Holy Cross Softball: An Uphill Swing

Tony Alfonso ‘24

Staff Writer

Holy Cross Softball Courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics

 Before last year, softball at Holy Cross had been a floundering program. Back in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic was in full swing and everything was as big of a mess as it had ever been, many of the women on the team were left to wonder who would be their head coach. Who would be the person plugged into the head coaching gap, so that they could begin practicing for the miniscule 2020 schedule? Though they would have preferred the surprise of falling upon a really great coach, desperation made them desire anything. As expected, in the midst of disorganization, the Crusaders only won 2 out of their 11 games. They were a tick above the Mendoza line (.201 Avg.), and they pitched to the tune of a putrid 7.14 earned run average with the only glimmer of success being on the field where they finished third in the Patriot League.    

      The 2021 season went a little bit better for the Crusaders on the pitching side of things. The Crusader’s staff pitched to a tune of a 2.92 ERA with the re-emergence of Kelly Nelsen, who logged a total of 106.2 innings at an ERA of 1.84 after struggling in the previous season. She was aided by freshman Megan Yurchick, who pitched to a promising 3.52. Unfortunately, the defense took a nosedive and finished sixth in the Patriot League, and the bats were still as bad as they had been the year before.  But despite the understandable miseries of the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the women’s softball team was reinvigorated with life in 2022 under new head coach Kimberly Stiles. 

      “Pitching, offense, and defense.” The three obvious focal points to a good softball team, and the three things that coach Stiles stressed when taking the job. In 2022, a successful season for coach Stiles was finishing top four in the Patriot League in those three categories. It seemed like a laughable goal after the Crusader’s 2020 and 2021 campaigns, especially considering their recent hitting performances over the two years, but somehow the team found a way to wake up the bats a little bit. Sophomore Jessica Mott was one of the best hitters in the Patriot League finishing top ten in batting average, on base percentage, hits, and OPS—on base plus slugging. Megan Yurchick and Claire McCann also made solid contributions to a lineup that finished third in the Patriot League. The pitching continued where it left off, finishing second in the Patriot League with Kelly Nelson and Megan Yurchick once again leading the charge. The one bugaboo, and the one facet that prevented the Crusaders from reaching coach Stiles goal in 2022, was the defense, which once again finished sixth. But all in all it was a great first campaign for coach Stiles and the re-energized Crusaders as they completed the season with a record of 21-29, which was their first season of 20 or more wins in over two decades. 

          Even so, the 2022 season left a lot of room for improvement. They still finished the season under .500 and didn’t reach their goal of leading the Patriot League in all three major categories. This year, they have started 5-14. That may seem underwhelming, but they also have only played against tough outer conference teams so far this season. Despite this, the Crusaders have had some notable bright spots so far this season. Megan Yurchick has held sturdy against stiffer competition with an ERA just in the fours, the Crusaders fielding has improved from last year and they now rank third in the Patriot League, and the Crusaders offense impressively ranks fourth in the Patriot League, which can only improve as they start to play more in-conference games. What is even more exciting is that 19 games into the season is that the two players anchoring that offensive load have been freshmen—shortstop Anna Brait and outfielder Ali Sniegecki. Though two players can’t win you everything, especially in a sport that is so team oriented, their four years of eligibility allow coach Stiles a good amount of time to recruit around them and start to build a more successful softball program, the likes of which have never been seen on the hill.

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