Back on the diamond
Seton Hall Athletics
It may still be snowing out, but the Seton Hall softball team is ready to get their 2015 season underway and even though the expectations for 2016 are high, the 2015 team looks to make their impact sooner rather than later.
Seton Hall’s softball class of 2016 is impressive and includes five players: two pitchers, a catcher and two infielders who can help to turn the program around, but this year’s team isn’t focused on that. They want to improve on their 15-34 (9-12) overall record from a season ago in addition to winning the Big East conference.
“I want to play it one at a time, but it [the Big East title] is definitely on our radar,” head coach Paige Smith said. “I love being the underdog and relish the fact that they picked us sixth.”
It is going to be a long road for the Hall, who were picked to finish sixth in the conference, to reach that goal of winning the Big East, but the Pirates believe that with an improved pitching staff it is within the realm of possibility.
Last season, Seton Hall had six players that hit for a batting average of over .270 and three of them hit .300 of higher. In the Big East, the team was able to put runs on the board, but the pitching staff was just no able to keep up. This season, Smith’s bunch have changed some things up in order to improve.
It starts with their training regimen that is “very similar to the women’s basketball-military program,” Smith said. “The program is about getting through, adversity and relying on teammates and having each other’s backs. It goes a long way.”
The pitching last season was the Achilles’ heel of the softball team and that may even be an understatement. Seton Hall’s pitchers that appeared in the most innings averaged a 5.50 ERA (earned run average) and hitters that faced them had a mean batting average of .316. It is safe to say that the pitchers just did not do their job, which led to a tough season.
During the offseason, the Pirates made a coaching hire that could help to change not only the outcomes of games, but the culture surrounding the softball team. Back on Dec. 11, 2014, Seton Hall brought in Melissa Bieman to be an assistant coach and work with the pitchers.
“I have wanted to hire her for a long time,” Smith said. “She is very structured and doesn’t want to reinvent pitchers. She wants to work with what they have and get better.”
It is no wonder that coach Smith is ready for this season to commence.
Another reason for her eagerness comes from filling the spots of players that left after last season. Meredith Henze, Jen Metzger and Maria DeLuca all had solid seasons for the Hall, but have graduated from Seton Hall.
“Anybody can fill into any spot,” she said, “You will raise your eyebrow at Jordan [Moses].”
Moses is a senior that only played in 12 games last season, but could make an impact along with Junior Alex Rabbetts, who will play some third base and catcher this season. After playing in all 49 games during her freshman season, Rabbetts only played in 29 a season ago. Both players plan on making big strides to not only improve their games, but take leadership roles that naturally come with being upperclassmen.
Coach Smith noted that Seton Hall fans may even see some freshman play at times during the season and that the squad has shown great chemistry. Both are signs that this could be an improved team.
As expected, the Pirates begin their season with 27 games away from South Orange due to the snowy conditions in the New Jersey area. The Hall will be able to travel home a number of times during the trip, but it is about the experience more than anything else.
“Play the game you love for the school you love,” Smith said, “If you don’t travel early you could play six games in a week.”
Later on in the season, if the Pirates did not travel, they would have to play six games in a week. Coach Smith believes that it will lead to possible injuries, which is another reason why they travel around the country until March 17 when the Pirates have their doubleheader, home opener against Stony Brook.
In the end, the blue and white get to travel to the likes of San Diego, Calif., Greenville, N.C., Clearwater, Fla., and Denton, Texas in order to play the game that they love. If they can improve on their 3-13 road record and 6-17 record in neutral site games during the start of the season that would certainly help, especially if Seton Hall wants to make some noise at the end of the season.
The 2015 campaign beings on Feb. 6 when the Pirates begin their season in Denton, Texas as they faceoff against Boise State in the first of five games in the Lone Star State. First pitch is scheduled for 11 a.m.