UHV softball on a winning streak (w/ video)
UHV players huddled in the pitcher's circle with coaches Lindsey Ortiz and Emily Bergstrom at practice Monday.
Ortiz picked up some dirt and threw it over her shoulder as if to say the last few errors were dust in the wind. The players followed suit.
"Be better; let's go," Ortiz said before the team headed back to their positions and finished out a strong practice.
The Jaguars (21-8) have been on a 10-game winning streak since mid-March. Eight of the 10 victories have been by eight or more runs, and UHV is ranked No. 19 in the NAIA.
After early season struggles, Ortiz said the girls had to make adjustments.
Those adjustments include more intense practices, game-pace fielding scenarios and the coaches not hitting the ball lightly.
"We hit the ball to them as hard we can, and it makes a difference," Ortiz said.
The coaches also encouraged their seniors to step up leadership.
"We felt they weren't leading like they needed to be," she said. "They have since taken ownership of the team, because this is it - this is their last year. They have become more vocal leaders."
Third baseman Marley Moehrig prefers to lead by example, she said.
"I try to show them the ways we were taught and let them follow what we do as seniors," the senior said.
Moehrig is one of two Jaguars named as the Association of Independent Institutions Players of the Week this season. Pitcher Alex Holland was named earlier this season.
"It's an honor, but I feel like I'm just doing my job for my team," Moehrig said. "I couldn't do it without my team."
The Jaguars fell in several games early, losing their first three matchups to conference and nonconference opponents.
"There were a lot of errors, pitchers were giving up too many walks, and we weren't getting timely hits," Ortiz said.
Not until the Gulf Shores Invitational in Alabama in early March did the game pace start turning around, Ortiz said.
Though they lost to Auburn (ranked No. 3 in NAIA) and Spring Hill College, the gap was kept to three runs or less.
"They played very competitively; they realized they do belong with the big dogs," she said. "I don't think they realized how good they could be."
Shortstop Ashley Winegeart said the team is pumped to play high-ranked opponents.
"We got to show who we are," the senior said. "Making the games close showed how good we are and gave us the confidence we needed."
The team attitude changed along with the pressure to make the plays.
If a pitcher walks a batter in a game, she has to run laps after the series is over.
"The defense has definitely tightened up, and the hitters are doing a great job," Ortiz said.
The victories aren't the only thing that has lifted team spirits.
Last week, the Jaguars were invited to be a part of the Victoria Girls Softball Association Opening Ceremonies.
"Those little girls look up to them and think they hung the moon," Ortiz said. "(The team) sees how fortunate they are to be doing what they're doing."
Winegeart was reminded of how she felt when she started T-ball.
"It's funny because they look up to you like you're a professional baseball player, and I definitely don't look at it like that," she said. "It was awesome."
UHV heads to Houston on Tuesday to take on Texas Southern.
The Jaguars defeated the team earlier in the season, and Ortiz believes it'll "be out for blood" and a retaliation win.
On Saturday, UHV will host LSU-Alexandria, the No. 4 ranked team.
Ortiz is excited for the girls to have the opportunity to redeem themselves after losing three straight to LSU-A earlier this season.
"Those early struggles made them more cognizant of how difficult it can be," Ortiz said. "It's important to not get complacent even though we're doing well."
Though winning is the most important thing, Ortiz aims to keep her Jaguars hungry.
"They have to carry these wins into the postseason, keep winning there and winning the conference," she said.