With four wins at the Madeira Beach Invitational Feb. 24, the Loyola softball team improved to 10-0 on the season and continues to surprise with its hot start — the best in program history.
Preseason projections had the Ramblers finishing last in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) this season, due to a lack of experience and depth. The opponents Loyola has faced thus far have not been as tough as the MVC teams are anticipated to be, but the hot start is still encouraging to third-year head coach Jeff Tylka.
“This season we’re looking to make a real improvement for the program,” said Tylka. “And that’s [going to] come from taking it game by game and day by day and just having greater mental focus and strength, and this fast start I believe is the fruits of that labor.”
First-year outfielder Shannon McGee with a .394 batting average and eight RBI and sophomore first baseman Katie Kasubke, with a .333 batting average and 12 RBI are leading an offense full of hot bats. The Ramblers have been scoring runs at a solid clip of 5.7 runs per contest, but the pitching staff of sophomores Kiley Jones and Keenan Dolezal have carried the load so far, according to Tylka.
“Our two pitchers are leading the way for us right now,” Tylka said. “Obviously you need offense and need to score runs to win the game, but they’ve built on their performances really well through the games we’ve played and they’ve buckled down and thrown some great innings.”
Starting pitcher Kiley Jones (1-0, 3.86 ERA, 10 k’s) mentioned this early success and how they believe they can sustain it going forward.
“We need to keep this momentum we’ve built going, especially into conference play,” said Jones. “These tournaments have helped us realize what kind of team we can be and have put us in a good position for the conference season.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to head to Montgomery, Alabama for a doubleheader against North Carolina A&T and Alabama State University.