HICKS: Power surge has softball in MAC contention
An eye-opening pattern has been developing on the CMU softball team that has propelled it into contention in the Mid-American Conference title chase.
The team gets on the board early, its opponents make an attempt to return the favor and then it proceeds to bury its adversaries in runs.
It’s pretty safe to say the team has gotten over last year’s disappointing season and is back on track toward a MAC title run. Prior to the 2009 season, the team finished 15 consecutive seasons ranked No. 1 or 2 in the MAC West.
CMU holds first place in the MAC West, and not by luck. Credit belongs to the team’s explosive offense.
The team has hit 35 home runs this year, the most in the program’s 32-year history, passing the previous record of 25 in 2007. It appears BALCO steroid investigation may be under way relatively soon.
Sophomore Molly Coldren leads the team with a school record of 10 home runs (2nd in the MAC). Last year in her freshman season, she hit just three. At this rate, after four years she will have shattered senior Christina Novak’s career home run record of 17.
“Setting three home run records this year says a lot about our players being able to stay calm in the batter’s box, and it certainly gives us a different dimension,” said Central Coach Margo Jonker.
Following her 1,000th win Thursday, Jonker was pleasantly surprised by the team’s three home runs during the game.
“That’s pretty unusual in this park — I don’t think I’ve ever seen that from our bats,” she said.
Last season, the team only hit 17 homers but, then again, it isn’t really fair to compare this season to the last.
Extra base hits have been consistent this year as a whole. The team posted 62 extra-base hits last season, and has already hit 97 this year, the most since 2002. It has the potential to even pass that season’s total.
Last year, the team was held to two or less runs in 27 of its 43 games (63 percent). That number has been reduced to 9 of 37 games (24 percent) this season.
In fact, the team has scored at least six runs in 14 games this season, doubling last season’s total. It was also shut out in 11 games last year, a number that has been cut down to twice this season.
The 2009 roster had one player finish the season batting at least .300. This year, five of the starting nine players are batting above .300, the most in at least the last four years.
Senior Jill Schulz sits atop that list, hitting .360 through 37 games.
Her stats get even more impressive when it comes to MAC play. As of April 19, Schulz leads the MAC in batting average by players who have played in at least three games, batting .513. Out of the 14 games the team has played in the MAC, she has gotten on base more than half of her at-bats. She also leads in hits (20) and doubles (7).
The first-place Chippewas, as a team, are batting .285, ranking second in the league up from .235 last season.
This year’s team has already topped all last year’s batting stats, a key reason it has already doubled last year’s win total with eight games remaining before the MAC Tournament.
It might be a little early to be hinting at a MAC Championship this year, but this season is comparable to the 2009 MAC Champion Ball State team.
CMU has already posted a higher batting average, slugging percentage, more extra base hits and hit twice as many homers as BSU did last season. The team is on pace to top BSU’s runs total.
They’ve posted the stats of a MAC Championship team. Now, can they add another MAC Championship to the list of CMU teams that have scooped one up already this year?