Softball Picked To Finish Fifth in Conference

The Sacred Heart University (SHU) softball team kicked off their season on Friday, Feb. 16 with a trip down to Greensboro, N.C. The team had a busy schedule, playing two games against Ohio University, two against Drexel University, and one against the University of North Carolina (UNC) Greensboro.

The Pioneers started their weekend with two losses, 4-3 against Ohio, and a 5-3 loss against UNC Greensboro. This was followed up by another two losses on Saturday, Feb. 17, with a 6-0 loss against Ohio and 5-3 versus Drexel. However, Sacred Heart ended their weekend on a high note with a 3-2 win over Drexel on Sunday, Feb. 18.

“We are absolutely ready to play. We have practiced as much as we can, we played against each other as much as we can. We need an opponent and we are excited for it and ready to see what our hard work has produced thus far,” said Head Coach Pam London.

Despite finishing with only one win in their first weekend, the team was excited and ready to get some games under their belt. As most of the Pioneers’ Northeastern Conference (NEC) opponents had already begun non-conference play last weekend, the team waited until this weekend to get their season underway.

The Pioneers are returning many key players from last year’s team, despite six players graduating. SHU returns sophomore pitcher Sam Kowalski, who won the NEC Rookie of the Year in 2023.

“It has made me want to work harder because I feel like I have to keep proving myself. I know my team has my back and I trust them in full confidence, and I know we are going to do great things,” said Kowalski.

Kowalski was a major presence for the Pioneers on the mound in 2023 as she led the team in innings pitched with 133.1. The sophomore also threw 117 strikeouts on the season, fifth among all pitchers in the NEC.

Another key player returning to the Pioneer lineup in 2024 is senior outfielder and team captain, Victoria LoPinto, the recipient of last year’s NEC Gold Glove Award.

LoPinto proved to be effective in the Pioneer outfield in 2023, with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage against NEC opponents.

“Winning that award is huge, and I am just super grateful for it. It reassured me to have confidence and carry that mentality over with me, to take it on to my teammates and be a leader,” said LoPinto.

After finishing with a 9-12 record in conference play in 2023, the Pioneers are seen as a middle of the pack team currently. In the preseason poll that was released on Feb. 2, Sacred Heart was placed fifth in the rankings and received zero first place votes.

“I am okay with being fifth because I would love for people to underestimate us,” said London.

The Pioneers return to the field for their home-opening double header against the Fordham University Rams on Saturday, Feb. 24 at Pioneer Park. The team will then start the month of March in Madeira Beach, Fla., where they will play 12 games before returning home on March 16 when they face the Wagner College Seahawks at Pioneer Park.

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