The Kenyon softball team kicked off the 2018 season with a trip to Florida over spring break and five straight wins to earn the program’s best opening record since 2014. Over the course of the 10 days that the Ladies spent in the Sunshine State, the team played 16 games and came out victorious in 12 of those games.
“This season feels very reminiscent of my freshman year,” Amanda Coyle ’18 said. During that 2015 season, the Ladies went 29-11.
With a few wins under their belt, the Ladies headed back to Ohio to play a series of doubleheaders against the toughest non-conference opponents on their schedule. The first of these matchups was against Ohio Athletic Conference powerhouse Otterbein University. While the Ladies fell in both games, they had a very strong defensive showing in the first of the pair, limiting Otterbein’s prolific batters to just three runs. Coyle reflected positively on the loss. “Although we definitely wanted the win, holding a top-five opponent to three runs showed a lot of promise for the future of the season,” she said.
The Ladies then faced Case Western Reserve University, the 22nd-ranked team in the country. The Ladies split a pair of close games, each decided by a single run. The close games showed Kenyon’s resolve under pressure. In both games, the Ladies trailed as they entered their final at-bat. Both times, the Ladies were able to score two runs. While their last inning efforts were enough to win their first game, the Ladies fell in the second game 8-7.
The next day, the Ladies played another doubleheader, this time against Marietta College. The Ladies were again victorious in the first game before dropping the second. The first game showcased the depth of the Ladies’ roster, and their ability to consistently get hits across their lineup. Nine of the 14 members of the team have earned at least 12 hits on the season.
Boasting a 14-8 record, Kenyon currently ranks second in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC), a notable improvement from the previous season. The Ladies’ improvements can be partly attributed to the Ladies’ deep and experienced roster largely led by returning starters.
The wealth of experience that the Ladies have in games together has caused a change in the team’s attitude and approach to games.
“A big difference between this year and last season is that we are much more confident as a team. We aren’t as tense, and have more fun together,” Keely Sweet ’20 said. The Ladies’ chemistry is apparent, with the team even bringing instruments into the dugout — including tambourines, maracas, bells and a xylophone.
While Kenyon’s consistency may rise from their experienced returners, Sweet noted that “our freshmen have also been a big part of the team this year.” Emily Buckwalter ’21 explained that the team’s unity and fun-loving attitude have facilitated her play in the field. “As a freshman, I play next to two seniors and a junior,” Buckwalter said, “but I feel like I’ve been playing with them for years. We are so comfortable together and feed off each other really well.”
First-year standout Grace Finn has already been recognized for her achievements. Her performance over the course of the weekend was enough to earn her the NCAC Player of the Week award. Finn, along with Madi Maldonado ’18, leads the team in hits, each having 30 so far this season.
The Ladies will be back in action this Saturday at home, where they will begin conference play against Oberlin College.