Photo by Kennesaw Athletics / Story by Bradey King
The game of softball can seem extremely complicated if you think too much about it. There are thousands of coaches across the country with different strategies, styles, rules and techniques. Some detailed and complex, others simple and to the point. The Kennesaw State Owls have learned that keeping things simple, in their swing or game strategy, works in their favor.
In his first year at the helm, head coach Pete D’Amour led his team to a record breaking 2017 season. The Owls finished with a 40-20 overall record and their first postseason appearance since transitioning to the Division I level in 2006. A few additional accolades included earning a program-best No. 47 national RPI ranking and having a NCAA Division I-record seven individuals earn ASUN Conference postseason honors.
“We’re doing things at Kennesaw that they’ve never done at D1 here, but we don’t talk about that stuff, we just go and play one game at a time and let everybody else talk about it,” said D’Amour.
Last year the team lost a heartbreaker in the Final Four round at the 2017 Postseason NISC (produced by Triple Crown Sports). Prior to falling to Lamar University 5-4 in that game, Kennesaw went 3-0 to capture the NISC Region 5 title playing against other accomplished DI competition. They continued on to shut out Weber State, advancing them to the semifinals.
“The NISC gave us invaluable experience last year; we were actually playing for something instead of our season just being over. It springboarded us into this year, because we played some tough, close games in the tournament and it kind of taught us how to win, and how to stay in games and how to win big games. It was a good experience for us,” said D’Amour.
D’Amour’s second season at Kennesaw has been even more impressive. His team is standing at the very top of the Atlantic Sun Conference with an overall record of 32-14 and a 10-2 record in conference. The team returned six starters and welcomed eleven newcomers to the roster.
One of the key returners is redshirt sophomore pitcher, Alley Cutting. In 2017, Cutting was named the ASUN Conference Freshman of the Year for her consistent dominating performance in the circle. Cutting threw over 200 innings and put up an impressive 2.19 ERA. She also led her team to that 3-0 stretch in the NISC.
“The experience of that tournament (NISC) was actually very eye-opening. It made me and my team realize that we can compete with some really decent teams out there,” said Cutting.
Kennesaw graduated the ASUN Conference Player of the Year in Courtney Sutter, who was behind the plate for Cutting all of last season. Losing her catcher could have easily affected Cutting’s groove but she hasn’t skipped a beat in 2018. In mid-April she threw two gems to beat Florida Gulf Coast University twice on FGCU’s home turf for the first time in program history. Cutting posted shutouts in both games, allowing a total of just nine hits and tallying 15 strikeouts. She enters the last few games of the regular season with an outstanding 1.74 ERA.
“Coming in this year we were a little apprehensive about the catching staff, but Lexi Solorzano has been great behind the plate and she and I have built a really good connection this season. I have a lot of confidence in her so I’m capable of throwing the pitches I need to, when I need to,” added Cutting.
Cutting continually credited her teammates for backing her up defensively and with the bats. Juniors Kira Czyrklis and Maddie Roth had a big weekend against FGCU. Czyrklis tallied five hits and a home run in the series as Roth crushed two homers of her own. In addition, sophomore Olivia Tamewitz has been a tough out all year long, leading her team with an incredible .400 batting average.
Although the pitcher-catcher duo has seen some changes in 2018, the rest of the squad hasn’t changed much. D’Amour mentioned that the girls have no drama off the field and on the field they rely on solid pitching and defense to win them games.
“Nothing really changes with us, we don’t look ahead too much or at the standings or at any of that kind of stuff. Our pitching and defense will keep us in games and we’ll just try to score three or four runs and see what happens,” said D’Amour.