By Barron Demons
The Pensacola State College (PSC) softball team is determined to make a statement this year to prove they belong with the best.
The Pirates ended last season with an overall record of 22-23 which results in a .489 winning percentage. The Pirates are putting last year behind them and look to improve this season.
Third year Head Coach Lyndsey Angus, who played for the University of Kentucky Wildcats and the National Pro Fastpitch League, spoke highly of her group of players.
“This is the first year we’ve been fully rostered, have the depth in pitching and added power to our lineup,” said Angus. “So I think this is the first time we’ve been hitting on all cylinders.” Angus chose not to dwell on last year’s season saying that “addressing last year isn’t what we have talked about. It’s moving forward with this team and the expectations are high.”
This off-season, the Pirates had the opportunity to travel to Baton Rouge and compete with two Division-1 schools in LSU and McNeese State.
“We were so excited and a little anxious but once we got settled in, we played very well,” said Angus. “In those two games, we learned that we didn’t have to be afraid. They were the same age as us. We’ve been playing as long as they have and we competed.”
The Pirates jumped-out to a 3-0 lead against LSU, but the Tigers stormed back and scored six runs in the third inning. LSU eventually scored three more runs and defeated the Pirates 9-4. Nevertheless, the Pirates were able to compete with two of the top Division-1 softball teams in the nation.
Angus and her softball staff also recruited two international players in Sophomore Danielle de Ruiter and Freshman Sadie Rusteika. Ruiter and Rusteika are both from Canada and gave their reason on why they chose to play in the United States.
“It’s way less competitive in Canada,” said Rusteika. “We also don’t play in high school. . . it’s more of summer travel teams.” Rusteika’s hometown is Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada and she attended Holy Rosary High School. Her position consist of a utility player and will look to use her talents to compete at PSC.
“Being challenged is the reason why I came down. I didn’t want to go to a Canadian school because I wouldn’t feel as challenged,” said Ruiter.
Ruiter was a part of the team last season and hails from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. In her first season with the Pirates, she had 37 total hits, 23 RBIs and a .259 batting average— proving to have what it takes to compete in the United States. She will look to continue where she left off and finish her sophomore year strong.
Angus and her team will also look to improve their conference record as they went 4-16 last season.
Chipola College out of Marianna, Florida, competed in the 2016 NJCAA Softball Championship making the Panhandle Conference a lot more competitive. However, the Pirates are ready to take on their opponents and are determined to prove they belong with the best.
“I think talentwise we are getting there to go toe-to-toe with those teams. I think we have the talent and the team to compete,” said Angus. “I think the biggest key is getting the talent to be able to do it and that’s where we’re at. Hopefully, we’ll take a big step forward, just like when we went to LSU, to know that when we show up, we can compete with everybody.”
The Pirates hosted a three-team tournament and swept their competitors.
PSC welcomed Florence-Darlington Technical College (FDTC) and Roane State Community College (RSCC) and the Pirates cruised to victory.
To kickoff the tournament, the Pirates defeated FDTC 6-0 lead by Jensen Strickland. Strickland performed doubleduty as she pitched a complete game with five strikeouts and also contributed three hits and one RBI on the night.
The Pirates faced RSCC in their next game and secured a 10-1 victory over the Raiders.
Savannah Foster dominated the game striking out eight batters and allowing only one hit. Natalie Sorensen, Brittney Rayfield, Danielle de Ruiter, Kaeleen Koehler and Lia Johnson all contributed with hits and Foster secured her first win of the season.
Facing FDTC for the second time, the Pirates blew-out their opponents 21-0 behind 10 runs in the fourth inning.
Kaleen Koehler saw the mound for the Pirates and overpowered FDTC. She pitched an astonishing no-hitter and secured her first win of the season. Her performance was backed up by a great night from Madison Marshall and Kayla Leibman.
Marshall hit 2 homeruns on the night one being a 3-run homer and Leibman connected on a grand slam in the fourth inning.
Ending the tournament, the Pirates beat RSCC 4-1 with a defensive spark in the seventh inning.
Ruiter, Marshall and Shelby Thornsberry each had two hits and the Pirates ended the game with Sorensen throwing out a runner at the plate. The Pirates went undefeated in the tournament and improved to 6-3 on the season.