After finishing the past two seasons with the best record in the Atlantic 10, softball has fallen to tenth in the conference with seven games left in the regular season.
The team has mustered a 15-24 overall record while going 5-15 in conference play since losing a pair of sluggers in alumni utility player Alessandra Ponce and pitcher Sierra Lange, who hit a respective .363 and .333 last year. But stellar individual performances from two-way freshman pitcher and designated hitter Rose Cano and graduate infielder Arizona Ritchie, who have led the team’s offensive output in hits, have Head Coach Chrissy Schoonmaker hoping for a late-season surge.
“We’re going to play our game, and we talk about playing the best brand of GW softball, which is playing defense, attacking on offense and executing on the mound,” Schoonmaker said. “And if we put all three of those things together, we are in a very good position to win.”
The Colonials are hitting .252 as a team this season – down from a sizzling .293 from the year prior and placing them fifth in the conference in the stat category. But that doesn’t mean their competitive edge has worn off – the team has dropped nine games by just a single run.
“It’s coming down to fighting for an inch here or there, potentially cleaning up a runner in scoring position, putting a stop on defense, whatever it may be, but we’ve been right there in so many games this season,” Schoonmaker said.
Since the end of March, GW has suffered several losing streaks, dropping five in a row twice. The Colonials snapped their most recent skid with a season sweep of Morgan State University last week.
On Saturday, GW dropped another one-run loss to St. Bonaventure University. After holding a 3-0 lead for the first six innings, the Colonials gave up four runs in the seventh and final frame.
Schoonmaker has emphasized patience at the plate as a key offensive approach for the team, which sits fourth in the conference in on-base percentage and sixth in strikeouts at the plate. The team ranks third in the A-10 in both walks and hit-by-pitches, with 119 and 24, respectively.
“On-base percentage, to me, it’s just a matter of, the more you’re on base, the more opportunities you have to score,” Schoonmaker said. “And we talk about the most important stat in our game is scoring more runs than the other team.”
She credited Ritchie’s ability to get on base with hits, walks and even hit-by-pitches as an example the team has looked to follow throughout the season. Ritchie, who joined the team after four years at the University of Virginia and is the daughter of baseball Head Coach Gregg Ritchie, leads the team in batting average, hitting .325 from her lead off spot with an on-base percentage of .394.
“She’s doing a great job of finding herself on base whether it be a base hit, reaching on an error or working counts to get a walk,” Schoonmaker said.
On the pitching side, Cano holds the lowest-earned run average on the team with an impressive 2.93 figure, with 166 innings pitched. The team as a whole holds a 3.77 ERA.
In her first year with the Buff and Blue, Cano has turned heads, firing 10 strikeouts in a March game against Mount St. Mary’s University. In 13 of the Colonial’s 15 victories, Cano picked up the win.
She has also batted .287 with 29 hits on the season, including six doubles.
“She’s just been doing a great job for us which has been really fun to see,” Schoonmaker said. “She’s a competitor. She competes at a really high level. She wants to win. She wants to be held to a high standard which is a joy to coach.”
With seven games to play, the team looks to put their best foot forward and remain true to the aggressive style of play that won them the A-10 Championships in 2019 and 2021. The Colonials will welcome cross-town rivals Howard University for a game at the GW softball field Wednesday at 2 p.m.
This article appeared in the April 24, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.