“We fought through it and, once we got that first win, we started believing in ourselves a little bit. We’re headed in the right direction,” Matthews said.
The Raiders have a young lineup that includes four freshmen starters, and they’ve struggled at the plate with a league-low .231 average
But they’ve gotten solid pitching from Ashley Sharp and timely offense with the help of 2017 team MVP Honnah Susor.
Sharp was named the league pitcher of the week after leading the Raiders to 1-0 and 3-2 wins Friday over Oakland. The senior from Lakota West has set Wright State career records for shutouts (14) and wins (57).
“She does a lot of those little things well that don’t jump off the page when you watch her,” Matthews said. “She understands how to pitch and not just throw, which is something you don’t always get in a college pitcher.”
Susor, a senior outfielder from Oregon, Ohio, is batting .327, which is 66 points higher than the Raiders’ next-best hitter. She was named first-team all-conference as the Raiders went 21-31 last season.
“She’s a tremendously talented softball player,” Matthews said. “She’s kind of our engine and gets us going.”
Matthews was hired after a successful run at Wittenberg. She replaced Justine Wichman, who became interim coach in 2017 when Ray Loeser abruptly resigned without coaching a game.
Longtime coach Lynn Curylo left for UIC after a 37-23 record in 2016, which broke a string of five straight losing seasons.
“It’s been a little tumultuous over the past few years, but I think throughout it all, the administration has been really supportive of the girls, and the girls are so committed to our program,” Matthews said.
The Raiders will play in the 54-hole Horizon League championships Sunday through Tuesday in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. The tourney appears wide open.
“I tell recruits all the time that we compete in the conference we can win,” coach Brian Arlinghaus said. “And if we win the conference, we get an automatic bid to the (NCAA) regionals.”
Senior Chris Rossi leads the team with a 73.8 average.
“If he plays to the level he’s capable of, he can be in the top five for sure,” Arlinghaus said. “One of my goals is to have him and (sophomore) Austin Schoonmaker be first- or second-team all-conference — and get Bryce Haney in the mix as freshman of the year.”
Gabe Snyder was named conference player of the week for the second time this season after hitting .529 with three homers and 10 RBIs in five games.
The senior from Millersburg, Ohio, became the program’s career RBI leader with 184, breaking the record set by Alfredo Batista (1983-86).