Story first appeared in the March 19, 2015 edition of the Edinboro University Spectator, which was distributed on campus and around town.
This winter was one of the worst, on record, even for Edinboro. That thwarted nearly any chance of the softball team seeing its field, let alone playing on it.
However, no field, no problem for the Edinboro softball team.
The ladies headed south to start their 2015 campaign and did it successfully by going 8-2 during their tour in the south, enjoying the fifth best start for the first 10 games in school history, tying the 8-2 start of the 1984 squad.
The Fighting Scots enjoyed wins over Elizabeth City State, Mansfield twice, Clarion, Barton, and Salem International three times. Boro fell to Fairmont State and Concord.
There was plenty of success on the field during the trip, but at times head coach Dan Gierlak wasn’t sure if there was going to be a field to play on or where it was exactly at.
“We were supposed to be in West Virginia and then that was canceled two weeks ago,” Gierlak said. “Then we were supposed to be in Raleigh and that was canceled two days before we were supposed to leave and was moved to Wilmington. So when you are making arrangements, everything was changed. We had to stay a night in Raleigh and find a practice facility for Friday because the first day of games in Wilmington were canceled.”
It wasn’t until Sunday, March 8 until the Scots got onto a field and when they did, they excelled. The Scots exploded offensively in the opener, winning 9-0 against Elizabeth City State. Abby Sotter earned her first career victory as she struck out six and got nine more batters to groundout.
The Scots split their other two games that day, losing to Fairmont State 5-4 and defeating PSAC-foe Mansfield 6-3.
Boro ended the Shaw University Softball Challenge with another 2-1 record on March 9. Edinboro lost to Concord 5-0, but bounced back with a 5-0 win over another PSAC school in Clarion and a 6-4 victory against Barton. The Barton win was a comeback victory for Gierlak’s group as the ladies were down 3-0 in the first inning.
The Fighting Scots defeated Mansfield 3-2 in eight innings on March 12 before defeating Salem International 8-0 in six innings later that day in Sutherland, Virginia.
Edinboro stuck around in Sutherland one more day to finish its spring break trip on March 13 and it ended with a doubleheader with Salem International. The ladies swept the games winning 5-2 in the first contest and 15-5 in 11 innings in the nightcap.
A lot of games means a plethora of innings played, which requires solid pitching. The Scots have all their pitchers from last season and it is showing.
“I think the pitchers are good,” Gierlak said. “Taylor [Payne] is ahead of everybody right now. She is a junkballer and she can make you look ridiculous with the way her ball breaks. She was outstanding. I think the pitching will come around as a group and I think they have the ability to dominate games and I think they will. They all had bright spots, but they all had learning spots too.”
Payne’s pitching prowess was not just noticed by Gierlak, it was also recognized by the PSAC as the sophomore was named PSAC West Softball Pitcher of the Week for the week ending March 15. The Bellwood, Pennsylvania native went 3-0, logged 18 innings and did not allow a single run.
Gierlak also noted two other Fighting Scots who surprised the 26th year coach.
“Theresa Fleckenstein, the catcher, started all the games down there and then we had Katie [Holmes] give her a break. The things she did hitting the ball and playing defense. When we played three games in a day, she caught all of those games and didn’t say a thing. She was a workhorse the entire time.
“The other one was Laura Crooks,” he continued. “She went through a phase where she put the ball on the ground and teams couldn’t figure out ways to get her out. She is a slapper and that is what she is supposed to do. She was driving people crazy. As the leadoff, when she gets on base we are very productive behind her.”
Due to the current field conditions, Gierlak said that there will be many alterations to the current schedule. He noted the team will try to change home games to away games with the PSAC opponents, if the other’s field is playable, and play the late season matchup in Edinboro.
Edinboro is scheduled to visit Mercyhurst on Friday before traveling to California (Pa.) on Saturday.