By: Brendan Zdunek- Staff Writer
With the average temperature down in Athens, Ga. being in the 50s for the weekend of Feb. 17-19, it was a good precursor to frequent warm weather that is soon to come. And that means one thing: the start of the spring sports season.
The Dayton softball team was down at the University of Georgia in Athens to experience the warm weather in the Georgia Classic. During the trip, the team went for 3-2 as they beat the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Northern Kentucky University twice and lost to Georgia twice. Overall, for head coach Cara LaPlaca, the trip was a success.
“This was our second tournament for the season. We just really wanted to continue what we had started and enhance our momentum that we generated from the first weekend and I was pleased with our progress,” said LaPlaca.
In the game against the Warhawks of ULM on Friday, Feb. 17, starting pitcher Manda Cash helped keep the opponent off the scoreboard as she and freshman Jessica Weaver combined for seven scoreless innings. On offense, the Flyers had trouble scoring too, but in the fourth inning, a single by senior Katie Ryan brought senior Gabrielle Snyder to home for the game’s only run. The Flyers won 1-0.
In the two wins against the Northern Kentucky Norse, there was no such pitching duel as many runs were scored.
In the first matchup, on Saturday, Feb. 18, the Norse quickly got ahead of the Flyers for a 5-0 lead. However, after scoring two in the third inning, the Flyers scored three more to tie it up in the fourth and then in the sixth, they caught fire and scored six runs to increase their lead to 11-5. Despite allowing the Norse to get three more runs in the seventh, the Flyers were able to stop the possible comeback and win 11-8.
In the second game, also on Saturday, both teams each scored three runs in the first inning. But later, the Flyers tallied one run in the second, two more in the third, and then, just as in the previous game, scored six runs in the fourth to make it 12-3. With the mercy rule impending, the rain came, causing a two hour and 43 minute rain delay. Once play resumed, the Norse were able to score three runs in the fifth inning and the Flyers tallied a run in the sixth, ending the game at 13-6 for the Flyers.
Despite winning the first three games, the Flyers would lose both of the next games against the Georgia Bulldogs. In the first game on Saturday, the Bulldogs won on a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the sixth inning. And in the second game on Sunday, Georgia broke out to a 6-0 lead and later hit a grand slam. In the end, the mercy rule was enacted and Georgia shutout the Flyers, 12-0.
The major standout of the weekend was the performance of sophomore Kyle Davidson in Saturday’s games. She was six-for-seven at the plate, which included three doubles and her first career triple, and scored four runs.
“Personally, I was really excited to help out the team with my performance,” said Davidson. “My teammates did a really good job of helping me of what were the new pitches that were coming in and with knowing what to do I came up to bat.”
Her coach thought she did excellent as well. “Kyle did a fantastic job offensively. She was able to get on base multiple times,” said LaPlaca. “She had quality at-bats and was able to drive the ball into the gap.”
Up next for the softball team is the University of South Carolina Upstate Classic in South Carolina March 3-4, in which Dayton will play against USC Upstate, Canisius, and Furman.
Davidson hopes that the momentum they have will continue into this next tournament.
“We’ve been playing really well these past two tournaments that we’ve been in and I think that if we carry that momentum into the next tournament, we’ll come away with a few wins as well,” she said.
Although Canisius and Furman are not huge challengers, USC Upstate will be and LaPlaca believes her team is ready for that.
“I think we’ve laid a really strong foundation,” said LaPlaca. “We’ve been able to play opponents that have power. We’ve been able to play opponents that have speed. We’ve faced a variety of pitching from our offense. So, I think we can handle any game situation that is presented to us.”
Photo Courtesy of Dayton Athletics Communications