By Hayley Heath
& Samantha Small
The Virginia Wesleyan College women’s softball team is taking its success to a new level this year, ranking fourth in the country and boasting a 32-5 record. With their rank being the highest in the school’s history, the Marlins look to continue their momentum as the postseason nears Coach Brandon Elliott affords the team’s success to its new, looser playing style. Both freshmen and veteran players are hoisting the team to new heights.
“Our freshman, they’ve done a really good job of understanding that this is a top-ten program and we’re gonna make the best decision we can on playing time to be most successful. It’s about ‘team’ and it’s about just preparing to do your job, whatever your job is,” Elliott said.
First-year pitcher Kandis Kresinske threw her second individual no-hitter in a 4-0 win over Emory & Henry College in game two of the team’s eighth annual Strike Out Cancer event. The Marlins run-ruled the Wasps in an 8-0 victory in game one of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) doubleheader.
Kresinske earned her third ODAC Pitcher of the Week honor of the year Monday, April 11.
“Our pitching staff as a whole has been lights out every game they’ve pitched and they’ve kept us in a lot of ball games we’ve struggled in,” Elliott said. “Mary and Kandis have, I would say, if anybody’s been catalyst, the most consistent and doing their jobs every day, it’s been those two.”
Veteran outfielder Courtney Bogan said the team’s success is largely due to the freshman’s energy.
“[Kresinske] is always cheering for her teammates even when she is not playing and has so much belief within each and every one of us,” Bogan said. “She is a big role within our program with keeping us positive and energized and her presence on the field makes us all more positive and excited to play.”
Offensively, the team came together at different points in the year to ensure its success.
Bogan broke an ODAC and VWC record for stolen bases in a season previously held by current Marlin senior Kayla Malkos. Thanks to Bogan, the record number of steals in a season, once set at 52 in 2014, is now climbing past 60.
“We haven’t all hit well at the same time and we haven’t all stunk at the same time,” Elliott said. “Early in the year, the top lot of the line-up was lighting the world on fire.”
Impact players such as Cassetty Howerin, Blake Henderson and Liz Bailey also carried offensive production.
“Howerin can change game in one swing. But with that being said, teams are figuring that out and they are pitching around her, so Blake Henderson made that hurt,” Elliott said.
Virginia Wesleyan Women’s Softball is known as a competitive, top-notch program. Elliott said the key to the continuation of success is two-fold.
“I think the the number one thing is maintaining this kind of the culture in the program– being competitive, staying together and developing players,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate, obviously, to get some very talented players to decide that Virginia Wesleyan is where they wanted to be.”
“I tell them, ‘You know you put that uniform on you’re the best team on the field and you should expect to win,’” Elliott said.
The players said they recognize Elliott’s philosophy as means to make them the best they can be.
“Our coach does a great job motivating us to get better every single day and to be the top team that everyone wants to beat,” Bogan said.
Practices this year look slightly different from years past, according to Elliott. “I think adding a little bit more rest in practice and rest days, backing off on some things, has kept us a little healthier then we have in the past,” he said.
Even still, the team faced setbacks due to injuries. Kayla Malkos, a team leader and All-Region second baseman, was forced to sit the bench this season due to
“I feel like this year’s been a huge challenge for us because we’ve had a lot more injuries. Losing Kayla Malkos was huge for us,” Elliott said. “It’s your senior year. You’re injured. You’re out for the year. Your career is over. It’s very easy to pout. It’s very easy to feel sorry for yourself. Instead, she’s been a great leader and a great coach for us.”
At this point in the season, with just two games left to play before playoffs begin, Marlins softball sits in a good position. The team only lost one game in the ODAC to rival Randolph-Macon College. The Marlins swept local state school and crosstown rival Christopher Newport University as well as Lynchburg College.
Any one who has attended a game this season mights have noticed a new face on the coaching staff. Coach Kasey Oliver is the team’s new assistant coach. She works with the Marlin infielders.
“The big key there is we have a female coach on staff that played women’s college softball, and there’s a relationship there I think that the kids can really lean on,” Elliott said, “She has a different voice and she’s really done a good job as a young coach.”
The lady Marlins said they cannot help but look forward to a strong finish
“Our team goals this year consist of winning the ODAC tournament and hopefully hosting a regional tournament here at home,” Bogan said.
“I expect to win. I think if you set your expectation lower than that, then you’re not Marlins Softball,” sophomore relief pitcher Alanna Peters said.