By Daniel Johnson, Staff Writer
With a Wednesday-afternoon loss to third-seeded Mercer and a Thursday-evening defeat to fifth- seeded Western Carolina in the Southern Conference (SoCon) Tournament, the softball season came to an early and abrupt conclusion last week.
Though UNC-Greensboro’s team did not match last year’s impressive win total with 31, the team finished the season with a 25-22 record, making it their third straight season with a winning record. The last time this act of consistency was accomplished by a Spartan softball team was in 1994.
Away from team accomplishments to individual performances, the dynamic duo of junior sisters— catcher and designated player Lindsay Thomas and first baseman and pitcher Nicole Thomas— were voted to the All-Mideast Region Second Team by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
Nicole Thomas, who was projected in the coaches preseason poll to make the Southern Conference First Team, put up numbers that earned her a position on the team as a utility member. She finished the season topping the conference with a .483 On-Base Percentage, tied for second with 11 home runs, and sixth in total bases with 92.
While Nicole Thomas’ bat carried the lineup of UNCG, Lindsay Thomas’ arm on the mound led a thin Spartan rotation this season. Lindsay, the conference’s preseason player of the year, finished the season giving up the fewest hits by a starting pitcher with 126, second in walks allowed (39), and third in total earned runs allowed with 63. Lindsay’s strong regular season spearheaded her second straight SoCon first team.
While the Thomas sisters earned their preseason titles with their performances this past regular season, the team was certainly not a two-trick pony. Alicia Bazonski was a nice addition to the club, as the freshman from Massachusetts finished seventh in the conference in earned run average (3.68), opposing batting average (.285) and wins (11) as well as sixth in earned runs allowed (73), hits allowed (99), and walks allowed (51).
Another notable individual at the plate was junior third baseman, Danielle Vega. Vega, who was named to the All-Conference second team, finished tied for fourth in the conference with twelve doubles and ninth with 56 total hits.
The individual performances of the softball team illustrates the strong talent of the Spartans, but their record tells a conflicting story. After finishing runner-up in last year’s SoCon tournament to Chattanooga, and losing only three seniors, the team, with a nice balance of veterans and young prospects, went into the season as the preseason-projected third best team— behind Chattanooga and Mercer. Despite these high expectations, the team finished their season in the SoCon with a below average 7-10 record, placing them next to last in the conference standings.
For five of their seven wins, UNCG did come on late down the stretch of the final two weeks of the season, winning five of their final six conference matches against the last place Moccasins of East Tennessee State and Furman Bulldogs. Prior to that, the team was swept by both Chattanooga on the road and Samford at UNCG Softball Stadium. With a total record of 25-22, the Spartans still finished below most of the pack in the conference, finishing next to last in conference play.
Looking ahead to next winter, the Spartan team has the potential to get back to their elite status in the conference and make a SoCon championship run like in 2014. Next season, the Spartans will be featuring six seniors on their roster, luckily only losing the low number of two seniors to graduation. For the future of the program, there are three freshmen to look out for who displayed strong years in their first season of collegiate softball.
Throughout the season, shortstop Gabrielle Cubbage started 29 games during the season with a .293 on-base percentage. Outfielder Alexis Overdip had a batting average of .281. Lastly, redshirt Freshman outfielder Sidney Grkman, though starting the least amount of game out of the three, had a better slugging percentage at .364 and on-base percentage at .385. Grkman also tied for most runs batted in for a non-starter at 14.
A year from now, the team will need these freshmen, along with a talented veteran crop to lead Janelle Breneman’s squad come the 2015-16 year.