Blackburn softball off to record start

Blackburn College softball coach, Paula Cummings, was quoted earlier in the year that the defense and pitching would be the strongest aspect of the team, and the offense would hopefully come around as the season went.

After out-scoring their opponents 102-41, it’s safe to say the offense has done more than that. Leading the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in hits, home runs, runs, RBI’s, and slugging percentage, the Blackburn College softball team has jumped out with a 9-2 record which is the best start in school history.

“Our offense has really exploded,” Cummings said, and even that might be an understatement. Blackburn has found a spot on the NCAA leader-board with their offensive success. The Beavers are currently the second best team in the nation in terms of home runs per game (1.28), while they lead the nation in runs per game with 10.57 and in slugging percentage (.653).

Several players have also found spots among the nation’s best. Lauren Rhodes has posted a .538 batting average good enough for third place while returning St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player of the year Briana Markel and her seven home runs have her tied for sixth.

That is impressive itself, but what really stands out is the Beavers have been stuck in the gym for all but one practice. With winter dragging on into late March, the team has been forced to practice indoors which can really limit what a team does.

“They have done a really good job transferring what I’ve been teaching them onto the field,” Cummings said. “That’s the greatest feeling as a coach,” added Cummings. Offense has not been the sole reason Blackburn is enjoying such a successful season, the pitching staff has been great as well. “Our pitchers are doing a great job keeping the ball down. And when we keep the ball down we’re fine. We’ve only been beaten on balls left up in the zone,” Cummings noted. In eleven games, Amber Byrley leads a pitching staff that has only allowed nine walks while maintaining a team ERA of only 3.08.

Team hasn’t even been playing their best ball
“We’ve definitely made our errors in the field. But there’s only so much you can do inside. We can’t simulate hitting a cutoff or really have our outfielders stretch their arms out and making game-like throws. We still have the ability to play better and we will.”

At this pace, Blackburn is in position to make the conference tournament for the third straight year and contend for their first SLIAC title in school history. The Beavers are set to open up conference play on April 1 as they will host Principia. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.