Softball player returns from injury to spearhead dominant conference run

Media Credit: Courtesy Photo by GW Athletic Department

Redshirt junior Sierra Lange said she's more focused on the team's success than her own achievements.

Last spring, redshirt junior utility player Sierra Lange watched her team from the dugout after suffering a season-ending ACL injury. Just a year later, Lange tossed the fifth no-hitter in program history.

Lange’s return to the field has boosted the Colonials’ (25-8, 15-1 A-10) dominant streak in conference play that has put the squad atop the Atlantic 10. She helms a Colonial pitching staff, owning the second-best ERA on the squad with a 1.98, while also notching 45 hits at the plate.

Lange ranks second on the team with a .413 batting average and has started 20 games in the circle, closing out 13 of them. She has struck out 123 batters in 113 innings of work and has formed a one-two punch with graduate student utility player Faith Weber, who is first on the team with a 1.93 ERA across 80 innings.

“As a pitching staff, we have a lot of different weapons in our arsenal, and I think they all complement each other really well,” Weber said. “Each of us has a different style, wind-up and velocity, so switching it up on teams throughout the series helps to keep the opposing hitters off balance.”

Weber added that Lange’s drive and determination on the mound is “contagious” and pushes her to boost her own game. Weber’s own development in the circle, along with the team’s explosive offense and reduced slate amid the pandemic, has allowed head coach Shane Winkler to manage Lange’s innings this year. She is on pace to throw 144.2 innings, which will keep her fresh for the A-10 Championship.

“Well if you look back at 2019, we threw her almost every meaningful inning we had,” Winkler said. “I mean we were running her out there for 14 innings a day and having Faith Weber as another number one has been huge for us.”

During an April 17 doubleheader against Saint Joseph’s, the Colonials dominated on both sides of the ball, nabbing both games via the run rule. In the opening 8-0 win of the series, Lange delivered the fifth no-hitter in Colonials history and the first since Kaitlin Buff and Ashley Pilcher combined to no-hit Howard on Feb. 28, 2018.

Though Lange was happy to earn the no-hitter, she said she’s more focused on achieving team success than personal accolades.

“To be honest I really wasn’t focused on that,” Lange said. “I was really focused on winning, so I didn’t really care about the thing that was actually going on. I know that my team has my back. It’s always nine against one when I’m up there pitching.”

A game later, Lange recorded four hits and pitched the final inning of a 16-6 victory to cap off the day. While Lange’s focus has been on team success, she has produced on an individual level since arriving at GW.

In her first year on the squad, Lange was selected to the A-10 All-Rookie Team. She made an immediate impact on both sides of the ball, striking out 115 hitters while also batting .355 as the Colonials made a run to the A-10 Championship against Dayton.

“It makes our jobs a lot easier,” Winkler said. “You get two players for one scholarship basically which is huge when you get two really good players like that but she’s just an outstanding athlete.”

She found continued success in the 2019, nabbing herself a spot on the A-10 All-Conference First Team and All A-10 Championship Team as she shattered several program records en route to a share of the A-10 crown for the first time in school history.

Lange threw 272 innings during the campaign, 68 more than any Colonial in history, across a record 49 total appearances in the circle. Her 246 strikeouts, 32 complete games and 31 wins also topped the pitching charts for GW. At the plate, she set a single season school record with 85 hits.

Her success stalled during her junior year when she endured a torn ACL that kept her out of the entire 2020 season. In her absence, GW lost 10 of their first 11 games in a season cut short by the pandemic.

“I mean that was huge losing her last year because not only are you losing potentially the best pitcher in the conference, she’s also one of the top two or three offensive players in the conference,” Winkler said. “So it’s like losing a number one pitcher and a number three hitter, because that’s exactly what she is.”

Winkler said Lange put in work during rehab and the offseason, allowing her to come back for the 2021 season even fitter than she was prior to the injury to pick up where she left off.

As they enter the final stretch of the season, Lange and company will look to notch wins against George Mason and St. Bonaventure before heading to the A-10 Championship to capture their second title in three years.

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