Drexel’s softball team had its season all but finished when it hit the road for three in Hempstead, N.Y., to face Hofstra University. The Dragons were in the midst of a six-game skid that had eliminated them from playoff contention in the Colonial Athletic Association. As they were set to face the Pride, the only thing they had left to play for was their own.
The combination of having no playoffs in sight as well as playing one of the conference’s best teams was a deadly one for the Dragons.
Drexel played its worst ball of the season, getting shutout in three consecutive games by a combined margin of 24-0. Playing one game May 2 and two May 3, the teams played to an 8-0 score each game, each game ending early for the mercy rule. The Dragons’offense managed a mere four hits combined on the weekend, including a no-hitter in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
“Hofstra is a really good team,”head coach Miranda Ervin said. “They have a really good tradition there; they hit the ball, they pitch the ball, they field the ball.”
Morgan Lashey absolutely dominated the Dragons on the bump for Hofstra. She threw complete game shutouts in consecutive days, allowing only two hits in 11 shutout frames. On May 3, the biggest opponent that stood in the way of a perfect game was herself. The senior retired 15 of the 16 batters she faced and the only Dragon to reach base, junior Liana Newton, touched first thanks to a botched play in the field by Lashey herself.
The weekend was a somber end to Drexel’s season. The Dragons finished the campaign with a 17-27 record, going 4-14 in conference play, good for last place in the CAA.
The three-game sweep extended Drexel’s losing skid to nine to close the season, in large part due to a hitting drought. In those final nine games, the lineup managed to score a total of just five runs, which matched the amount of games in which they were shut out in that span.
“We just did not hit the ball well the last two weeks,”Ervin conceded.
Looking at the overall arc of the program, this season did represent growth for the team. In her second season at the helm, Ervin saw the team’s winning percentage increase by nearly 100 points, going from .294 last year to .386 with their 17 victories this season, as well as double its conference win total from last year.
Despite the improvement, she and the team ultimately were left unsatisfied by failing to make the post season tournament, which takes the conference’s top four teams.
“We’re never satisfied,”she explained. “We did make some strides this year, as far as in conference. When you do not make it to post season play, you’re never satisfied.”
Despite the underwhelming season, Ervin praised a few Dragons that had great seasons and were positives.
Senior Shelby Taylor, who finished her final season with a record of 12-12 and ERA of 3.00, proved to be their most reliable player, at one point carrying them when they were still in contention. Ervin was also satisfied with the play of some of her freshmen, and was also pleased with the transition junior Leticia Matsuoka made, converting from an outfielder to a corner infielder.
The team also had games and moments from this season where the players can learn and can use to grow the program. Ervin pointed to their thrilling 7-6 victory against James Madison University, the conference’s top team, April 12 as a big moment of experience. The Dragons rallied from a 6-1 deficit with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to steal a game and give JMU one of only three CAA losses on the year.
“It was a testament that we can win any game,”Ervin said, hoping the players keep that game in mind going forward.
Something that has her feeling confident for next season is the talent on the roster. The second-year head coach believes that many of the mistakes made by the Dragons this season were not because of a lack of skill, but rather their inexperience.
“Some of the games and mistakes we made were attributed to experience, rather than actual skill-level mistakes,”she said.
But now they can build the roster up with the foundation of young players that got their feet wet this season. Ervin thinks freshmen such as Baeley Reed, who was third on the team in hits and runs scored, as well as Vanessa Lightfoot, who hit .290 in her first season, are cornerstones for a strong roster foundation moving forward. Kim Chan, a catcher and infielder, hit .295 as a freshman and was named to the CAA All-Rookies team.
“Overall, we had a very young team,”she explained. “For us to have our two middle infielders be freshmen, I feel like them coming back and the people will have coming back is good to build around.”
Help is on the way to add to the mix. Drexel has a freshman class coming in for 2015 that leaves Ervin feeling very optimistic. The immediate hope is that the class can replenish depth in the program. Included in the group of future Dragons, which Ervin calls“a little bit of everything,”are two pitchers, a few infielders, a few outfielders and a much needed back-up catcher.
“My hopes [for the incoming class] are big,”she said. “You never know how it goes, but I’m going to start by saying we have high hopes.”
With a slightly altered roster going into next year, the goal will remain unchanged. Ervin said the Dragons will be aiming for the postseason, a place they haven’t been in what will be 10 years next season.
“Until it happens,”she said, “our goal will always be to get to the CAAs.”