Ravens welcome HCAC pressure

Thu, 2012-05-03 07:55 -- univcomm
May 3, 2012

The statistics are gaudy, and the conference record is spotless.

But instead of entering this weekend’s Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference softball tournament overconfident, the Anderson University Ravens recognize that there is still more work to do.

“It puts a target on our back,” said senior pitcher Monica Crowe of AU’s 16-0 HCAC record. “But we don’t have any cockiness. We know that any team can be beat.”

softballCrowe has a 16-2 record with a 2.01 earned run average and 108 strikeouts in 114.2 innings.

“We’ve had a target on our backs all year,” said AU assistant coach Justin Bates. “This isn’t new. We’ve taken everybody’s best shot all season. There is big pressure in being 16-0.”

[Photo: Stephanie Atkins rounds the bases after hitting a home run against Franklin earlier this season.]

As conference champs, the Ravens will be the host school for the tournament, which is scheduled to be contested over Friday and Saturday this week.

Friday at 10 a.m., Bluffton (11-5 in the HCAC) will tangle with Transylvania (10-6).

Following that game, Anderson will face Manchester (8-8).

“We’ve beaten those other three teams,” said Bates. “But of those six games, only one was a (10-run rule) game. The other five were decided by three runs or less.”

Despite impressive numbers like a 2.66 ERA and a .355 batting average (15th in NCAA Division III), the one figure that really jumps off the stat sheet is the 36 home runs AU has hit in 37 games.

That .97 home runs per game average is fifth in Division III. Nine Ravens have hit two or more home runs.

Junior shortstop Natalie Moorehouse has a team-high eight homers with a .511 batting average. Junior Megan Ream is next with seven. Freshman Yardley Collett follows with six, and Stephanie Atkins has five.

“You look at our team and we have a lot of little players who look like they would bunt and slap,” said Atkins, the team’s senior catcher. “But they have a lot of strength. We work all the time on being line drive hitters. But sometimes those line drives go over the fence.”

“We had our top 15 players back from a year ago,” said Bates. “We thought this team would have a good chance to break the school record (39) in home runs.”

Collett, from Shenandoah, was a bit surprised to find herself batting in the cleanup spot in the order.

“I knew it meant I had to produce,” she said. “It meant a lot to me that the coach had that confidence in me.”

Highland graduate Katie Lee, despite her two home runs, is the leadoff hitter who is expected to get on base and help make sure many of those home runs aren’t solo shots.

“Me and Amy (Wuestefeld) are supposed to get on base,” said Lee, who is hitting .477 (29th best in Division III). “It’s pretty lethal when we get on base.”

The Ravens are quite comfortable playing at their home diamond.

“We’ve won 19 out of our last 20 games at home,” said Bates. “Our team is tailored to our diamond. Our fences are 190 to 195 feet.”

The coziness of Raven Field doesn’t seem to adversely affect the AU pitchers.

Crowe and Devin Moorman have pitched all but 49 of the team’s innings.

“The drop ball is my out pitch,” said Moorman, who has a 3.16 ERA. “So I need to have confidence in my defense. I don’t pitch for strikeouts (44 in 79.2 innings). I don’t have those stats. My teammates have played well behind me all year.”

The team’s fielding percentage is .964, 36th best in Division III.

But if the team gives her a cushion, Moorman still pitches the same way.

“I’ve never been about personal stats,” she said. “I just want the team to win, and I always try to pitch the same way no matter what the score.”

Atkins appreciates the opportunity ahead.

“This is the first time in four years we’ve hosted this tournament,” she said. “We want to take advantage of it.”

The four seniors, Atkins, Crowe, Kelly Rusterholz, and Megan Kruse, will be unable to walk through AU’s graduation ceremonies Saturday due to the timing of the tournament.

“I am the only one in my family to graduate from college,” said Atkins. “But I have the support of my whole family. I think they are happy to see me play in this tournament, too.”

This is a double-elimination tournament.

The losing teams from the first two games Friday will play at 2 p.m. that same day with the loser being out of the tourney.

Friday’s first two game winners will play at 4 p.m.

Play continues Saturday with games slated for 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and possibly 3 p.m.

— Rick Teverbaugh is sports editor for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.