Spring Grove still trying to replace Norton's bat
Spring Grove has struggled on offense this season following the graduation of Hayley Norton.
Spring Grove head coach Mark Hull never expected replacing Hayley Norton to be easy.
The former Rockets star, who has already become St. Francis University's top offensive player her freshman season, hit an incredible .627 with five home runs and 36 RBIs last year as a senior. But while Hull didn't think Spring Grove would get the same production from one player in 2016, he thought the Rockets had a number of girls who could collectively fill the void left by Norton's departure.
"There were about three or four girls I expected to step up and be better offensive players," Hull said.
But so far, the Rockets haven't been able to find their grove offensively and the result has been a 4-5 overall record. In nine games, Spring Grove is averaging less than four runs a contest and has scored two runs or less six times. Take away the 19 runs they scored against Northeastern on March 29, and the Rockets have just 16 runs in their other eight games.
Against Gettysburg on Tuesday however, the Rockets put up their second-best offensive performance of the season in a 5-3 win. While he said his players still have plenty of room for improvement, Hull hopes the game is a sign of good things to come.
"We were at a plateau, and this game propped us up a little bit and can hopefully take us higher," Hull said. "Maybe a game like this can turn us around."
What has been the biggest issues for Spring Grove at the plate? According to Hull, the Rockets have been struggling to both gain confidence and adjust to the style of pitching they've seen so far.
Hull explained that many of Spring Grove's players participate in travel softball in the offseason, where they typically face faster pitching than in high school. As a result, their timing has been off and they've started to doubt themselves.
"These girls are used to fast pitching and it’s very difficult to see girls who are good hitters struggle against pitching that is a little bit slower," Hull said. "I think we need confidence. We’re unsure of our approach right now."
Still, Hull said he hopes Tuesday's game is a sign the Rockets veterans are starting to reach their potential. Junior pitcher Julia Wivell hit an RBI double against the Warriors while sophomore Briana DiCandeloro drove in three runs with a double in the fourth.
The Rockets are also rebuilding with three freshmen (Bailey Rapson, Bryn Sporer, Hailey Kessinger) in the starting lineup. Although Hull said it will be tough for Spring Grove to catch Central York and Dallastown in the YAIAA Division I standings, he thinks the team's younger players are progressing nicely.
"We've got three starting freshmen, so it’s a struggle but they’re holding their own," Hull said. "We're struggling to get solid hits but this is the best I've seen the upperclassmen the past few games."
Wivell, who also pitched six-plus innings and struck out 13 batters against Gettysburg, agreed that the Rockets biggest focus the rest of the season will be improving their offense.
"(Hayley Norton's) hitting was a big part of everything we did last season and that's something we need to work on and pick up as much as possible," she said.