May 21, 2013
Batted balls routinely found gaps and left the yard. Opposing hitters were frozen, left with the bat on their shoulder as the umpire sent them back to the dugout. Strong defense ruled the day. Even better, it all happened during the University of Nevada softball team's 2013 season.
The Wolf Pack was 30-23 overall and set or tied a number of the program's offensive records, including those for slugging and on-base percentage, and led the country in doubles per game. In Mountain West play, the Pack was 9-9 and finished tied for fourth, three spots higher than it was picked in the pre-season.
Nevada doubled 102 times, breaking the record set by the vaunted offense of 2008 despite playing nine less games. The rate of 1.92 per game made Nevada the national leader on a per-game basis. The Pack slugged .477, seven points better than the offense of 2009 and got on base at a clip of .399, 11 points better than the group in 2008. The Pack scored 10-or-more runs in nine games, winning all of them. In 23 games, the team in Navy scored at least six runs, going a spectacular 20-3 in those games. As a team, Nevada hit .311, one point shy of the best number for any Nevada lineup.
Six players drove in at least 30 runs, with three players doubling at least 15 times. The six players that had 30 RBI also each hit at least five home runs. The Pack scored 284 runs in 53 games or 5.36 per game for the 45th best number nationally.
Individually, Nevada junior and All-Mountain West performer Karley Hopkins set the single-season record for runs scored, crossing the plate 45 times. Erin Jones tied the previous record for doubles in a season, collecting two bases on 18 occasions.
These record-setting offensive performances helped Nevada win 30 games for the first time since 2009, but it wasn't solely about the bat in 2013. Defensively, Nevada set the school record for fielding percentage at .965. The Pack made only 52 errors, the fewest of any team in the program's history, with 1,063 putouts and 362 assists. Hopkins fielded .972 in 53 games at second base, while freshman Jasmine Jenkins, who was also All-Mountain West selection, fielded .961 in 46 games at third base.
In the circle, junior right-hander Karlyn Jones led the Pack in a number of pitching categories including; ERA at 3.45: wins at 17: appearances at 32: complete games at 19: shutouts at four: saves at two: innings pitched at 168.1: strikeouts at 134: batting average against at .264 and fewest batters hit at 2. Her shutouts came on March 9 and 10 vs. Rutgers, March 16 against Northern Colorado and March 23 against Santa Clara. Each of those games saw the Pack win via the eight-run rule, which the team did on seven occasions total. She allowed 1.08 walks per seven innings, the third best number in the history of the program and the 20th-best number in the country. She was 6th in the country in fewest hit batters at two.
Megan Dortch, a Reno native and transfer from Northern Illinois, bolstered the Nevada staff with 25 appearances, the second most on the team. She won 10 games, finished with a 4.03 ERA and pitched 123.1 innings, all good for second-best among Nevada pitchers this season.
Four players, Hopkins, Lauren Lastrapes, Sara Parsons and Megan Sweet, started every game for the Pack. Parsons led Nevada with 41 RBI. She was the first Nevada player to drive in 40 runs in a season since 2009, with her 41 good enough for third on the all-time single-season list. Eight of her RBI came on two swings early in the season. Even more remarkable, they came on back-to-back days on grand-slam home runs. On February 15 against Idaho State, at the Easton Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Parsons hit her first in the first inning. A day later, in a run-rule victory over Portland State, Parsons hit her second.
Senior Megan Fincher led the Pack with 10 home runs, including a bottom of the 12th, walk-off homer in Nevada's 5-4 win over Colorado State on April 14th.
Nevada's longest winning streak came between March 9 and March 23, when the Pack won eight consecutive games. Much like a number of other accomplishments, that number was most recently matched by the 2009 team. That group won 13 games in a row en route to a WAC Championship.
In conference play, the Pack took three games from New Mexico in Albuquerque and earned its first in-conference sweep since April 24-25, 2009 over Utah State. This season, the Pack outscored the Lobos 25-11 and piled up 32 hits, 10 of them of the extra-base variety. Nevada doubled eight times and homered twice, with both long balls coming from Erin Jones. The Pack also took two games from the second-place Colorado State Rams, including Fincher's walk off.
Sweet hit .321 with 14 doubles, one triple and six homers. She also walked 33 times, one shy of the Nevada single-season record. Sweet drove in 29 runs and slugged .531, collecting 86 total bases. As group, Harger, Weis and Wiltz combined to make 49 appearances with 11 starts. They drove in six runs and collected 10 hits, scoring 12 runs.
Caylin Campbell was one of the most dangerous bats in the Mountain West off the bench, going 9-for-20 with nine RBI in pinch-hit appearances this season. She had a double and one of Nevada's three triples, and received an all-conference nomination for her play pinch-hitting prowess.
In 2014, the Pack will compete with MW newcomers San Jose State and Utah State, giving the conference nine softball teams. The three-game series format, among other scheduling conventions, will remain the same. Each team will play its eight opponents home or away and will play a total of 24 games. Nevada's non-conference schedule is yet to be determined.