Lady Lions enjoy elevated play in 2013
Improved softball team looks to continue growth
2013 Team Review
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The difference between last year and this was like comparing chalk and cheese.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University fielded their first-ever women’s fast-pitch softball team in 2012. The Lady Lions’ inaugural campaign, predictably, had its share of rough roads in a 2-28.
In the words of the late Chicago journalist George Ade, the results looked like a street before they put on the asphalt.
Head Coach Tim Grant’s encore performance was much smoother, as SAGU’s 13-24 record indicated.
The team would have prospered more if not for three one-run setbacks, a questionable umpire’s call that caused an immediate forfeit, not to mention several critical injuries that crippled the roster down the stretch.
Two years in, Coach Grant’s shock-equipped, all-terrain leadership is paving the way for increased play against the tougher landscape in the Sooner Athletic Conference. He is building something good!
SAGU hiked its act in every way, starting with an improved offense. The team who scored only 43 runs in 30 games a year ago – 1.46 per game, rose to 166 runs in 37, or 4.49 this spring.
The Purple Pride upped their team batting average from last place in the Red River Athletic Conference at .197, to .312, well enough for a rise to fifth best.
Still, the young club strained to take advantage of its 8.16 hits per game. A lack of power, just five home runs, and steals (29), both total next to last in the league - contributed. Leaving multiple runners stranded on base was too common.
They did, however, tie for the top spot in the Red River with 15 triples, with nine different players dashing for three bags.
Defensively, Southwestern held their own. Aggressive outfielders snared memorable catches from an over-the-wall spectacular grab, to robbing enemy batters of would-be hits.
Athletic Director Jesse Godding said of the progress; “The team made the routine plays look routine. They worked hard and it showed on the field.”
The infield was very efficient for the first 17 games before losing their shortstop. Her absence also cost the team their leadoff hitter, lone base stealing threat, #1 scorer and top batter.
The impact? After netting 6.29 runs per contest in the opening 17 games, the Lions managed only 2.4 over their final 20 games. In twelve of those contests they mustered two runs or less. Understandably, SAGU finished 3-17 after a 10-7 start.
Perhaps what transpired in the circle revealed the most development.
SAGU’s first season earned run average was a whopping 10.73, which ranked No. 189 of 194 NAIA teams. This year witnessed four pitchers, three of them new, combine for a 7.05 ERA.
That headway saw the Lady Lions climb up in the national pitching rankings to No. 174. But there is plenty of work yet to be done.
One clear area of growth was in the number of opposing batters who received a free pass to first base (walks) contrasted to those who were retired on strikes by SAGU hurlers.
The Lady Lions walked 95 and struck out only 42 in the 2012 campaign.
This spring the ratio was drastically mended. SAGU walked 103, though they did pitch more innings (230 to 139 in 2012), while fanning 107. That translated from -53 to +4.
Room for Growth in the NCCAA
SAGU is a dual member in both the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) as well as the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA).
The Lady Lions’ 13-24 mark rated #39 of theNCCAA's 52 Division I teams. They range from the NAIA up to Division 2 of the NCAA.
SAGU’s .312 batting average ranked #7, though their pitching ERA was well below the Top 25.
Defensively, the team’s .939 fielding percentage was 24th.
The Lady Lions could have qualified for the 2013 NCCAA Central Regional Tournament by winning just two more games (15).
Central Baptist College (Ark) won the region, and then advanced to the 10-team field at nationals in Virginia. The Mustangs (37-14) were the No. 2 seed.
Union University (Tenn) won the championship, 4-1, over the No. 1 seed, Shorter University (Ga).
The No. 6 seeded Bulldogs (28-21) won seven of their final eight games. It was their fourth NCCAA crown.
The Hawks (48-11) won the NAIA national title in 2012.
About SAGU Softball
SAGU returns the core of the 2013 team and has bolstered higher hopes for the coming season with a solid recruiting class.
A seven-week fall camp commences in September, where returning veterans and new players will prepare for the coming season, which starts at the end of January.
Coach Grant looks to add depth to the line-up, fortify the pitching staff, and replace two seniors. That means the club is seeking their catcher and centerfielder in Heather Wyatt (Lake Jackson, Tx / Brazoswood HS) and Cassandra Mata (Crystal City, Tx / Crystal City HS), respectively.
The team plays home games at their campus ballfield adjacent to the Sheaffer Center. It will have a new scoreboard in left-centerfield.
SAGU will make the move to the Sooner Conference, which has 11-teams, this fall. The 2014 schedule has yet to be released.
Under Coach Grant the team foundation has been laid. Next comes the drive north towards .500 and beyond.
Note: A season review of player performances will be posted on Wednesday, June 12.
Photo of Cassandra Mata by Steve Patterson of Moving Pictures. To view and/or to purchase from hundreds of photographs taken at home games, visit: http://movingpictures.photoreflect.com/