
“I have two older sisters and they both graduated from here,” Cash said. “I was already familiar with the school and already knew I liked it, and then as it worked out that I could play softball here it was a no-brainer.”
Cash made her first collegiate start Feb. 22 against Georgia Southern, after her first five career appearances were in relief. She made the most of her opportunity, throwing the full seven innings with one earned run and six strikeouts in a 3-1 Flyers victory.
She has given up more than two runs only twice this season, and also has two 10-strikeout appearances, including one such performance in four innings of relief; 10 of the 12 outs she recorded were strikeouts.
The alternating between starting and relieving does not seem to bother Cash in the slightest.
“I just go where I’m told and do the best that I can,” she said. “I thought originally I’d be [pitching] mostly relief, so being able to start games has been awesome.”
The fact that Cash is left-handed is an asset no matter when she pitches.
“A left-handed pitcher is rare, especially at this high level,” LaPlaca said. “She has phenomenal movement and break on her pitches, really good command and control. She’s really starting to grow in terms of her understanding of how to pitch to an entire lineup and when the lineup turns over the second and third time, what her approach might be.”
College softball teams usually play a short schedule of exhibition games in the fall to stay sharp in preparation for the next spring’s season, and Cash said being able to get some work in and build confidence for the spring was integral to her success.
LaPlaca expects Cash to have a great impact on the program for years to come.
“She definitely will be a consistent starter, if not a number one in our rotation in the future,” LaPlaca said. “Her consistency has been outstanding and, again, I can’t commend her enough for her poise.”
Cash likes to always bring the conversation back to the team and seems to only be focused on the team’s success.
“[My expectations are] for us to just keep playing well and to win the A-10,” she said.