Purdue softball is well into its nonconference season with a 2-16 record. Though the team has a struggling record, the Boilers’ play suggests otherwise. They have played ranked teams close, including a 6-2 loss to No. 8 LSU (19-2) and a 5-3 loss two weekends ago to No. 23 Kentucky (15-3). But what has caused the Boilers to play so well against highly ranked competition and the other opponents on their schedule? Let’s take a look at what has been good for the team so far — and what has not.
In 18 games, head coach Boo De Oliveira has sent five different pitchers to the mound, giving the opposing team a variety of styles to combat from the plate. Junior Kaitlynn Moody and freshman Sydney Bates have led the charge with at least seven starts each and dealing out a combined 83 strikeouts in 100 innings pitched. The duo also has a combined opponent batting average of .275. Freshman pitcher Giana Lopez has also registered for herself a pair of starts and proved that she can be useful in games down the road, according to De Oliveira.
Bad: Offensive Timeliness
As a whole, the team has put 109 balls into play while sending 10 balls out of the park. Good, right? Kind of. The Boilers may have had the bats going in both wins and losses, but it’s the time at which they are getting the good hits that is taking a toll on the team’s success.
“We need to hit more with runners in scoring position,” De Oliveira said. “Yeah, our hitting is getting better and our offense is getting better; we just need more timely hitting.”
What De Oliveira means is that too many times, the team leaves players on base when they have the opportunity to score. Purdue has left 121 players on base so far this season, which is 121 more runs the team could have.
One-third of the team’s 24-player roster consists of freshmen, all of whom have made an impact on the team. The class is hitting a combined .200 batting average and have 24 of the team’s 109 hits, with freshman outfielder Ryleigh Scott leading the class — and team — with 20. The class has combined for 37 starts in 82 total appearances. As the season progresses, the depth that this team has will work in its favor.
Bad: Game-time Execution
In practice, De Oliveira prepares the team for as many in-game situations as she can, but what the players have encountered in practice differs from what they see from opponents in games.
“We need to execute more when the pressure is on,” said De Oliveira. “Defensively, we need to make the routine plays and make some of the ESPN plays that are bonus. I’m proud of how the team is playing; the execution just needs to happen more when the pressure is on.”
Sometimes it can be hard to shake the game-day jitters, but other times the play just flows easily. De Oliviera hopes that what has been conducted in practice can translate to the upcoming conference season, as they have been preparing for it for more than just this year.
With it, the conference season will bring plenty of obstacles in No. 22 Michigan, formerly ranked Minnesota, and a Nebraska team just outside the top-25 looking in.
Between now and then, the Boilers have two more weekends to prepare for what conference brings. For De Oliveira and the team, preparation will revolve around improving the bad and perfecting the good, giving this team its own tune.