Dayton softball coach Cara LaPlaca has checked off one goal of turning the Flyers into regular participants in the six-team Atlantic 10 tournament.
Her next objective is to put an end to a history of early exits.
The sixth-seeded Flyers will play in the double-elimination event for the second time in three years when they face third-seeded Temple at 12:30 p.m. today at Massachusetts. The program is on the rise after failing to qualify for the league tourney from 2001-10 and posting a 1-8 record in four previous appearances.
“They just battled,” LaPlaca said of her players. “They kept believing and stayed patient with the whole process. It’s been fun to see them develop.”
The Flyers (22-22, 12-9 A-10) have several players with tourney experience and are percolating with confidence.
“It is pretty balanced,” LaPlaca said of the field. “In years past, we couldn’t necessarily see that. There were a few that had separated from the pack. But it’s kind of anyone’s year. It’s who’s playing the best ball this week.”
Pitcher Kayla English and designated-player Tiffany Ricks were named second-team all-conference Tuesday, while pitcher Emily Froment, a Twin Valley South grad, earned a spot on the all-rookie team.
English has 168 strikeouts, 15 short of UD’s single-season record, and is averaging 8.3 whiffs per seven innings. Ricks is second on the team with a .299 average overall and batted .404 with 27 RBIs in 21 conference games.
Froment leads the team and ranks fourth in the A-10 with a 2.25 ERA.
Although she didn’t earn all-league honors, catcher Kasi Vazquez led the Flyers with a .342 average and eight homers. She was named team MVP.
“Vasquez is our offensive leader,” LaPlaca said. “She’s patient (at the plate). She knows her zone. She’s a lot more disciplined than she has been in her previous two years. And other teams fear her. They’re afraid to pitch to her, so she draws a lot of walks.”
LaPlaca has options at pitcher, but English has been the team’s workhorse, and the sixth-year coach won’t hesitate to rely on her again.
“It’s go hard or go home,” she said. “There’s no limiting anyone at this point. You do whatever you can to win.”