When the softball season gets underway Friday against Evansville, the Colonials will be looking for redemption after they finished dead last in the Atlantic 10 last year.
The common formula would be to start fresh. But for GW, it’s not so much about rebuilding the house as just finding the light switch. Head coach Stacey Schramm hopes an infusion to pitching and continued explosiveness from infield bats will translate into more wins in the 2015 campaign.
The top priority will be getting solid innings from a revamped rotation after a lack of pitching depth last season. An injury to sophomore infielder and pitcher Paige Kovalsky weakened the Colonials early on, forcing junior Meghan Rico to log over 194 innings of work, an immense load for a single pitcher to carry. The injuries, as well as nearly 300 walks in 320 innings, resulted in a 4.59 team ERA the lineup could rarely overcome.
This season, Kovalsky returns to spot Rico some crucial innings, and freshman phenom Sarah Costlow should make an immediate impact on the hill. Costlow posted a 25-6 record in her three years at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, Calif., including an unblemished 8-0 junior season in which she held a 1.01 ERA and 65 strikeouts to counteract just nine walks.
With such emphasis placed on pitching and pounding the zone, Costlow’s insertion into the rotation should be crucial in terms of run prevention and limiting opponents’ on-base percentages. If the strikeouts go up and the walks go down, expect a vast improvement from the Colonials’ staff this spring. GW was picked sixth in the A-10 Coaches Poll, so coaches are predicting an improvement from last year’s 18-31-1 overall mark.
On the other side of the ball, the offense is propelled by a hard-hitting infield consisting of Victoria Valos, Megan Linn, Morgan Matetic, and a first base combination of Carlee Gray, Mary Wiley and Jillian Galich.
Valos, a senior shortstop, already has the program record for home runs, doubles, runs batted in and slugging percentage after a season in which she hit .355 and added six home runs and 42 RBIs. Now in her final season, she also has a chance to become the all-time leader in hits and runs scored, which could prove a big motivator.
Flanking Valos up the middle is sophomore standout Linn, who led the team with 61 hits (.370) and 30 stolen bases, narrowly missing out on A-10 Rookie of the Year honors. GW will once again count on the speedy Linn as the team’s leadoff hitter.
Matetic (.319, 6 HR) and Kovalsky should split time at the hot corner, and Gray, Wiley and Galich should all rotate between the designated hitter and first base spots. Galich and Wiley have shown flashes of power with the bat, while Gray has flashed some excellent leather in the field.
The outfield should have the most competition, with talented freshmen Alana Anderson, Rochelle Draper and Morgan Rinehart all competing for starting spots. Returning is the speedy sophomore Marissa Mangini (six stolen bases in seven attempts) and fellow sophomore Bradleigh Breland (.309, 13 steals).
The Colonials have a tough road ahead of them, with non-conference foes such as Auburn, Chattanooga and UAB – all coming off of NCAA tournament appearances – slated for the opening weekend. GW will then have a bit of a preparation period before beginning conference play, in which the team will seek to dethrone a strongly favored Fordham team as A-10 champions.
There may be a bit of a learning curve and some lineup configurations for Schramm to handle over the course of the season, but the Colonials have the youth and talent to dethrone the Rams and traditional powerhouses like UMass and Saint Louis. The primary question remains: Will the pitching step up?