It's the beginning of February, and that means that the spring sports season is almost here! The Syracuse Orange softball team is raring to go this Friday.
The team returns all but six players from last year and is ready to make a run in the ACC, where they are slated to finish 7th, as well as the nationally, in the postseason. In addition to the veterans, there are six freshmen poised to make a splash on this year's squad.
So, without further ado, here's the preview for the 2015 Syracuse softball season:
Recap of Last Season
The Orange started off the 2014 campaign with a strong showing in the first three games of the Mardi Gras Tournament with a shutout victory over Austin Peay, a close loss to #20/22 South Alabama, and a walk-off win over #21/25 UAB. But then things started to take a turn for the worst, even with two victories in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Early-season injuries played a factor, and it wasn't until March 11 that the team finally found some of their mojo and won eight of its next ten games -- with six against ACC opponents. The regular season ended on a high-note, with the Orange winning the four of the final five games, before falling to Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament.
In their first season as a member of the ACC, the Orange went 12-12 in league play, good enough for a sixth-place finish. The year ended, however, with that aforementioned defeat at the hands of the Hokies.
The team will miss the power of Jasmine Watson and speed of Shirley Daniels in the lineup, but that's not to say members of the current team can't live up to their standards.
Corinne Ozanne, Junior, SS, 2015 co-captain
Last season, Ozanne became the fastest player in Syracuse history to hit 20 career homers. She did it in 93 games, which was nine games less than the previous record, held by teammate Julie Wambold earlier in the same season. She had a .351 batting average with 52 hits in 148 at-bats over her 47 games last year.
Julie Wambold, Senior, 2B, 2015 co-captain
As a junior, she had a .309 batting average with 42 hits and 10 doubles in 46 games. Look for her to continue her hot hitting.
Sydney O'Hara, Sophomore, SP
O'Hara lit up the ACC last year, having a great rookie campaign. She was named First Team All-ACC, with the numbers to back it up. In terms of her pitching, she started 27 games for the Orange and had a 16-12 record with a 3.83 ERA. Of those, 15 were complete games, and seven were shutouts. On the offensive side, she batted .333 with 49 hits and 14 doubles. Look for her to establish herself even more this season with her stellar pitching and hitting. She's a lot of fun to watch.
Danielle Chitkowski, Junior, 3B
In her last seven games in 2014, she batted an even .500, bringing her total average for the season to .225, a .075-point improvement from her 2013 campaign. She had 36 hits -- 11 of them doubles -- on the season in 49 games.
Alyssa Dewes, Sophomore, OF
Last year, Dews had a .307 batting average, 27 hits, four home runs and seven doubles in 40 games.
Mary Dombrowski, Senior, OF, 2015 co-captain
Dombrowski patrolled the outfield for the first time in her Syracuse career, and it certainly paid off. She had a .918 fielding percentage, with 50 put outs, six assists, and only five errors -- six less errors than the season before. Mary had a batting average of just under .200 with 21 hits, four home runs, and seven doubles.
Keep an eye on: Junior outfielder Riley Johnson and junior pitcher Lindsey Larkin.
These ladies just barely scratched the surface last season, but it should be a good year for the both of them in increased roles..
Fall Recap/Season Preview
This year's squad looks to bounce back from a 24-25 campaign that had many ups and downs. With the majority of the starters returning, there is plenty of room to improve. Senior pitcher Lindsay Taylor looks to make an impact after sustaining an injury that cut her season extremely short last February. With 84 strikeouts in the circle during her sophomore campaign and a career ERA of 2.74, Taylor will try to cement her legacy in the SU history books during her final year. She and O'Hara look to spark the Orange this season.
There were eight exhibition games played this fall, and Syracuse won all of them. Head coach Leigh Ross and the other coaches were very pleased with the way the freshmen stepped up during the first half of the schedule, and how the veterans responded during the second half. Here's a fun, crazy fact: they scored 23 runs (!!!) in their game against Binghamton.
In October, the team took on the "OKC Challenge" for one week. They were divided into two teams and each day, from the October 3 through the October 10, Ross put the ladies through different, rigorous, team bonding exercises as a way to keep them all in-shape for the fall season and beyond. The activities ranged anywhere from a timed two-mile run to bowling to a game of touch football. The fun was posted on the team's Facebook and Twitter pages. Ross also posted additional updates and photos to her personal Twitter account during the week.
The team looks poised to make their mark, starting this Friday, February 6, versus the University of Chicago-Illinois in the Total Sports Control Invitational held in Rosemont, Ill. The first pitch is slated for 2 p.m. ET. This is the first of four tournaments the Orange will participate in during the season before ACC play begins. The team will also face Miami (OH), Samford, Central Michigan and Western Illinois in the invitational.
Can't wait for the season to start! Go Orange!