5-0 Start Earns CWU Softball Team of the Week
CWU second baseman Jill McDaniels launched three of the Wildcats' seven home runs in the team's impressive 5-0 burst to begin the 2014 season.
CWU second baseman Jill McDaniels launched three of the Wildcats' seven home runs in the team's impressive 5-0 burst to begin the 2014 season.

Monday, February 10, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. – When Mallory Holtman-Fletcher led her Central Washington University softball team through the gates of Majestic Park in Las Vegas last weekend, she knew she had a strong group and was confident they would open the season with a bang.

“After starting last season 0-5 down there we set it as a goal to turn that around and start 5-0,” Holtman-Fletcher said regarding last season’s disappointing debut performance.

Three days, five victories and around 20 hours of net travel later, her Wildcats are back in Ellensburg, Wash., after cruising through their competition at the Fifth-Annual Desert Stinger hosted by Montana State Billings. 

“We know we are a completely different team this year, and we just had to make sure the girls believed in themselves,” Holtman-Fletcher said.

Holtman-Fletcher’s squad received Great Northwest Athletic Conference Team of the Week honors, after putting up outstanding numbers in the victories. The Wildcats totaled seven home runs in the five games, three of which came off the bat of Jill McDaniels, CWU’s senior second baseman. 

“Jill was great, and she is just someone who you know is going to hit,” Holtman-Fletcher commented regarding McDaniels’ 6-for-16, 6-RBI effort on the weekend. “Offensively we came out strong whether it was taking the early lead or answering back when teams scored on us.”

From the circle, it was Kiana Wood who baffled opposing hitters throughout the Desert Stinger, striking out 20 batters in 24 2/3 innings while allowing just two runs and five walks. “Kiana stepped up with a complete game on Day 1 which really helped us set the tone,” Holtman-Fletcher commented on the performance of the newly-crowned Red Lion Pitcher of the Week. “She and Maria Gau were both incredible and got us where we needed to be for our offense to have a chance to put up runs.”

Alexa Olague was one of three Wildcats to collect multiple extra base hits on the weekend, as she doubled, homered and drove in three runs in eight at-bats. Another of the Wildcats’ home runs came off the bat of freshman Alyssa Egan, who launched a ball over the right field fence in her first-ever collegiate plate appearance. “Alyssa really stepped up and Kailyn Campbell is another intimidating offensive threat for us,” Holtman-Fletcher commented on the duo of freshmen.

Stellar defense was another key for CWU last weekend, as the Wildcats made just four errors in 152 chances for a fielding percentage of .974. “Both our defense and offense are the best we have had in a long time,” said Holtman-Fletcher regarding the team’s makeup. “We set a goal to have a fielding percentage of .980 and are challenging ourselves to compete for the best number in the nation.”

From a historic perspective, the 5-0 start to CWU’s 2014 softball season is the best the program has ever had, as the Wildcats have proven themselves worthy of their GNAC preseason coaches’ poll ranking of No. 2 in the conference. “We have told our players from the start to not be afraid to be great,” Holtman-Fletcher said regarding the lofty expectations. “They are confident but not cocky, and they have really bought into that mindset.”

CWU hits the road again next weekend to challenge Holy Names in Oakland in more nonconference action. In all, the Wildcats are set for six games in three days during the California road trip, taking on Dominican and The Academy of Art to close out their preseason schedule.

“We knew UC San Bernardino was a good team and that would be our biggest test, and winning that game was an emotional high for us,” Holtman-Fletcher said regarding the Wildcats’ 10-7 triumph on Day 2 of the tournament.

“The girls really trust that they can be great, and it’s all about doing it together as a team,” said Holtman-Fletcher. “We will keep working to get better, and we want to be peaking towards the end of the season.”