The Eckerd College softball program has never had a lot of success as a team, but after a getting off to a fast start, the Tritons are looking to have their best season ever.
“Our team goal for this season is to achieve a .500 winning percentage,” said head coach Josh Beauregard. “It would be the first time in the history of the softball program.”
So far so good for the Tritons, who are off to a 6-4 start. They started off the season on Feb. 2 by sweeping a double header at Ave Maria University by scores of 8-0 and 9-2. They were lead by Whitney Bernier and Kara Oberer, who earned Sunshine State Conference Pitcher and Player of the Week, respectively.
Bernier picked up the win in both contests, pitching a combined nine innings while allowing no runs on three hits, two walks and striking out two. Meanwhile, Oberer, a freshman shortstop, fueled the offense by going 5-7 with a double and three home runs while driving in seven runs and scoring four times.
After that, Eckerd split a double header at home against Southeastern University on Feb. 5, winning the first game 7-3 but then losing the second one 3-1. Then, on Feb. 8-10, they hosted the Eckerd College Invitational, in Clearwater, playing two games all three days of the tournament.
Eckerd started out well, beating Georgia College 6-5 before downing Colorado Christian College 7-5 in 11 innings. On the second day of the tournament, Eckerd lost their first game against #10 Columbus State University 12-1, but then bounced back nicely to defeat Palm Beach Atlantic University 4-2. Eckerd didn’t fare as well in the last day of the Invitational, falling to both Lindenwood University and Lynn University by scores of 12-4 and 5-4.
According to Beauregard, “The keys to success for our team offensively will be to limit strike outs and get timely hits, pitching needs to limit walks, and defense needs to limit the mental mistakes.” He also says that the team must be able to overcome the struggles the program has had in the past to become the team he knows they can be.
Look for breakout seasons from Bernier and Kristen Schurr. Bernier has been the starting pitcher for Eckerd in five games so far, and has also come in as a relief pitcher in two additional games. She has a 4-2 record to go along with a 1.99 ERA, having allowed 11 earned runs in 38.2 innings pitched. Schurr, a senior third baseman, has started all 10 games and has picked up 10 hits in 29 at-bats for a .345 batting average. She has also doubled twice, walked three times and driven in nine runs while playing solid defense.
The team also has a talented freshman class this season, led by Oberer and Kaycie Duncan. Oberer is 10-26, a .385 batting average, while leading the team with three home runs, nine walks and 10 RBI. Duncan, an outfielder, is 11-31, giving her a .355 batting average. She has also doubled twice, walked five times and picked up three RBI.
Eckerd starts conference play on March 1 and 2, with a three-game series at home against Florida Southern College. Look for the Tritons to stay competitive in games against tough Sunshine State Conference opponents, and hopefully pick up the program’s first winning season.