Spring training has been a phrase synonymous with Major League Baseball for over a century. Teams flee to warmer climates before the start of the regular season so that players can compete for roster spots and get extra practice.
Lately, colleges and universities have adopted a similar practice by taking spring break training trips. Franciscan University of Steubenville is no exception. Four Franciscan teams, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s tennis and softball, hit the road March 7-11 for a week’s worth of practice, games and team bonding.
For the past seven years, the Lady Barons softball team has traveled to Clermont, Florida, for its spring break training trips. However, this year, the team decided to train in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, cutting a 15-hour drive down to just 10 hours.
The Lady Barons finished off the week with a 0-8 record with the closest contests being two separate 7-3 losses against Summit University of Pennsylvania on Monday and State University of New York at Canton on Wednesday.
“The more we play, the better we’ll get,” said Head Coach James Walker.
Sophomore shortstop Lindsey Finch had the best offensive performance on the week, going 8-of-18 at the plate for a .444 batting average with five RBIs and two runs scored.
Pitching proved to be a week-long struggle as the Lady Barons’ opponents put 87 runs up on the scoreboard across all eight games. Freshman pitcher Amanda Pulice had the best week on the mound out of all three Franciscan pitchers, throwing 14.2 innings for a 10.26 ERA and totaling eight strikeouts.
“The younger players have really stepped up,” said Walker. “Amanda is always willing to pitch and never complains.”
Men’s tennis has taken the second-most spring break training trips, traveling to Jensen Beach, Florida, for each of the past five years.
Prior to this season, the men’s tennis program relied on its spring break trip primarily for practice since, due to winter weather and a lack of indoor facilities in the area, the team could not regularly practice for two months of the season.
This year, the team partnered with the Western Area YMCA of Pittsburgh and has been using that facility for practice since the beginning of February, so the spring break trip focused more on team bonding.
In the team’s only match of the break, Franciscan took on Ave Maria University on Wednesday in some friendly Catholic competition, which the Gyrenes won 8-1.
Seniors David Freytag and Zachary Quiza earned Franciscan’s only point of the afternoon with a tough 8-6 win at No. 2 doubles.
“They played really well, a tight match all around,” said Ellis. “David and Zack stayed focused. I definitely love the chemistry between David and Zack in doubles.”
Traveling to the National Training Center in Clermont, Florida, for the second straight year was the women’s lacrosse team. Head Coach Maura Conant had originally scheduled two games for the Lady Barons for the week; however, one game was canceled, giving Franciscan an extra day of practice instead.
Franciscan opened up its spring training trip with a game against Methodist University on Monday before the team was able to get in a lot of practice, resulting in a 16-2 loss.
Conant was proud of her underclassmen in the season opener, particularly freshman goalie Savannah Jane Duncan, who made her first collegiate start in the cage against Methodist. Duncan made three saves in the first 10:10 of the game before allowing the Monarchs to go on a 9-0 run, but she finished with 10 saves overall.
“Savannah did a great job for us,” Conant said.
Freshman attack Carly McDonald and sophomore midfielder Mary Krolicki each scored a goal while Krolicki also picked up two ground balls and won one draw control.
Methodist dominated the draw control, which is the women’s lacrosse version of a faceoff, winning 15 draws to Franciscan’s five, while the Monarchs also won the ground ball battle (16-9) and took 33 more shots than the Lady Barons (38-5).
“We need to be working on the draw,” said Conant. “Our lack of winning the draw was reflective of our time of possession and the score.”
Men’s lacrosse decided to join in on the spring break fun as well this year. In the team’s first-ever spring break training trip to Dallas, Texas, men’s lacrosse had the most successful week out of the four teams, finishing with a 2-1 record. A 19-4 loss to Southwestern University was sandwiched by 15-10 and 12-4 wins against Oglethorpe University and the University of Dallas, respectively.
“Southwestern is a very fast team,” said Head Coach Pete Rosaschi. “They had a lot of depth and played a really good game.”
Finishing the week 2-1 also meant that the 2016 men’s lacrosse team had tied a program record in terms of season wins, just four games into the season.
Sophomore attack Jonas McCaig also set a new school record with eight goals and two assists in the game against Oglethorpe. McCaig finished the week with 13 goals and five assists.
On the defensive side, senior goalie Peter Herrmann tallied 38 saves on the week in just his second, third and fourth career games in the cage.
“Peter made some really fantastic saves,” said Rosaschi. “There probably (were) five to eight goals that just made you say ‘wow.’ He almost makes it look effortless in goal and is very good at directing the defense. He is a loud goalie.”
With their spring break trips behind them and a combined 56 games left in the season, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s tennis and softball still have work left to do since the season is far from over.