Softball surges to fast start in spite of inexperience

When a young team is projected to finish last in its conference, the squad normally isn’t supposed to start off the season with a highly successful road trip.

Apparently the Gannon University softball team didn’t get the memo.

The Knights capped an 11-game trip to Clermont, Fla., with an 8-3 record. Gannon’s success in the Sunshine State came as a surprise to some, including coach Tom Jakubowski.

“We’re a very young team,” said Jakubowski, who is in his third season at the helm of the Knights. “There’s not a single senior on the roster and we haven’t been very fortunate with injuries, but our whole team really responded to the challenge.”

Faced with the loss of redshirt junior second baseman and outfielder Chastity Guerrero, who has missed two seasons due to injury, and a plethora of other ailments, the Knights came out of the gates swinging.

Freshman catcher Katie Dunn, who led the Knights with a .417 batting average over the 11-game trip, said the experience brought the whole team together.

“It was really awesome,” said Dunn, who leads the team in doubles and hits. “We were really close to begin with, but we took it to another level.”

Dunn was named PSAC softball player of the week after starting the season with slugging and on-base percentages better than .475.

Meanwhile, sophomore pitcher Megan Dragon was named PSAC softball pitcher of the week by going 5-1 with a 2.10 ERA during the week.

Gannon will have to wait to play in its home state, as the team will travel to Salem, Va., for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Challenge starting Friday.

Katie Dunn said she’s looking forward to the upcoming trip to Virginia.

“It’s another chance to just go outside and play together,” Dunn said. “Coach says, ‘Be 22 strong.’ No one on the team is threatening; everyone has everyone else’s back.”

After returning from the PSAC-WVIAC Challenge, Gannon will finally have a chance to play on its home turf, hosting Mercyhurst College at Gannon University Field at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to kick off conference play.

Although the Knights will have to contend with a tough PSAC schedule, Jakubowski said that he believes that the team can succeed.

“We want to take a playoff spot,” Jakubowski said. “The important thing for us is the little things. If we can stay healthy and play defense, we can surprise a lot of people.”

After the last-place prediction, Dunn said that she relishes the opportunity to  shock the naysayers.

“I love it,” Dunn said. “There’s nothing better than being the underdog and proving everybody wrong. If we go out and execute our game, there’s nothing [opponents] can do to stop us.”

ALEX BIELER

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