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University of Tampa softball team stands one victory from tying a school record for consecutive wins.
By DAVID NORRIE,Times correspondent
Published March 15, 2007
After a rocky 5-10 start to the season, the University of Tampa softball team (14-10, 4-2) stands one victory from tying a school record for consecutive wins.
Not since May of 2005 had the Spartans been over .500, but a 7-1 win over Salem International on Friday put that streak to rest as the team improved to 11-10. The win was the sixth in a current nine-game win streak, a stretch that includes four victories over ranked opponents.
Should UT come out on top against Hillsdale College on Friday, earning a 10th win, it will tie a school record set by the 2002 squad.
Coach Leslie Kanter feels the team has been playing well all season but simply ended up on the wrong side of some close games to start the season. A win over No. 2 Florida Southern and a three-game sweep of No. 16 Barry in back-to-back series boosted the team's confidence, she added, but something else helps explain the team's good fortune of late.
"Our chemistry is great now," Kanter said. "It hasn't been this good in a couple of years. We're having a great time and of course when you're winning, the little things don't seem to bother you as much."
That chemistry is not limited to athletes. Kanter heaps praise on pitching coach Jaci Davis and her relationship with the pitching staff as a big reason for the Spartans' success. Now in her third year with Tampa, the former four-time all-Trans-America Athletic Conference pitcher (Georgia State) has built a well-rounded rotation that boasts two of the Sunshine State Conference's top 10 pitchers in earned run average and strikeouts.
Senior Devlin Dougherty, freshman Heather VanLandingham and junior transfer Krystal Crooks each have an ERA under 2.00 with VanLandingham (1.34) and Crooks (1.83) ranking sixth and seventh in the SSC. Dougherty is not far behind with a 1.99 ERA and ranks eighth in the conference in strikeouts (63); VanLandingham is seventh (69).
"I think having Jaci here to help with the recruiting and instruction has been a big help," Kanter said. "She can really look at a pitcher and see what they are doing wrong almost immediately, the way I can look at a fielder and tell. She just seems to have a real eye for it."
Kanter thinks it may be the best staff she has had at UT in her 13 seasons. Each of the three pitchers possess a different dominating pitch, whether it be a curve, change up or drop ball, and that, she said, helps keep opponents off balance in back-to-back games.
That kind of depth and diversity will come in handy this weekend as UT plays five games in two days at the Florida Southern Invitational in Lakeland. Tampa faces Hillsdale College and Bryant University at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Friday, then plays Saturday against Florida Tech at 11 a.m. and West Chester at 1 p.m. before locking up with host Florida Southern at 5 p.m.
BASEBALL: Tampa's baseball team will be in Lakeland as well this weekend, taking on the Moccasins in a three-game series.
The matchup has developed into a heated rivalry not only because of proximity but due to the fact the series has typically been a precursor to the South Region Tournament.
The Spartans have faced off against FSC 39 times in South Region play and hold a 20-19 advantage. In their last meeting, Tampa took an 8-3 win in the second round of the 2006 South Region Tournament en route to a national championship.
That win avenged a 10-7 loss in the South Region championship game the previous year in which the Moccasins won a national title.
This is the season's first meeting between No. 3 Tampa (21-4, 2-1) and No. 4 Florida Southern (20-3).