‘Heartbeat of this team’: How freshmen became SU’s difference-makers

first_img* * indicates required Published on March 4, 2020 at 12:28 am Contact Cameron: cbmckeon@syr.edu Last season, almost all of Syracuse’s freshmen watched SU’s 21-32 campaign mostly from the bench. SU’s first-years, save for Alexis Kaiser and Jessica Skladal, didn’t play much of a role. Four of the Orange’s six freshmen combined for a meager 24 at-bats and 21.2 innings pitched the entire season.This year, it’s been a different story. The Orange’s freshman class, highlighted by Kaia Oliver, Catie Dobbs and Rebecca Clyde, has already totaled 107 at-bats and 60.2 innings pitched for Syracuse (8-9). More than their 20 hits and 3.26 earned run average, the freshmen have provided SU with a newfound energy in the clubhouse.“They’re just competitive,” said SU head coach Shannon Doepking on Jan. 29. “It’s a competitiveness that we lacked last year and I think it’s something that you’re going to get to see really quickly.”Roshan Fernandez | Asst. Digital EditorAdvertisementThis is placeholder textDoepking’s preseason assessment has proved correct. In Oliver’s most recent start against Rutgers, she tossed 6.1 shutout innings, and Dobbs, her fellow freshman started the team’s tournament championship game a day later. As SU’s everyday clean-up hitter, Clyde started the season hitting .348 through seven games.Clyde drove in the winning run in extra innings on Feb. 23 to take down No. 20 Texas Tech in SU’s first win over a ranked team in four years. She credits her early success to junior infielder Gabby Teran.“Being a junior, being an upperclassman, you kind of want to teach the way, set a foundation for the new people to come in and buy into our process,” said Teran.Whether it’s pushing Clyde to get her homework done, getting swings in or just making conversation, Teran said she’s taken the freshman under her wing.This crop of fresh talent also brings parts of the game that can’t be quantified, like Clyde’s relentless energy — which Doepking called “contagious” — both on the diamond and from the dugout. She gets just as fired up for her teammates success as she does for her own and is always one of the most vocal out on the field and on the bench, Doepking said. Teran added that Clyde brings a fearless mentality to the Orange. Sign up for The Daily Orange Newsletter Email Address * “She is by far the heartbeat of this team,” said Doepking.Along with Clyde, freshmen Mia Cunnings and Jude Padilla have contributed. In the USF tournament, Cunnings had a five-hit, three RBI weekend and Padilla, a catcher, has started 11 of the Orange’s 17 games.On the pitching side, freshmen Oliver and Dobbs have combined for 60.2 innings, already almost three times the work that freshmen got in the circle last season. Dobbs currently has the best ERA on the team at 2.88, while Oliver isn’t too far behind at 3.47.With Oliver and Dobbs, SU may have better depth in the rotation behind ace Alexa Romero than in previous years. Last season, Romero was the only pitcher on the staff with an ERA below 4.00.  With more flexibility, Doepking will be able to go into conference play with more options and fresh arms.“We are confident going with any of our pitchers this year. Our job is to just figure out what the best matchup is,” Doepking said.Doepking has made changing SU’s culture a priority in 2020, and the freshmen fit into that mission. Clyde brings tenacious energy, and Oliver and Dobbs bring much-needed balance in the circle. Their impact has sparked potential in a Syracuse program that took a step back after consecutive winning seasons. Comments Relation to SU Current StudentEmployee of SUAlumniParent of Current/Former StudentLocal CNY ResidentOther Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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