By Nick Beaulieu, Contributor
The UNO softball team is off to a 22-3 record in 2013, the best start since 2002 and the best mark in the Summit League. Though the Mavs have yet to play a home game, UNO is already two wins away from matching their win total from 2012.
How have the Mavs been so successful? Look no further than the group of young talent assembled by Head Coach Jeanne Scarpello.
“We’ve always tried to find players that will make an impact right away,” Scarpello said. “I think the transition to Division I has helped us get some good players. The new group that has come in is very driven.”
Tara Trede, Campbell Ditto and Sydney Hames rank third, fourth and fifth in batting average on the team at .357, .341 and .333, respectively. All three are freshmen.
Trede is fourth with 25 hits, Ditto is second on the team in runs scored and doubles and Hames has a .420 on base percentage and a fielding percentage of 1.000.
Along with the newcomers, there’s also sophomore standouts Allie Mathewson, Tonya Peterson, Mara Eeman and Kat Barrow.
Mathewson leads the team in five offensive categories. Peterson is eighth in hitting and has 14 RBIs to go along with a .429 on base percentage. Eeman has played in 24 games, is ninth in hitting and has a .357 on base percentage. Barrow is 4-0 on the mound with a 1.66 ERA, three complete games and 20 strikeouts to go with just six walks.
Coming in, Scarpello knew that she had a good bunch of young kids, but their play has been nothing less than spectacular at this early stage in their collegiate careers.
“We brought them in knowing they’d be good, but knowing their potential would be better,” Scarpello said. “They’re great, but they can be even better.”
Typically, freshmen come in and have an adjustment period to entering a new level of competition. But UNO’s underclassmen have had a nearly flawless start to the season.
“We have kids on this team that are perfectionists; they take it to heart what they’re trying to do,” Scarpello said. “They come in with a plan of attack and what they want to do, and it’s contagious throughout the team. They’re not a complacent group.”
Despite the impressive numbers the underclassmen have put up for UNO, Scarpello pointed out much of the credit must also go to junior pitcher Dana Elsasser. Elsasser entered this season as one of the most dominant pitchers in The Summit League.
In 2012 Elsasser had a 1.07 ERA, a number that ranked in the top five in all of D-I, eight shutouts, 100 strikeouts and a 13-9 record.
Elsasser has been ever better so far this season, posting a 13-3 record to go with a 1.62 ERA and 74 strikeouts.
“She kept us in every ball game last year, and she’s doing the same thing this year,” Scarpello said. “She brings a lot of confidence.
Teams from across the country have told me she will keep you in the ball game with anyone.'”
Along with Elsasser, Scarpello said her upperclassmen have been strong mentors as well. They’ve helped put the younger members on the right path towards early and continued success.
“We have great ladies on this team; [the juniors and seniors] have worked hard to be here,” Scarpello said.
“They’ve been here a while, and they know that we have a winning a tradition. While the younger players are good, the older players have led them in the right direction.”
With much of the road schedule in the rear view mirror, conference play and home games up ahead, Scarpello eyes a successful finish to an already impressive season for UNO softball.
“I think we’ll finish just how we started,” Scarpello said. “The players play consistent because of their routines, and every time we play, we expect to win. Our plan is to finish atop the conference and that’s the mentality, and it won’t surprise me if they do.”