Wednesday, February 27, 2013College Softball: Findlay's focus will be making GLIAC postseason
Two years ago, the goal was to contend.
In 2013, it is about reaching the tournament for the University of Findlay women's softball team, which has missed out on the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference postseason by one game each of the last two seasons because of late-season fades.
"I believe that we have recently tended to wear down emotionally at the end of the year," UF head coach Ron Ammons said. "We have enhanced our weight room workouts, but our players also need to balance their academic stress level."
But this year, Ammons sees hope.
"I am pleased with our chances because we have nice senior and junior classes that have proven themselves in game play," Ammons said.
The Oilers' roster is balanced with four seniors, seven juniors, six sophomores and five freshmen.
Last season, the team had no seniors and only five juniors. Plus, the letdown of missing the tournament is fresh in the minds of the veteran players.
"I feel that this year is really looking promising and this will be our chance to show the GLIAC what Findlay softball is about," said junior pitcher Tawna Whited.
The Oilers are led by four seniors, Brittany Dauterman, Jenna Motuza, Carly Boarders and Lauren Mathias.
Dauterman, the former standout at Elmwood, was all-Midwest Region and all-GLIAC first team and is approaching several team milestones such as RBI (103), doubes (30), home runs (18) and slugging percentage (.625).
"Several of our players have demonstrated that they are among the best-ever in Findlay softball," Ammons said.
Offensively the team is balanced with a combination of power, batting average and speed.
Junior second baseman Tori Allen led last year's team in hits (58), doubles (19), runs (41) and batting average (.372). Dauterman (.370 average, 57 hits, 7 HR, 14 doubles, 43 RBI) and senior leftfielder Jenna Motuza (.340 average, 49 hits, 5 triples) weren't too far from those totals.
The Oilers finished fifth in the GLIAC in batting average, doubles, RBIs and slugging percentage a year ago.
However, the fielding for UF needs to improve. The Oilers finished 11th in the conference in fielding percentage with .938 committing 91 errors.
"We have stressed defensive consistency at practice, and not allowing one bad defensive episode or error to snowball into several more," Ammons said. "Having the ability to place veteran returning defensive players at every position will help.
"When pitchers have to get more than three outs in an inning in the GLIAC, that is a tall order. There are many powerful offensive teams in our conference."
Errors are a pitchers' worst nightmare and with the Oilers' pitching staff, anchored by Dauterman (3.02 ERA, 67 Ks) and junior Whited (127 IP, 72 Ks, team-high 11 wins), improvement is always sought.
"Tawna has thrown well for two seasons, and if she makes another natural incremental increase in production, that will be a good result," Ammons said. "She and Brittany are a good tandem, both being hard throwers and both pitching assertively."
The pitching staff finished seventh in GLIAC earned run average, sixth in opposing batting average and eighth in innings pitched.
"To help the pitching staff my main goal is to remain focused and push the other pitchers while they push me so that we can all reach our potential by the first game," Whited said. "As an individual my goal is to contribute to the team as a consistent pitcher that can help my team reach our season goals. As a team my expectations are very high."
To complement the veteran pitchers, UF will have two promising freshmen in Nicole Motuza and Bonnie Zappitelli.
"I am encouraged by some of the talent amongst the underclassmen. The freshmen pitchers will especially have an opportunity to contribute," Ammons said.
The Oilers are scheduled to begin their 10-game Florida trip with a pair of games on Monday. The first GLIAC doubleheader will be at 1 p.m. on March at Hillsdale.
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