The Stetson softball team recently completed its four-week fall season that included full team practices and four exhibiton games against local junior colleges.
With a roster 16 student-athletes deep including seven newcomers to the sqaud, head coach Frank Griffin had several opportunities to look at a variety of different line-ups and defensive combinations.
"I saw some young talent, and it looks they're going to be able to produce some runs for us," Griffin said. "We have more depth this year than we have had recently. The girls are very energetic, they work hard in practice and they stay focused on what they are working on."
The Hatters were impressive in their fall competitions, outscoring their opponents 59-10 over the four extended games. Splitting time in the circle were junior Meredith Owen, redshirt sophomore Taylor Cochran, and sophomore Courtney Brandt.
"I thought the pitchers did very well," Griffin said. "Considering the amount of time we had to practice I thought their control and poise was where it should be for this time of year. They pitched themselves out of a lot tough situations, like bases loaded or second and third. It's always good to be in those situations in the fall to see how they responded and I thought they responded very well."
Stetson also responded well at the plate, scoring in several different innings each game and hitting a total of seven home runs during the fall. Senior Jordan Cleghorn hit one of those home runs - a grand slam against Lake-Sumter State College.
"Of my four years being here, I think this is by far the strongest I have seen our hitting," Cleghorn said. "We have so much depth on our team that there is no weak spot in the lineup. The newcomers have really stepped up and adjusted to college ball so far. They are going to be a huge part in the success of this team."
Several of the freshmen made strong first impressions, including Morgan Hatch who hit two home runs, Brittany Hawn who had a pair of triples and scored 10 runs, and Jessica Griffin who went 10-for-20 with eight RBI.
"I thought the hitters did an outstanding job," Frank Griffin said. "Of course we didn't face great pitching until the last day, but we still had several players hit over .400, and some over .500 for the fall season."
Other offensive standouts included junior Chrissy Morello who led the team with 13 hits and Brandt who homered twice against Daytona State.
Owen thinks the potent offense could make things more comfortable for the pitchers.
"I feel like the pitchers can breathe a little bit because we have so many people who we can depend on to hit," Owen said. "I think overall our pitchers did really well, but we still have a few things we need to work on. The newcomers did a fantastic job this fall, but we all need to keep working to prepare for the better competition we will see in the spring."
With team practice over, the Hatters will continue their strength and conditioning and small group workouts over the final few weeks of the semester. Griffin emphasized the importance of the players coming back in game-ready condition when practice resumes in January.
"They have been working really hard in the weight room and conditioning, and my biggest concern is that they just continue to do that over the break," Griffin said. "We don't want to start over in January when they get back."
Even though the start of the season is still three months away, the Hatters have concluded fall practice with high expectations for the spring.
"I am extremely excited about our spring season and I think we have a real chance at going above and beyond a conference championship," Cleghorn said.
The spring schedule will be announced later this month.