By Nate Tenopir, Editor-in-Chief
Putting success into perspective is always difficult. But in the case of UNO softball there’s nothing difficult about defining 2013.
Through 35 games, the Mavs have already eclipsed the 24 wins they achieved last season. Granted, 2012 wasn’t like most years.
Transitioning to Division I meant an irregular schedule with less games than normal. Yet what stands out about this season is the 30 wins UNO has put up in just 35 games. Last year 24 wins came in 42 games.
With the consistency of starting pitcher Dana Elsasser on the mound, predicting continued success in 2013 wouldn’t have been much of a stretch. With an 18-5 record, 1.39 ERA, 110 strikeouts and a .203 opponent average, Elsasser has been her normal dominant self.
But this season she’s had much larger room for error. In 35 games the Mavs have not only passed their win total from last season, they’ve also passed highs in several offensive categories and are on pace to smash all of last year’s numbers.
“I don’t even check that,” coach Jeanne Scarpello said. “We just kind of go day-by-day and see the stats here and there. I just know what kids are hot for us right now what kids are still kind of working on getting their bats going again.”
In all of 2012, UNO put 145 runs across the plate. The Mavs have scored 179 runs in 2013, a number that puts them on a pace for 235, almost 100 more than last season.
Currently UNO has outscored their opponents by a total of 121 runs, scored first 25 times and scored in the first inning 16 times. All 25 times the Mavs have scored first they’ve come out the winner.
“We have enough bats in this lineup, whether it’s on the bench or even in the nine spot that we feel good about our offense,” Scarpello said.
Runs scored are just part of the picture. UNO has also bested its numbers from this year to last year in triples (14-2), homeruns (32-18), RBIs (164-132), and total bases (437-376).
If the Mavs keep up the hot bats they’ll also pass their totals in hits, doubles, average and slugging percentage. UNO is set to have 79 more hits and 15 more doubles, and pass batting average by 19 points and slugging percentage by 31 points.
All the success the Mavs have had from the plate puts them among the leaders in the Summit League in almost every category. UNO sits second in six offensive categories, third in average and fourth in doubles.
The Mavs lead the conference in triples and slugging percentage.
The stout offensive numbers also have several UNO players among the league leaders in individual categories.
“We’ve had some kids who really put some time into their swings,” Scarpello said. “Recruiting-wise has been great, too. We’ve brought in some great players.”
Leadoff hitter Allie Mathewson is in the top 10 of seven categories, leading the conference with an .802 slugging percentage.
If Mathewson finishes with that number she’d have the third-best single season slugging percentage in school history.
“Their role is to set the tone,” Scarpello said about leadoff hitters. “For her when she sets the tone it’s a little bit more of a loud tone than almost any other leadoff hit we’ve ever had. It’s a huge confidence booster for us the way she swings the bat, and even if she gets a hard line out or a hard hit the kids settle in right away.”
Mathewson is joined at the top of The Summit League leaderboard by teammates Amber Lutmer, Campbell Ditto and Molly Negrete. Lutmer is in the top 10 in five categories, Ditto also in five and Negrete in two.
Negrete is also 11th in average (.349) and 11th in RBIs (21) meaning she may be challenging Lutmer and Ditto for more top 10 spots before season’s end.
In the weekend sweep of IUPUI Mathewson scored five runs, collected five hits and drove in three while Ditto went deep twice and drove in five.
So what’s behind UNO’s sudden offensive surge? Scarpello said that although her and her staff somewhat simplified the way they teach hitting, the credit should go to the players.
Many of them spend an hour before or an hour after practice working on hitting.
“The work ethic is there,” Scarpello said. “We discussed with them how good hitters hit a lot. They have really put the time in, the reps, of trying to get their swing to be what they want it to be so that when they play there’s a little more confidence to trust in their hands and just play when it happens.”
With the hard work has come freedom. Proving themselves on the practice field has allowed Scarpello to trust her players at the plate.
More often than not her players have rewarded that confidence with results.
“Even though it’s a 3-0 count, in the past we might have made them take, I’ve let them swing away in those situations,” Scarpello said. “I feel like they’re good enough hitters, they’re disciplined enough that if they’re gonna get a good pitch let them drive it.”
Since the beginning of the season Scarpello has always liked her lineup. Her faith in her players has led the Mavs to a season many in The Summit League have been noticing.
At 30-5 and 8-1 in conference play UNO is currently third, trailing only North Dakota State and Fort Wayne in winning percentage. Unfortunately the Mavs won’t get a chance at the Bison or the Mastodons because those series were lost to cancellation in mid and late march.
But for everyone else on the schedule, the UNO lineup is quickly becoming a group that strikes fear into the heart of opposing pitchers. Opponents have to deal with Mathewson first, Tara Trede hitting .330 follows and then comes Ditto and Lutmer.
“Allie Mathweson is obviously powerful then Tara Trede, who’s had a great year for us, is seen as a slapper,” Scarpello said. “Campbell then has power, she has six homeruns and hit two this weekend. If she gets on first we can steal her so we can have speed with a catcher. And if she gets on with two outs then you have to pitch to Lutmer.”