By Brandon Cruz
The 1935 Chicago Cubs must have given the University of Nevada’s softball team a few pointers in regard to winning on a consistent basis. Nevada’s streak now stands at 11 straight, with its most recent dominating performance at the Santa Clara tournament. Throughout the team’s impressive 11-game run, Nevada has outscored its opponents by a margin of 2-to-1.
With the Wolf Pack’s extraordinary start to the season at 13-2, it’s hard to believe that at this time last year, Nevada held a lowly record of 3-12. As reported by the Forbes article “6 Ways Successful Teams Are Built to Last,” the key to building a successful team is great leadership, knowing the team members and being aware of the work it’s producing. This is true in all walks of life, especially in sports. Sophomore pitcher Chase Redington attributes a great deal of the team’s success to senior Megan Sweet.
“A big part of that is the back of Megan Sweet,” Redington said. “She has a bulldog mentality, gets her stuff done, doesn’t let anyone slack off, doesn’t take anything from anyone and leads by example.”
While Sweet’s leadership has helped the team stay on track, senior Amanda Weis believes there’s another factor to which the team should credit its achievements. According to Weis, Nevada’s early success is due in large part to its “team chemistry being off the charts” along with “everyone understanding their roles.” The Forbes article hit the nail on the head when describing what it takes to build a successful program, as both Redington’s and Weis’ statements follow the guidelines.
Although Redington and Weis describe leadership and team chemistry as the main reasons the team has made so much progress in such a short amount of time, one could attribute the team’s success to its level of efficiency this season. Stats don’t lie, and from a batter standpoint, the team has improved tremendously. Over the course of 15 games in the ’14-’15 season, the team averaged a measly 3.6 runs per game. Throughout the first 15 games in its ’15-’16 campaign the team has averaged a whopping 5.4 runs per game. Along with more runs there have also been more runs batted in — 1.8 — than the previous season. Runs batted in means that the player who scored did so off a teammate’s hit. In addition to Nevada’s RBI being on the rise, its strikeouts are at an all-time low. Just a season ago the team couldn’t hit a ball if it were lofted, averaging 6.3 strikeouts a game. Today Nevada is primed and dangerous, hitting every ball in its path, as the team has averaged a remarkably low 4.2 strikeouts a game. The offensive unit is producing runs and RBIs at a staggering rate while minimizing its strikeouts. The team’s efficiency appears ceilingless as it continues to progress in the right direction.
Even though the team is making enormous strides on the offensive side, championship-caliber teams require a strong defense as well. This starts with the pitcher. More times than not, if a pitcher is struggling, the defense struggles too. This was often the case last season, as the pitchers continued to make blunders. During the first 15 games of last season, the team averaged 5.5 base on balls a game. A base on ball occurs when the pitcher pitches the ball four times outside the strike zone. Once the damage is done, the batter is allowed a walk and gets to mosey on over to first base. The team has cut down on mistakes this season when it comes to BBs, allowing just 3.4 a game. Nevada has also limited its mistakes in relation to the wild pitches category. In the event of a wild pitch, the pitcher throws a ball that can’t be handled by the catcher. This usually results in a base runner advancing. During this time in 2015, the team was averaging about one wild pitch a game. This season Nevada has remedied its mistakes and has only thrown four over the course of 15 games. Furthermore, the pitchers of the team, McKenna Isenberg, Chase Redington and Amanda Geil, have struck out players more often than they had a year ago. By the pitchers decreasing the amount of mistakes they make, they’ve allowed their defense the chance to make plays and win games.
In brief, there is no single reason to a team’s prosperity. Success is a mix of many things such as leadership, team chemistry and efficiency. To continue this superb run, the team must understand what has spurred it. Coach Meuchel believes Nevada’s run has the ability to continue if the team keeps “working every day to improve on the things they need to improve on” as well as “continuing to play with intensity and competing in every game.” Meuchel understands that no streak can last forever, but the Wolf Pack’s softball team looks like a freight train that has no intentions of slowing down anytime soon.
Brandon Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.