Softball focusing on season of improvement

Photo courtesy of Omavs
The team will hit the road for games against Kansas and Creighton this week.
Andrew Nelson

The beginning to the DJ Sanchez era hasn’t been the smoothest ride thus far, but the Omaha softball team hasn’t shown anything but fight this season. Despite the struggles, Omaha is 14-26 with five regular season games left. (The Western Illinois series was not completed before print).

Coach DJ Sanchez is 29-56 so far at the helm in Omaha, but nobody said transitions were going to be easy. Omaha did finish 12-20 in nonconference play this season, which tops their 9-22 mark out-of-conference a year ago. The season since then has been similar to last year’s, except for one historic moment.

Omaha endured an 11-game losing streak, the longest in school history, over the course of two weeks earlier this season. The Mavericks dug-in against South Dakota State the final weekend of March, and after dropping the second game of the series in extra-innings, they came back to win the series finale 8-6 on Senior Day. Fitting enough, senior outfielders Kelly Pattison (RF) and Jessica Nelson (CF) each doubled in their final home game that day.

Pattison won Summit League Player of the Week March 12, the second of her career, and she currently leads the conference with a .441 batting average, the best output at the plate in her career. She’s also third in the conference with 28 RBIs and leads Omaha with six homeruns which is a season career-high.

Despite Pattison’s bat, hitting has been significantly absent for the Mavericks as a team compared to last season but they’ve shown when they can get runners on, things can happen. Nelson, who transferred to Omaha from Sanchez’s former team, St. Gregory’s University, is second in the conference, and leads the team with 10 stolen bases and two triples. Sophomore second basemen Emily Klosterman is third in the conference with nine steals this season.

Leading Omaha in the circle this season has been freshman Sydney Hampton. The pitcher from Durant, Oklahoma is 9-11 this season, fifth in the conference in wins and Earned Run Average (ERA) at 3.60 with 60 strikeouts.

The brightest spot for Omaha to hang their hat on this season must be their way to win extended games. The Mavericks are 4-2 in extra-inning games this season and lost seven other games by two runs or less.

As mentioned, the Mavericks have had their share of struggles this season. After 40 games played, Omaha is hitting .232 as a team and has a .315 on base percentage (OBP), dead last in the Summit League. Despite leading the conference as a team in stolen bases, the Mavs also lead in runners caught stealing. Omaha is third in the conference in homeruns as a team (22), but second-to-last in in hits and RBIs. The Mavericks also lead the conference in strikeouts as a team with 237. When it comes to pitching, Omaha has allowed the most homeruns in the conference and only averages 3.23 strikeouts per contest.

The Mavs hit the road the remainder of the season with games at Kansas, Creighton and a final conference series at Fort Wayne. The Mavericks are sitting just one spot out, but three games back, of the fourth spot in the Summit League.