Hofstra's softball team finds itself in an unusual position as the season winds down: not being the favorite to win the Colonial Athletic Association title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Hofstra is 22-10, but 5-4 in the CAA. For a team with nine NCAA bids in the last 11 years, that was troublesome. The Pride was swept by CAA leader JMU (31-13, 9-3) in the first weekend of conference play but is in recovery mode, winning four of its last five in the CAA.
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"Not only was it upsetting, it was startling," catcher Erin Trippi said of the JMU sweep. "It was kind of like a shock. I think as a team we're pretty strong, we have the ability to overcome things and we're looking forward to seeing [JMU] again."
The tournament likely will be held at JMU.
"We had a bad weekend at JMU, it was unchartered waters for us," coach Bill Edwards said. "It showed our vulnerability. Once JMU took three from us, the other teams said `JMU can beat them three, we can beat them.' It might have put some doubt in our players' minds."
At Hofstra, this is the era after Olivia Galati -- the all-American pitcher who brought the team to the brink of its first Women's College World Series. Top starter and Army transfer Morgan Lashley (12-4, 1.93) and Taylor Pirone (10-4, 1.33) have pitched well.
Trippi said anyone following Galati would be "put in a position that's almost unattainable to what 'Livie' has accomplished. Mentally, that's got to be extremely rough on pitchers and to know the legacy the pitcher before you left, it's got to be really hard. Morgan has a different mindset and she's not trying to be Olivia Galati, she's trying to be Morgan Lashley, I think she's handling it well. As a team we've just got to help her out."
Lashley doesn't consider herself as following in Galati's footsteps.
"I just think of it as a new team, new year," she said. "Every team is different every single year. I'm just going to pitch how I pitch and not try to be something I'm not."
Edwards has no problems with his pitching staff. The issue has been a lack of timely hitting and some errors.
"We are leading the conference in hitting and on-base percentage and last in runs scored," Edwards said, pointing to 240 runners left on base. "And every error that we've made has created a fire that the other team has put gasoline on."
Trippi, hitting .323 with 22 runs batted in, believes the hitting can be corrected.
"I think a lot of it has to do with our mental approaches," Trippi said. "Knowing what we're doing going up to the plate and sticking to our game plan, not trying to do too much. Everyone's trying with one at-bat to get three runs. It doesn't work like that."
With six conference games remaining, there is time for a turnaround.
"The light at the end of the tunnel is not a train coming at us," Edwards said. "I really believe, honestly, that eventually we're going to figure it out. Eventually find the heartbeat or personality of our team. I'm still optimistic about this team, I know we can give JMU a run. I know we can give College of Charleston a run. We're just going to have to put it all together which I think we can do. I think everyone in our conference is waiting for the real Hofstra to appear."
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