UB Bulls softball looks to follow up historic season despite losing key players
Bulls announce 10 new players for this season
The softball team finished its best season in program history last year.
After only making the Mid-American Conference Tournament three times and finishing with a winning record just once in their first 15 years of Division I play, the Bulls finished with a program-best 30-22 record and featured some of the best hitters and pitchers to ever don a Buffalo uniform.
But second-year head coach Trena Peel is not satisfied.
“We may have earned the best record in school history, but we didn’t accomplish anything we wanted to,” Peel said.
Buffalo ended its season with a 4-0 loss to Ohio in its first-ever trip to the MAC Championship game.
“It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth,” Peel said. “The girls feel that we came up short. Working to get back to that game is one of the teams’ goals for the season. But we’re looking further than that. Our ultimate goal is to get to the College World Series.”
Buffalo’s goal to go even further than last year’s accomplishments may be difficult though, as the team will have 10 new players after losing some of the most touted players in program history – like pitcher and all-time wins leader Tori Speckman.
Speckman appeared in 39 games, had a 22-13 record with a 2.17 ERA with seven shutouts in over 244 innings pitched last season. Speckman is also the only Bulls pitcher to ever record two no-hitters in the same season.
Peel said she is aware that it will be extremely difficult to match Speckman’s production. But Peel is not looking for just one player to replace Speckman.
“We’ve done a great job in recruiting a pitching staff,” Peel said. “There will be four young ladies in the pitching circle as opposed to one.”
Incoming redshirt sophomore Bobbi Langlois will be one of the options that Peel will use in the rotation. Langlois transferred from Hampton University, where Peel was head coach from 2011-13.
Langlois struck out 61 batters in 113 innings pitched over 29 appearances for the Pirates in 2013. Peel is excited about Langlois for her ties to Hampton, but also her experience in the postseason.
“She’ll bring a wealth of experience,” Peel said. “She’s been to the NCAA Tournament [with Hampton]. With her bringing her experience will only help our team.”
Senior pitcher Hayley Barrow is the only player on the roster who has thrown a pitch for Buffalo. She is expected to assume a larger role on the mound this season after posting a 2-2 record with a 3.50 ERA last season.
Incoming freshmen Charlotte Miller and Madison Vaught round out the pitching rotation. Miller hails from local high school Kenmore West. She finished with a 1.90 ERA and recorded a no-hitter. Vaught is UB’s first Hawaiian-born athlete. She is a two-time All-League selection in high school.
Miller and Vaught are two of the teams’ 10 new players Peel will expect to make an immediate impact for the team.
“I try to recruit kids that can come in immediately,” Peel said. “I don’t like to recruit people that have potential with a redshirt year and have potential to grow. A lot of the freshmen will be called on right away. Most of them played in travel leagues and hopefully, there will be an easy transition for them.”
One of Buffalo’s biggest issues during the offseason was addressing the production of former outfielder Holly Luciano and infielder Sammi Gallardo. Luciano led the team with a .340 average and 53 hits. She was the only player to play in every game last season. Peel admitted that Luciano was a big loss and that she was a “unique, one-of-a-kind player.”
Gallardo led the team with 16 home runs. Her graduation leaves a gap in power production. Peel said the team lost a plethora of power hitters, but plans to compensate with speed and defense.
“I think we’ll have a good balance,” Peel said. “We’ll be able to attack the short game more and take advantage of base running for our power hitters to drive them in. I love the balance about the team this year.”
Senior outfielder Alexis Curtiss will lead a young group of outfielders. Curtis hit .310 last season despite missing significant time due to injury. She is healthy now and will immediately benefit the team, according to Peel.
“Alexis is our emotional leader. She may not be as vocal, but she leaves it all on the field,” Peel said. “Barrow is definitely trying to go out with a bang.”
The team also lost its assistant coach, Horace Smith. Lee Dobbins, who has been a part of many college level softball programs, assumed the position. Dobbins coached at Emory, where he helped the team reach a 76-10 overall record at his time there.
Peel admires Dobbins’ resume. She said she understands the coaches are not “the people who swing the bats,” but is eager to welcome a seasoned coach to the roster.
Despite the success of the program last season, Peel wasn’t happy with its culmination. Even though the team won the conference, Peel’s main goal was to get to the NCAA Tournament.
“We had a great season, the best in the school’s history,” Peel said. “But getting to [the College World Series] is the goal.”
The team kicks off its season on Feb. 6 against Western Kentucky in the Troy Chik-Fil-A Invite in Troy, Alabama. First pitch is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.