After a 17-game winning-streak to open 2017, Virginia Wesleyan suffered its first loss on Sunday in the first game of a twin-bill with Christopher Newport. The Marlins were the last team to hold the number one spot in the NFCA weekly rankings before Texas-Tyler took it's stranglehold on the top of the heap last May. VWU received a first-place vote in this weeks poll, and are currently ranked third.
Leading the way for the Marlins has been freshman Hanna Hull, who has dominated from the circle.
[credit] Virginia Wesleyan hurler Hanna Hull (Virginia Wesleyan Athletics)[/credit]
Hull has wasted no time making her presence known, as the freshman from Chesterfield, Virginia is the reigning two-time national pitcher of the week. After a 4-0 no-hit shutout of William Peace she added honors as this week's Old Dominion Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week to her trophy case. Hull faced just one batter over the minimum as she plowed through the first 19 batters before surrendering a walk with one out in the seventh inning. She struck out 15 batters for the game, marking her third double figure strikeout game of the season.
Hull added another double-digit strikeout game to that total during the 4-3 extra innings loss to Christopher Newport, fanning 12. All four runs were unearned, coming on five hits with one walk as she went the distance for a second time. Hull got her win over CNU in game two, shutting the door on 2.2 scoreless and hitless frames in a 10-8 victory for VWC – she walked three and struck out three.
For the season, Hull leads the ODAC in wins (8-1), earned run average (0.27), innings pitched (52.0), strikeouts (90), and shutouts (4). Opponents are batting just .126 against her.
At the plate the Marlin offense is hitting at a .379 clip – currently the 10th ranked team average in all of D3. They are led by Kiersten Richardson, Cassetty Howerin, Liz Bailey, Beth Ford, Blake Henderson, and Amanda Archer who are all hitting over .400.
— VWC Athletics (@vwc_marlins) March 10, 2017
Howerin is one of the top hitters in the nation, batting .490 this season with six home runs and 25 RBI through 18 games. She has also scored 23 runs and swiped eight bases. She is currently tied for fourth in all of D3 in home runs and fifth in RBI. She was recently chosen for the 2017 Schutt Sports/NFCA Division III National Player of the Year watch list.
As a staff, the Marlin hurlers currently possess a 0.88 team ERA led by Hull and classmate Courtney Wright. Hull has not allowed an earned run over the past 26 innings and is second in the nation with 90 strikeouts on the year. Wright has appeared in 10 games with a 6-0 record and a 1.48 ERA. Also contributing from the circle is junior Alana Peters with a 2-0 record and 34 strikeouts – a 14.88 k/7inn clip.
Head coach Brandon Elliot credits top-to-bottom contributions as the key to the Marlin's early success.
"This team is different than any team we have ever had." said Elliot. "We have received considerable contributions from every player on our roster. In fact, every player on our active roster has started a game aside from one who is injured. If you look deeper into it, 15 players have started four or more games and every pitcher has a win. It has been incredible how these women have bought into a "team" concept and truly embrace the roll they have each given day."
None of the Marlin success has come as a surprise to Elliot, "we have extremely high expectations for our players every year. We truly expect our players to be perfect in every aspect of the game. I know that goes against the grain in our society but our staff believes that if you are 7 out of 10 player and I expect you to be a 7, you will always be a seven. However, if you are a 7 player and we hold you to the standards of a 9 then maybe you play like a 7.5 or even an 8."
But the angle is clearly working for the Marlins, "Its a different level of thinking sometimes and adds a lot of pressure." adds Elliot, "with that said, we try to get every ounce of talent from each kid. This team has accepted that challenge, although difficult, and because of it no one has really "surprised" us per say, but they have just bought in and done their job. So in essence, they are all surprising people because collectively they are all simply doing their individual jobs to their ability."
If the Marlins continue to play at the level they have, look to see them taking the field well after many teams have packed up and left for summer break.