The Drew University softball team began their 2018 season, going 7-3 during the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Naples and Fort Myers, Florida under the first-year Head Coach Erica Mehalick.
The 7-3 record that the Rangers posted over the span of the first 10 contests almost equals their win total from just a year ago when they went 9-24. The Rangers are a much deeper and younger team this season, starting as many as five freshmen in the starting lineup against Penn State Altoona.
Despite being under the helm of a first-year head coach and seven of the fifteen players on the roster being freshman, the Rangers have a nice balance of fresh faces and veteran presence to compete in the always competitive Landmark Conference this season.
“The biggest challenge coming up will be our conference,” catcher Michelle Nestor (‘21) said. “We have to play well to beat the teams we are going to see. We have to be sure to play tough for 21 outs every time we step between those white lines.”
Though the Landmark Conference coaches voted Moravian to lead the conference this season, they slept on Drew’s mix of youth and leadership. Captains Brooke Adams (‘18), Lauren Mastropierro (‘18) and Heather Ronchi (‘18) are back for their last opportunity for a Landmark Conference title and have certainly been hitting like so.
Adams boasts .552 batting average thus far, including 10 runs, seven runs batted in, and she recorded her 100th career hit against Crown College. Ronchi is also off to an impressive start hitting .400 with seven runs and seven runs batted in.
“Our offense really came together last week. We do a great job of feeding off of each other’s energy,” Nestor said.
The Rangers have had strong production from second baseman Jasmine Vera (‘21) who appeared in her first game against Penn State Altoona, recording three hits in her debut, including two triples and three runs batted in. Vera is currently hitting .517 with two home runs. First baseman Adriana Rodriguez’s (‘21) hitting cleanup has batted .414, while recording 10 RBI.
While the offense has been clicking on all cylinders, the pitching rotation also impressed during the team’s trip to the sunshine state. Stephanie Burns (‘21) earned Landmark Conference Pitcher of the Week after her strong performance, throwing 20 innings to a 3-1 record with a 2.45 ERA. The rotation also includes Victoria Avella (‘20), Megan Hulmes (‘21) and Cara O’Leary (‘19).
“We’ve been focusing on defense and communication-trying to pull it all together,” Nestor said. “Coach Mehalick always holds us to a high standard. She expects us to play up to our full potential, which has led us to do the same. Her message is consistently to stay together as a team.”
The Rangers open up conference play this weekend at Elizabethtown with a doubleheader on March 17 and an opportunity to equal last season’s win total, which starts at 1 p.m.