The Georgia Southern softball team, currently 19-21, has had quite the season so far. Filled with ups and downs, while combining injuries and learning curves for the underclassmen with a tough schedule, they have managed to hold their own on the field.
Every game as I sit in the crowd, I see growth. No game is quite like the last. Majority of the freshman have showed vast improvements. Pitchers Shelby Barfield, Jess Mazur and Ashleigh Morton are always met with a round of applause and support from the stands when they touch the field. With help from veteran pitchers Rylee Waldrep and Kaylee Ramos, GS has a bright future.
Since about the halfway mark of the season, Mazur has contributed about one hit per game and scored five runs. While pitching, she has managed to strike out 18 in her 34 innings of work, in addition to throwing nine assists on defense. It seems that she is a lot more comfortable playing at this level compared to the beginning of the season. Barfield struck out a season high of three batters against Coastal Carolina and she has brought down her S-ERA to 1.85, which is impressive, since it was 2.27 at one point. Ashleigh Morton has 10 assists and pitched about sixty innings in her freshman campaign, while Ashlynn Gunter has a whopping 69 putouts and 37 assists.
The Sun Belt is pretty strong in softball. Every team is loaded with talent and highly competitive. Half of the conference has at least ten conference wins and three teams have already surpassed the thirty win mark. GS has some tough competition but they have fought inning after inning to prove that they are a valid contender for the tournament.
Aside from conference games, GS has already taken on nationally ranked and title holding teams from University of Georgia, FIU and Louisiana. Though all of these games resulted in losses, none of them were by more than a four run deficit. They did not allow themselves to be blown out, and that says a lot about the team. Often, teams will play lazily or drag their feet against teams they know are “supposed to beat them”. GS has not had this mindset at all this season, and it shows.
This team, and their fans, have showed so much perseverance this season. Even in the toughest of situations, with weather delays, technical difficulties on the field, frustration with officials and personal tribulations, every player that comes to bat seems to walk with their head held high and gives it their all. On defense, they’re always looking for ways to stay in the game and change unfavorable circumstances. No matter how many runs the team is down, or how many hours a game may have lasted, the crowd can bet on seeing Coach Dean coming out of the dugout smiling and reassuring the girls at the end of every inning. She is the epitome of a strong and positive leader who focuses on the players and their success.
When an error is made, the team seems to stick together and put it behind them. They do not turn against each other, they just do their best to turn things around in the next play. This show of camaraderie could be due to the help of the team psychologist…or positive reinforcement by the seniors and coaching staff. Either way, watching this team play game after game is a breath of fresh air.
With about two and a half weeks left of play, they are hoping to make it to the conference tournament. I hope that when people talk or read about softball, they would see what I see. Their grit, their determination and their will to rise above tough situations. They are more than just their record.
Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Sports Reporter, email@example.com