Salisbury University softball set its preseason expectations – and the early national rankings – on fire.
With a solid core of returning starters led by second-year Head Coach Lacey Lord, SU sprinted to an early season record of 14-2 and skyrocketed to become the second-ranked Division III program in the country, according to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 Coaches Poll.
Leapfrogging several top programs after entering the 2022 spring season in the eighth slot of the NFCA’s preseason rankings, Lord continues to galvanize the upperclassmen leaders of the reigning Coast-to-Coast Athletic Conference champion Sea Gulls.
Pitcher Lindsey Windsor and infielder Lauren Meyers – each suiting up for their third years in the maroon and gold – have rallied behind Salisbury’s newfound focus on “servant leadership” in the pursuit of the program’s first national title.
“The plans are really laid out this year, and it’s exciting because [Lord is] setting the small-term goals that are going to lead us to the big goal of the national championship,” Windsor said.
Meyers added last year’s run provided a foundation for Lord to connect with the players and empower the team’s upperclassmen to mentor and motivate the squad’s newest additions.
“[Lord] really knows how to push each and every one of us to be our best,” Meyers said. “It’s definitely a competitive atmosphere at practice.”
The program’s emphasis on trust has trickled throughout the depth chart and positively impacted young players pressed into expanded roles, including freshmen catchers Emily Stockman and Carrie Jacoby.
“It just feels like there’s something really special about this team, and I feel we’re going to go really far this year,” Meyers said. “Everyone is always contributing, and that’s really important in order for us to go really far.”
Meyers, who earned her first C2C Player of the Week honors Feb. 21, leads the Sea Gulls’ slugging with 21 hits and ranks second on the team with a .429 batting average, up from .273 just a season ago.
“I know I was better than that last season, and it really fueled me to work really hard and tunnel in at practices to be my best every day,” Meyers said.
Meyers closely trails the team-high .478 batting average of Windsor, who has been a dominant force on both sides of the mound in 2022. The defending C2C Pitcher of the Year has hurled a less than 1.3 earned run average to notch the conference’s first Pitcher of the Week award of the season, the fourth of her career.
Windsor credits SU’s coaching staff with slowing down her pace of play and allowing her to feel more “in control” on the mound.
The two junior standouts, along with reigning C2C Player of the Year Abby Mace, delivered massive contributions in the Sea Gulls’ sweep of defending national champion Virginia Wesleyan University Feb. 23, marking the emergence of SU as a true title contender.
In the squad’s first encounter with adversity this season, SU suffered two losses over a three-day stretch during the 2022 NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Georgia.
But the Sea Gulls remained steadfast in their chase of another College World Series bid, claiming victory over St. John Fisher College hours later.
“We needed to know what it felt like to have a loss and have to rebound from it,” Meyers said. “Moving forward I think that’s going to be huge for us, because you need to be unified to succeed.”
Salisbury softball will navigate a schedule of mixed competition as it takes aim at its 24th National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament appearance in program history.
By JAKOB TODD
Featured image courtesy of Brad Boardman.