Softball team boast second lowest team ERA

Senior pitcher BreeAnna Blevins throws a pitch against Union University March 22, 2014. The Lions boast the second lowest ERA in D-II at 1.23. Sophomore pitcher Hillary Carpenter has a 0.57 ERA, which is the best in D-II. Blevins’ ERA is 1.90­ — sixth best in the Gulf South Conference.

Numbers never lie, and the numbers say UNA softball has one of the best, if not the best, pitching staffs in the nation.

UNA owns a 1.23 ERA — the second lowest ERA in the entire country, according to the NCAA website.

For those uninitiated in the ins and outs of statistics and sabermetrics, ERA in college softball is determined by multiplying earned runs by seven and then dividing by the number of innings pitched.

“Every game we have a chance to win because they’re on the mound,” said head coach Ashley Cozart.

Simplified, the UNA pitching staff, led by senior BreeAnna Blevins and sophomore Hillary Carpenter, allows just more than one run a game.

The success of the pitching staff this season has swelled pride and confidence in not just the pitchers themselves but the team as well, teammates said.

Blevins has a 1.90 ERA in 17 starts, recording a team high 91 strikeouts, and opponents are hitting just .174 against her.

“No matter who’s on the mound, I expect us to come out with a win,” she said.

The team feeds off the pride and confidence the pitchers show during games, the players said.

“There is always a sense of pride knowing that you are giving 110 percent every pitch,” Carpenter said. “When your team knows you’ve got their back and are playing your hardest, it’s easy for them to do the same.”

Carpenter’s ERA is 0.57 through April 6, which is the best in not only the Gulf South Conference but also D-II. She has thrown 19 shutouts, the most in the conference. Carpenter’s .163 opponent batting average is second best in the GSC, as well.

Blevins and Carpenter have every right to be confident, maybe even a little cocky. However, the two remain grateful for the girls playing behind them.

“Honestly, it’s all about trust,” Carpenter said. “We as a pitching staff know that if we do our job, the defense has our back. As long as we continue to get ground balls and pop ups, we trust our defense to make the plays.”

The duo not only trusts the defense to make plays behind them but also realizes the importance of offense.

“I honestly think offense is more important because you obviously have to score to win,” Blevins said.

Blevins, Carpenter and the rest of the staff rely on UNA hitters to provide run support.

“It doesn’t matter how many scoreless innings I pitch if we don’t score,” Carpenter said. “Offense is key to winning games.”

Cozart said the pitching staff gives confidence to UNA batters when they step up to the plate.

“They know that when they go back on defense that the pitchers are going to stop the other team from scoring,” she said. “So they can step in the box, relax and play their game.”

Senior outfielder Libby Olinger echoes Cozart’s statements.

“I know if I don’t get the key hit on offense, we’re going to go out and shut them down on defense,” she said. “I have a lot of confidence in our defense and pitching.”

The Lions bats are returning the favor by hitting .314, second in the GSC.

Going forward, Blevins said the key to success will be keeping hitters off guard with her and Carpenter’s contrasting styles of pitching.

“I feel like we’re going to maintain the success we’ve had in the circle by Hillary and I pitching complete opposite,” she said. “I’m more of a rise ball and off speed pitcher as to where she is a drop curve and curveball pitcher.”

Carpenter will continue to rely on the defense to maintain her success and the success of the team as a whole, she said.

“The other pitchers and I just have to continue doing our job and continue trusting our defense to make the plays,” she said.

UNA hosts Lee University (26-13, 14-9) April 11 at 2 p.m.