By Alexa Ard
To prepare for its second year in the Mountain West Conference, Nevada softball coaches decided to switch things up.
Fall 2012 consisted of practices and individual training, but this past fall, the goal was to have the players find that love of the game again.
“The coaches kind of took away softball from us,” said Nevada junior Megan Dortch.
Instead, the Wolf Pack focused mostly on strength and conditioning during the fall of 2013.
“When it came time to play it was like we all hadn’t been together in a while on the field,” Dortch said. “I think that’s really helped us in the sense that now it’s like that passion and excitement is back.”
The passion may be back, but Pack head coach Matt Meuchel admitted that the team is a bit banged up after losing players due to injuries. The team is currently missing a key player in senior Karley Hopkins after she suffered an injury during the Grand Canyon Tournament in Phoenix, Ariz.
As a result, other players have had to step up and fill positions that they aren’t used to playing.
However, prior to Hopkins’ absence, the team’s chemistry was flowing. It dominated in its first two tournaments with four out of five wins in each weekend. Now the Wolf Pack is struggling to notch a couple wins out of the five-game tournaments. Dortch thinks that the team will start clicking again once it adjusts to how the infield and offense is set and realizes that every player is capable of contributing.
Sophomore Amanda Weis is one player in particular who’s done more than stepped up. She’s had significant performances for Nevada. On Feb. 15, her stats broke school records in a 20-10 win against BYU at the Easton Desert Classic in Las Vegas.
Weis went 4-for-5 at the plate with four runs scored, seven RBI, 14 total bases and three home runs in the game.
The previous record for home runs in a game was two, set by 14 players. Candice Rainwater had set the record for total bases with 10 in 2006. Weis tied the school record for home runs in a game with her four home runs, and also broke the Mountain West record for total bases and tied the league’s record for home runs in a game.
“You’re always excited when somebody has that break-out part of the season,” Meuchel said. “Last year she didn’t necessarily get the shot she would’ve liked to. There’s no question she’s had some big hits for us in big situations and in big games.”
Weis said the support from her teammates has helped her game the most.
“It gives me a lot of confidence to know they have my back no matter what the outcome is,” Weis said.
Despite solid performances from Dortch and Weis, the team still saw two straight losses on Thursday to UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State. Meuchel described both teams as high-quality opponents. However, he also added that Nevada is trying to find a way to get out of its slump.
Dortch believes things will start “clicking” again by the time conference play starts on March 21. Weis said this team is determined to do just that.
“We don’t take failure lightly,” Weis said. “We want to win at all times. So we’re going to do whatever it takes to get that win. So even if we do lose, we’re going to make sure whatever mistakes we made in that loss are going to be fixed so we can win the next one.”
The Wolf Pack will compete on its home turf for the first time this season in the Nevada Classic on March 7-9 and March 12.
Alexa Ard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.