Softball begins A-10 play on pace for record-breaking season

Media Credit: Sam Frey | Hatchet Photographer

Senior outfielder Morgan Rinehart runs through first base during a softball game against St. Bonaventure Sunday.

With 30 games under its belt, softball is 22-8 – recording wins in all but one of its 16 home games so far this season.

The Colonials are seven victories away from becoming the winningest team in school history and on pace for the program’s best year on both sides of the ball.

After putting together a program-record 13-game winning streak over the past three weeks, GW fell to St. Bonaventure Sunday after trouncing the Bonnies twice in a doubleheader Saturday to open Atlantic 10 play. The loss was the team’s first since March 4 and their first at the Mount Vernon field.

With 26 games left in the season, softball is on track to win about 41 games – 13 more than the program-high 28 wins GW posted last season during head coach James DeFeo’s first year at GW. The Colonials are just two home wins away from last year’s tally, with 13 games left to play on their own field.

“We’re all about making positive history with this team, and going forward it doesn’t make us any less of a team,” DeFeo said. “It just gives us an opportunity to start another winning streak.”

He said the squad has been growing since day one, and they have bought into his coaching strategy of “taking care of the little things” during games. The Colonials currently have seven more total wins than the next best A-10 team, Saint Louis.

“We broke it down pitch by pitch, at-bat by at-bat, inning by inning,” DeFeo said. “I think it’s going pretty well so far.”

He said the Colonials’ attention to detail was the reason for the team’s mid-season hot streak, but after the weekend’s final game he added that the team’s focus was lacking – leading to mistakes all around.

“We didn’t play well today on any side of the ball,” he said after Sunday’s loss. “We have to learn from this and come back refocused for a big series next weekend.”

Despite dropping a game, GW’s strong offensive showing improved the team’s batting average to .347, good for first in the A-10.

Three players – sophomore utility player Jenna Cone (.468) and freshmen infielder Alessandra Ponce (.509) and outfielder Sidney Bloomfield (.410) – are all hitting above .400, and four other Colonials own a .349 batting average or above. Elana Myers Taylor, who graduated in 2007, is the only GW player to ever hit above .400 on a season – finishing with a .414 average in 2006 and a .413 in 2007.

“We all really bought into what coach asked us to: pick a pitch, be selective, and be aggressive,” Cone said.

In recent outings, GW has been paced by its offensive talent. The Colonials have already tallied 213 runs this season and are on their way to surpassing the 260 runs they totaled last year.

Over the weekend, they found the hit column 28 times and crossed home plate 33 times to take the series. In the seventh inning of Sunday’s match, the Colonials tallied five runs off of two home runs. In the second game of the doubleheader Saturday, Cone, sophomore infielder Elena Shelepak and senior outfielder Morgan Rinehart hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rinehart said DeFeo’s aggressive hitting philosophy and emphasis on attacking the pitch is behind the team’s offensive push and has helped the team capitalize on at-bats.

“We can beat you a lot of different ways,” DeFeo said. “I think that is one of the best things about this team – They’re so versatile that if one phase of the offense isn’t working, another phase picks it up.”

Cone hit a home run in all three games of last weekend’s series, and her strong offensive showing throughout GW’s win streak earned her A-10 Player of the Week honors two weeks in a row. She is on pace for 69 hits, 78 runs batted in and more than 130 total bases – all of which would set program records.

But GW’s three starting pitchers – senior Sarah Costlow, sophomore Kaitlin Buff and freshman Sierra Lange – have not been overshadowed. They have combined for a 21-6 record and have struck out 106 combined batters – leading the staff to a 3.29 earned run average.

Next weekend, GW faces off against Massachusetts – a team that’s yet to drop a conference game this season – for a three-game series.

“If we play to the level of our standards I think we’ll have a successful year,” DeFeo said. “It’s not so much who we play, it’s how we play.”

Looking down the road, Cone said the Colonials are still hungry for wins and success for the remainder of the season, regardless of the results far.

“The best thing I think that we can do is remain focused and keep our goals in perspective,” Cone said. “We want to feed off our wins, but we never want to be satisfied.”

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