Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle U Softball Trending Upwards as Regular Season Closes

Sean Alexander

Seattle University Softball sits at 20-29 (12-11 in conference) with the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Tournament looming. Three games to go, sitting in fifth place in the WAC, the Redhawks are once again a contender in the conference. 

After winning the tournament in 2019 and 2021, finishing as runners-up in 2023 and posting a winning record in the past four seasons, the Redhawks will finally finish with a sub-.500 record in 2024. And with the extreme roster turnover this team underwent in the last 12 months, including the replacement of multiple starters, nothing has been earned easily this season.

As foreboding as this all may seem during a playoff push, head coach Geoff Hirai suggested it’s all part of the plan. Hirai’s philosophy is that his team should be either winning or learning. To that end, Hirai said the team is “learning a lot” this year from playing stiff, non-conference competition. 

“We want to peak at the right time, peaking at the WAC Tournament,” Hirai said. “We’re very talented… If we were playing now in the pre-season, we’d have an above-.500 team.”

Indeed the Redhawks would face some tests in their non-conference slate, traveling to play teams like No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 6 Oklahoma State early in the year. Seattle U would lose those two matchups by a combined score of 12-1, as Hirai admitted he may have “bit off more than [he] could chew” when putting the schedule together. But it was in some losses against solid non-conference foes that the team gained some crucial confidence, according to Senior infielder Lily Garcia.

Garcia pointed to a game against the University of Washington April 8, one the Redhawks lost 3-0, as a moment where Redhawks felt they could compete with anybody. Against the No. 9 team in the nation, Garcia believed Seattle U communicated clearly and competed at a high level that night. While the loss didn’t impact the team’s conference record, Garcia suggested it’s always about the WAC for the Redhawks.

“We always knew that [non-conference games were] just to get us ready for conference,” Garcia said. “Since we’ve done it this whole season, just consistently competing, it kind of makes it easier for us to… do what we need to do instead of letting the moment get too big.”

On top of playing some of the best teams in the nation, Hirai recalled having to coach players mid-game on routine plays that he wanted to touch on during practices. Due to constant rain, many team practices in the short 30-day window before the season were abridged and turned into indoor hitting practices. As such, some of the early games of the season doubled as practices where the team would learn how to play together.

The only difference being that their win-loss record was on the line now.

But something as simple as getting an opportunity to play in crucial moments was a major factor in developing this 2024 squad. Senior outfielder Sydney Frankenberger is leading the team in hits and transferred from Cal Poly before last season. As Frankenberger finishes up her final collegiate softball season, she claimed re-discovering her love for softball after transferring has been instrumental in impacting winning at Seattle U.

In three seasons at Cal Poly, Frankenberger totaled just over 200 at-bats. In her second season with the Redhawks, that number is already up to 320.

“For [the team] to believe in you, you can believe in yourself,” Frankenberger said. “The biggest thing is having confidence… I finally feel confident in myself again.”

As the weather has cleared up throughout the spring and the team has gotten familiar with their roles, some new additions have been able to shine in new positions as well. Tennessee transfer and Junior pitcher Nicola Simpson is leading the team in earned run average (ERA) while Freshman pitcher Avari Morris has been solid in relief, with a team-high two saves on the year. Loyola Marymount transfer and Sophomore infielder Taylor Fitch has been the team’s most consistent hitter, batting .377 after hitting .291 last season at her previous school.

Despite the heavy roster turnover and limited player availability, the Redhawks appear confident in their progress during a rockier-than-usual 2024 season.

“There’s no doubt in mind that this team has a championship mentality, it’s just now we got to go get it done,” Hirai said. “We’re just trending in the right way.”

Frankenberger believes that Seattle U’s consistent postseason experience will play a key role in their performances in the tournament.

“When it comes to the tournament, everything we learned comes out,” Frankenberger said. “I believe we have what it takes to make it back to the WAC championship game and win it.”

Coming off a series loss to Tarleton State April 26-27 and a 5-3 loss to No. 7 Stanford April 29, Seattle U will close out their season with a three-game series at UT Arlington May 3-4. Those three contests will be huge in deciding seeding, as they currently trail Utah Valley and Utah Tech by half a game. If Seattle U can move into third or fourth place in the conference, they would avoid having to play in the single-elimination opening round of the WAC Tournament May 8-11, which will be hosted at Seattle U’s Logan Field this year.

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Qasim Ali, Sports & Opinion Editor

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