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The UB Bulls softball struggle

An inexperienced roster leads to subpar season, 10-game losing streak for the softball team

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Softball head coach Trena Peel describes the first half of the season as “on-the-job training.” The team has a completely new infield after starters graduated last year and the inexperienced team has struggled to win this season – they’re currently on a 10-game losing streak.

The Bulls are 7-26 and have lost all six Mid-American Conference games thus far. Through 33 games last season, the team held a 17-16 record while winning seven of their first eight games.

Peel said that it’s been tough replacing the seniors that graduated last year.

“They all were integral parts of our team,” Peel said. “But the team we have now is capable playing every position.”

The majority of the team is underclassmen – there are just five seniors and two juniors on the 19-woman roster.

Although their record is subpar compared to last season, Peel said she thinks the game results don’t reflect the progress the team has made.

“The stats don't reflect our ability or the talent that we have right now, and I think that's just a part of being young and being new in a program. It's not the fact we can't do it, it just that we haven't done it consistently that's hurting,” Peel said.

According to Peel, the key areas the Bulls have struggled are fielding and pitching. In 33 games, the Bulls have accumulated 87 errors and allowed at least one home run per game.

“It’s kind of ridiculous,” Peel said. “When our pitchers are playing well from the [pitching] circle, the team is kicking the ball around. Our middle infield needs to improve and our pitchers need to keep the ball in the park. If we do those two things, we'll be fine.”

Sophomore pitcher Bobbi Langlois leads the rotation in home runs allowed with 18 long balls in 22 game appearances. The lowest earned run average is currently posted by freshman Charlotte Miller with a 6.07. The Bulls opponents’ ERA is 3.26.

In trying to figure out the team’s pitching problems, Peel said that they’re still looking for their “ace in the circle” and that accuracy has been the team’s biggest hurdle.

“You have to be able to hit your spots consistently,” Peel said. “The walks have just been coming at the wrong times and it’s unfortunate.”

Offensively, the Bulls rank near the bottom of most offensive categories, despite playing the fourth most games in the conference. The team ranks fifth in the Mid-American Conference, with a batting average of .284, but ranks No. 11 with just three homeruns, eighth at 18 RBI on the season and 10th in slugging percentage at .404. The Bulls have also struggled to bring runners in. The team average drops to a .257 once runners are on base. When the bases are empty, the average is .316.

Senior infielder Alexis Curtiss and sophomore infielder Savanna Norcio have been producing at the plate, hitting an average of .420 and .396, respectively. Curtiss leads the team in hits (47) and runs batted in, driving in 23. Peel describes the pair as the most consistent on the team.

Sophomore infielder Lauren Gambone leads the team in home runs with six on the season. Although her home runs have come at “key times,” Peel doesn’t think that home runs should be the team’s focus at the plate.

“We're not really a long ball team, but we can be consistent,” Peel said. “We're getting on base, but we're not getting the hits when we need to.”

This past Monday was Buffalo’s first outdoor practice at home as they prepare for a week-long home stretch.

“It was great to be able to play in the dirt and get some game situations,” Peel said excitedly. “Now the pitchers don't have to practice with indoor softballs… the girls like it.”

This past Saturday, the team played Ball State (11-7-2, 7-5 MAC) in Oxford, Ohio. The game was originally was supposed to be played in Muncie, Indana, but was moved in accordance to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s non-essential travel ban to the state. Peel said the location move didn’t affect the team and does not matter where and when the team plays. The ban on travel to Indiana has been removed.

The Bulls will host Detroit (2-28, 0-6 Horizon League) in a double header on Wednesday, April 8, at Nan Harvey Field. It will be the first home game of the season.

Peel said that the players are anxious to play at home and want to compete in front of their peers. She said the team is “keeping their heads up and continuing to fight.”

“We’ve been fighting to get better every game,” Peel said. “If you change just one inning in some of our games, our record would be opposite of what it is.”

Conference play will continue over the week as Buffalo faces Ohio (11-20, 4-2 MAC) twice on Friday and play Akron (13-17, 1-4 MAC) over the weekend. The home stand ends next Wednesday, April 15, when the Bulls take on local rival Canisius (13-9, 4-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference).

Wednesday’s first pitch is set for noon.

Bobby McIntosh is an assistant sports editor and can be contacted at bobby.mcintosh@ubspectrum.com


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