The Loyola softball team kicked off its season with a 3-2 start after hosting its annual Rambler Rumble tournament this past weekend.
It was a good showing offensively by the Ramblers. They hit a combined .391, led by senior outfielder Jessica Shields, who hit at a .556 clip.
In the circle, pitcher Madison Veres had a 1.84 earned run average (ERA) and she held opposing hitters to a .161 batting average in 14.2 innings. Veres was the only one of the four who played last year, but the other three — sophomores Sydney Ruggles and Bri Clifton, and first-year Dani Brown — also saw some action.
“They did a really good job of owning who they are and starting to grow into how they throw pitches and how that’s going to look facing opposing teams,” said Loyola head coach Alicia Abbott.
Senior outfielder Shannon McGee said she wasn’t happy with the two losses even though the team walked away with three wins. The Ramblers committed nine errors over the five games, but McGee said it wasn’t the errors that caused them to drop the games. Instead, she said the team lacked energy.
“Nothing against those teams that we lost to, they played great,” McGee said. “But those two games we lost we didn’t show up 100 percent of the time.”
Last year, the team swept all five teams at the Rambler Rumble, including Butler Univeristy and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Three of the five games were shutouts.
Although Abbott wasn’t the coach at the time, last year the team started off 5-0, but later fizzled out. She’s using this tournament as a gauge for the rest of the season.
The four first-years on the team also had the chance to show off their skills. Although infielder Hailey Crabtree was the only one to tally a hit, the three non-pitchers had a total of seven at-bats.
Infielder Amelia Thomas said she was excited to kick off her collegiate career with a 3-2 record. Although she only had four at-bats — including a strike out — she had much to take away from the weekend.
“There were a couple times where we left a lot of runners on base,” Thomas said. “We talked about not trying to do too much, but just settling down and doing your job.”
Although two of the games were runaways, Loyola’s two losses and the win against Butler were decided by two runs.
“One of the highlights of our weekend was [the players] never waved out,” Abbott said. “Our girls fought hard, even when their backs were against the wall or we were down runs.”
Miami University was the only team Loyola faced that’s projected to perform well. The RedHawks won their first Mid-American Conference Championship last year and are expected to finish at the top again this year. Horizon League members IUPUI and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay were picked to finish sixth and eighth, respectively, out of nine teams.
University of Nebraska at Omaha was selected to finish last of seven teams in the Summit League Preseason Poll after finishing 4-43 last season. Butler was picked seventh out of eight in the Big East Conference preseason poll after finishing 16-32 last season.
Ultimately, the Ramblers tallied wins against Omaha, Butler and IUPUI.
“When we’re playing these teams and we’re putting the gas pedal down and we’re not bringing our foot up,” McGee said. “This team doesn’t want to quit against anybody.”
The Ramblers are next scheduled to head to Huntsville, Texas to play in the Bearkat Classic Feb. 14-16 where they will face off against three teams: George Mason University, Houston Baptist University and Sam Houston State University.