Softball captures best season since 2010
By Jonathan Bym, Editor
For the first time since 2010, the UNCP softball team was able to finish above .500 and is showing signs of improvement under second-year head coach Brittany Bennett.
Finishing the season with four straight wins, the Lady Braves collected a 26-21 record. Over the past four years, UNCP has increased its win percentage and Bennett still sees room for improvement for the program.
“We’re still a ways away…but we are on pace,” Bennett said.
Last season, Bennett said that her team played a lot of games from behind, and this season she has seen her team become more efficient offensively by taking the lead in games.
“What’s happened is the girls understand how to compete,” she said. “The success came from a lot more buyng in.”
With sweeps over USC Aiken and Mount Olive to close out the year, the Lady Braves secured the best season in five years.
“The reason we finished above is because the seniors really wanted to go out on top and leave an impact on this program,” Bennett said. “We started off hot and we ended hot. What we have got to work harder on to get better at is to ride through the grind of the season.”
Freshman Taylor Gerhart and senior Brea Hartley were named second team all-conference after solid seasons at the plate. Gerhart hit .331 with three homers and 28 RBIs. Hartley hit .317, a team-high eight home runs and 39 RBIs.
Gerhart and Jamie Johnson were the top two hitters percentage wise on the team of players who had at least 50 at bats and were a major part of offense in their first year with the program.
“One freshman bats in the two-hole and one freshman bats in the four-hole, and that’s a huge spot to hit in,” Bennett said.
In the circle, Katie Saunders finished with a 16-13 overall record with a 2.77 ERA.
After struggles midway through the year, Bennett said Saunders finished out this season strong.
“If you watched her play in February and then again in April you would see two different people,” she said.
With a lot of younger talent getting playing time in big spots this season, Bennett was prepping for the future with six seniors preparing to graduate after this season.
“We tried to bring in some freshmen to play crucial position to get them some experience to make sure that they were ready when the time comes,” she said.
The Lady Braves had seven underclassmen get at least 20 at bats this season to prepare them, and the program, for the future; a future that has potential to be a bright one.
“We are a position to two away, but I’m excited about the returners next year,” Bennett said.
Photo by Stefanie Smith. Freshman Taylor Gerhart catches the ball for an out in a game earlier this season.