Cal Poly softball has put up some impressive numbers this season: No. 21 in the nation, 18-1 at home, first in the Big West Conference, not to mention a Big West-leading .303 team batting average, .415 team slugging percentage and 1.72 team ERA. Here’s another number to ponder — 14.
The Mustangs have achieved all this while boasting a mere 14-player roster. Yet, head coach Jenny Condon sees it as a blessing in disguise.
“It benefits the players; there is a lot more one-on-one and individual (coaching) with each player; in the long run they will see these benefits,” she said.
There is no doubt that the players have seen those benefits on and off the field. The tight-knit squad uses its team chemistry to outlast its opponents.
“There aren’t a lot of us compared to most other schools,” Cal Poly first baseman Krysten Cary said during last Monday’s press conference, who leads the league in home runs (14) and slugging percentage (.664). “We have faith in each other; if one player gets hurt we know as a team we can succeed. That’s what we did all fall was build each other’s trust.”
It’s the upperclassmen that set the tone for the Mustangs. Sophomore left-hander Anna Cahn initially had trouble adjusting to the responsibility of being one of the two pitchers and throwing every other game, but has since learned to trust her teammates and herself, she said.
“It was a little worrisome, but once I let it go and realized that everyone had my back (I was fine),” said Cahn, who became Cal Poly’s single-season victories leader (25) and total innings leader (219.2). “I feel that everybody has really focused on ourselves a lot better and have not been focusing on the other dugout.”
Condon takes advantage of her team’s versatility by switching up the lineup and moving players around the field. This may translate into taking some extra fly balls or grounders, but it seems to be working.
“It has been nice to be able to not rely on one or two people and have really all 14 come up with the big play,” Condon said in the press conference.
But with a small team there is the potential to ruin team chemistry when there is dissension in the ranks, Condon said. But that hasn’t been the case.
“We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses; we know each other enough on a personal basis that we can pick each other up,” Cahn said.
Yet, with the top spot in the conference and top 25 in the nation, the Mustangs have a target on their backs, Condon said.
“It’s a great honor to get national recognition and finally be a top team,” she said in the press conference. Yet, it was a little easier to be the underdog because now they have a little more pressure on them, she added.
The Mustangs control their own destiny and can win the Big West Conference championship with a sweep at UC Riverside this weekend.
“We have the potential to go to Oklahoma City … This is the most special team I have ever coached,” Condon said.