Season in Review: Future Bright for CofC Softball
CHARLESTON, S.C. – With the 2016 season now in the rearview mirror, the College of Charleston softball team can now look forward to a bright future with the solid building blocks that have been laid this season.
The Cougars end the season with a record of 35-23, the eighth most wins in the program’s 23-year history. Those 35 wins are also the second most in head coach, Linda Kalafatis’ tenure at the College of Charleston.
“It was an exciting season, with a lot of downs, and even more ups,” head coach Linda Kalafatis said “We played a lot of top teams, including four that are playing in the NCAA tournament, and for us to have the record we did, I think that speaks volumes about where this program is headed.”
It has been a year of milestones for Charleston, as Kalafatis picked up her 900th career win on April 24, with a 3-2 victory over Towson. Her career record now stands at 907-543-2 through 27 seasons as a head coach. Through three seasons at The College, Kalafatis has a record of 99-68, five wins shy of the third highest total for a coach at CofC.
But the coaches are not the ones on the field tossing strikes, fielding balls, and hitting pitches; the players handle that, and the Cougars were certainly impressive on the field in 2016.
Charleston put together one of the finest defensive seasons in program history, setting team records for highest fielding percentage (.974) which was also the 12th highest mark in the NCAA. They also recorded the fewest errors, (42), as well as setting top-10 marks in most double plays (20), and most putouts (1169). Chandler Frisbie, Kashmir Huckaby, and Jordin Jones each entered the record book with perfect 1.000 fielding percentages with at least 40 chances.
“I’ve never had a team that was as efficient defensively as this season, and I think that is a testament to how hard these girls worked, especially when you consider how many new people we had this season,” Kalafatis said.
The Cougar’s pitching staff also proved to be a strength, as the rotation of Samantha Martin, Sydney Shipley and Valerie Cassell showed how important it is to have multiple people who can step on to the mound and make big pitches. Martin lead the group with 164.2 innings pitched, and 114 strikeouts, while Shipley didn’t trail her by much, tossing 132.2 innings and allowing an opponent batting average of only .245. Cassell made 31 appearances, all in relief, and struck out nearly one batter per inning, with 60 strikeouts in 70.2 innings of work.
“I really think we had one of the better rotations in the conference,” pitching coach Ashley Chastain said “It’s a great feeling when you have two starters that you feel confident in, and another pitcher in [Cassell] that can come in and carry the load if we need her to.”
Offensively, senior Rebecca Mueller and sophomore Taylor DuPree made a few record book appearances, as they both put together top-10 performances in batting average. Mueller recorded 66 hits, tied for the 10th most in program history, and recorded the eighth highest batting average (.369). She was second on the team only to DuPree, who recorded 73 hits, tied for the third most in a single season at CofC, and a .378 batting average, the fifth highest total in a season. Sophomore Sara Garcia drew 34 walks in 2016, good for the 33rd most in the NCAA, and the second most by any Cougar in CofC history. Taylor Dupree also set the CofC record for the most stolen bases in a season (27-30), breaking her own record that she set in 2015.
As a team, they had the sixth highest team batting average (.286), the fourth highest on-base percentage (.373), the third highest walk total at 199, and the fourth most doubles with 80.
“We had a solid year offensively because a lot of people stepped up when we needed them too,” Kalafatis said. “We our-hit a lot our opponents in a lot of the games we played, but we didn’t always bring them home. I think we showed how good we can be, and it’s just about being more consistent with runners on base.”
Award Winning Cougars
The Cougars earned numerous honors for their efforts on the field, with a total of seven student-athletes picking up All-CAA honors. Taylor DuPree, Rebecca Mueller, Valerie Cassell, and Samantha Martin each earned All-CAA Second Team honors, while freshmen Kelly Sinclair and Madison Brown earned spots on the CAA All-Freshman team. Senior Chandler Frisbie also brought home an CAA All-Academic team spot.
Charleston’s student-athletes also picked up a number of weekly honors this season. Freshman Kelly Sinclair won CAA Rookie of the Week twice, Samantha Martin won CAA Pitcher of the Week twice, Valerie Cassell won CAA Player of the Week once, and Madison Brown picked up a CAA Rookie of the Week honor as well.
The Cougars had some memorable moments on the field as well. They defeated then ranked No. 10 Georgia, 2-1, on March 11. That was Charleston’s third ever win against a ranked program, and the second time in the past three seasons. The Cougars also swept a tough Virginia Tech team on March 9, and came within one run of defeating No. 7 ranked James Madison on April 9. In total, CofC faced 10 teams that ended the season in the top-75 in the NCAA’s RPI standings, ending the season at No. 58, and as the second highest in the CAA.
The Cougars put together two separate six-game winning streaks during the season, but found themselves in a precarious situation in the Colonial Athletic Association standings, being as low as seventh place in the CAA near the end of the season. Fortunately, they won nine of their last 10 games heading into the conference tournament, including sweeps of conference rivals Hoftstra and Drexel, to secure a post-season berth and the No. 3 seed.
Their 2016 CAA tournament berth was their second since joining the conference for the 2014 season, and the Cougars made a deep run at the title. After a tough, 7-3, loss to No. 2 seeded Towson in the first game of the tournament; the Cougars won their first elimination game in spectacular fashion. CofC took No. 4 seeded Elon to 13 innings before winning, 3-2, on a walk-off RBI double from Sara Garcia at 1:24 a.m. The College then took down No.5 seeded Delaware, 6-4, putting them one win away from the CAA Championship game. Unfortunately, they once again fell to Towson, this time 12-1.
Looking Towards the Future
Charleston loses four key members of their team to graduation this season in seniors Rebecca Mueller, Valerie Cassell, Carly Hansis, and Chandler Frisbie. Those losses will be tough, but the Cougars have signed six student-athletes to help alleviate those losses, as well as add to an already talented roster. Those players include:
Summer Jenkins - Pitcher - Summerville, S.C.
Taylor Belfiore – Catcher/First Base - Summerville, S.C.
Isabella Berouty - Pitcher/First Base – Redondo Beach, Calif.
Dexlie Inman – Shortstop – Union, S.C.
Lexee Emanuel – Catcher/Utility – Stockbridge, Ga.
Yari Felix – Second Base/Outfield – Santa Ana, Calif.
With the six new additions, The College’s roster expands to 21 student athletes; and with a full compliment of coaches returning as well, the prospects for the 2017 season are promising.
“I feel confident that we will pick up [next season] right where we left off.” Kalafatis said “We are going to have to find a way to replace the production from our seniors but if you’re a good team, you find a way to do that, and we believe that we are a good team.”