Wheaton Softball is quickly approaching the annual Rebel Spring Games in Winter Haven and Kissimmee, Florida, where the team will open their 2015 season with 10 competitive games in just six days. The Lyons finished last year’s stretch at the Games with a 9-1 record and began there season on a tremendous high. They’ll look for the same start to this year’s season heading in ranked No. 2 in the NEWMAC conference preseason poll after last year’s falling to Farmingdale State in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
“Preseason went very well this year,” said junior captain Emma Hart ’16. “Between our fall ball season and the two scrimmages, the team has worked extremely hard and is looking forward to some big wins in Florida and in our regular season.”
The team is coming off of a strong 2014 season finishing with a 30-12 record, the program’s tenth 30-win season in team history. They fell short to Smith College on day four of the NEWMAC Tournament by a single run. Smith would go on to lose against conference powerhouse and Wheaton-rivals Wellesley in the championship game.
“Over the years the program has definitely become a lot stronger,” said Hart. “The chemistry between the team is unbelievable and everyone meshes very well together.”
The Lyons were ranked as high as No. 21 in the country by the NFCA Top 25 national poll last season and had an impressive 17-game win streak within their first 20 games. “Last year turned out very well,” said Hart. “Although we did not end up on a win, the team worked for every opportunity and they have the same energy this year.”
The blue and white of Wheaton will be returning some key players in juniors Emma Hart and Madeline Hatch ’17 who were both named into the 2014 NEWMAC All-Conference team. Hart hit .366/.400/.430 (.avg/.obp/.slg) with 38 runs, five doubles, two triples, ten RBI, seven walks and 16 stolen bases. Hatch registered a .387/.459/.581 with 25 runs, nine doubles, three triples, one home run, 19 RBI, eight walks and four stolen bases.
The team as a whole finished second in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage last year in the conference. Despite the numbers, the team was unable to grasp that hard-fought NEWMAC title that went to first seed Wellesley. “We worked hard last year and that will definitely roll over into this year,” said Hart.
The Lyons have used this disappointing NEWMAC finish to fuel their drive for their conference championship ambitions this season. “Our goals are the same as they have always been,” said Hart. “Make it as far as we can, win NEWMAC’s and hopefully bring some NCAA titles back to Wheaton.”
Wheaton will open up their home schedule against Bridgewater State University on March 17 at 3 p.m. Their first conference game will be at home against WPI on March 21 at 12 p.m. The 2015 NEWMAC Tournament will begin at the end of April and the Lyons plan to take one game at a time on the way there, not underestimating any of their opponents. “An opponent is an opponent, nothing more, nothing less,” said Hart. “Wheaton softball will play to our standard and work together for every win this year.”