Staff Writer, Patrick Burns
During her 2017 softball season, Lauren Diuco improved in almost every category. Her average went up to .368, however with less hits because the Saints played less games compared to the 2016 season. One category that Diuco made a huge jump in was her stolen bases, as she improved from eight to 14, and she was never thrown out on an attempted stolen base. She hopes to improve that total for her junior year to 25 or 30 stolen bases.
“Personally, I want to steal 25 bases this season. Of course I want to steal more, but 25 is a good place to start. On our team, we have a higher chance at scoring runs if we are in scoring position.” She finished off the 2017 season by receiving First Team All-Conference honors.
Sabrina Hicks, an infielder out of Elk Grove, Calif., has proven to be one of the sources for offense in the Saints lineup. She will look to fill the holes left behind from All-Conference stars Mary Dettling and Jackie Schmaeling, who combined for 86 RBIs during the 2017 year. She is excited for the opportunity and knows the team will be successful. “Though we lost a big portion of our middle lineup, we have managed to make up for those that we lost. Our new style of hitting has proven to be very successful and there is not one player on our team who can’t crush the ball,” Hicks stated. There will also be more opportunity for her to shine because of the departure of the seniors from last year. Hicks, similar to Diuco, came on strong during her freshman season as a Saint. She played in 53 games while hitting .272. She also showed some power as she blasted three homeruns.
During the 2017 year, Hicks improved her power numbers as she was second on the team for doubles (11), second on the team for HRs (5), third on the team for RBIs (25), and her slugging percentage was third on the team as well (.515). She hopes to build upon these numbers in the 2018 season as she looks to be one of the top run producers in the Saints lineup. She is very excited for the 2018 and thinks that the new coaching staff will guide them to a strong season. “Our new identity is unlike anything that SMU Softball has experienced, especially my three years of being here. Our new coaching staff is the most knowledgeable and supporting group I have experienced in my 15 years of playing. Our team is the closest it’s ever been, on and off the field,” Hicks said.
Lauren Maley, a pitcher out of Ferndale, Wash. had a successful first year with the Saints as she was able to win six games, including her first start of her college career verses Cal State San Marcos. In that game, the Saints won 6-1 while Maley threw a complete game. Over the 2016 season, she was very strong for the Saints and had only one outlying performance that inflated her ERA. Overall, she was able to show that she was a mainstay in the rotation and could handle more innings.
The 2017 year was a year of improvement for Maley, as she was able to pitch 20 more innings than she did the prior year, while also lowering her ERA. She finished with seven wins, which was only one behind Kim Nelson for the team lead. Maley came on especially strong towards the end of the season as she compiled four complete games over the last month of the year. Also, in her last game pitched, she shined on the mound during a GNAC (Great Northwest Athletic Conference) Tournament game against Western Washington University. She came into the game during a sixth inning Viking rally and was able to get two outs to keep the game tied. She will look to build off this strong performance in the 2018 year as a top pitcher for the Saints.
Alyssa French, an outfielder out of Chino Hills, Calif., has been one of the more powerful players on the Saints as she has five career home runs in limited playing time. Her main position on the team would naturally be right field, however, that spot has been dominated the last four years by Dettling. Now that she is gone, the spot is open and French has a chance to take it. She showed last year her flashes of potential at the plate. During the last month of the season, French went on a streak of five games with at least one RBI. This included an offensive outburst against Central Washington University where she had a walk off grand slam in the 10th inning. She finished that game with two hits and five RBI.
This group of Saints have been together through two different GNAC Championships which both ended with the Saints on the outside looking in. However, the experience gained from those tournaments has made the team stronger and given these four very strong leadership skills. As a team that will be returning a good portion of starters the Saints looked primed to return to the GNAC Championships with something to prove.
The 2018 year will be a strong year for the Saints led by these juniors and they all believe they are good enough to reach their goals. “Our entire pitching staff has worked really hard in the offseason, working on the movement and location of our pitches…Consistency on the rubber has been a huge focus and we have really seen a growth in that area, and we are more than ready to compete for the top spots in our conference,” Maley had to say about preparing in the offseason and being ready for 2018. They have worked hard all year and it will pay off this season.