McDaniel’s softball team spent last week in Kissimmee, Florida, for its spring break trip, and the Green Terror played 12 games in seven days.
When they reeled off a few wins in a row, Tayler Hishon knew what was coming next — ice cream.
“Our team is a big ice-cream eater,” said Hishon, who enjoyed returning to her home state. “We swept a few times, so we got to eat some ice cream.”
The satisfied sweet tooths also got in some swimming pool time, participated in an Escape Room activity, and gathered for special team meals.
McDaniel (6-10) won five games in Florida, and now it’s onto Centennial Conference play where the Terror won the regular-season title a year ago. The annual excursion is on the schedule so the Terror can face competition to prepare for the regular season.
But Hishon and her teammates know it’s more than that.
“What we’re playing for is May softball,” Hishon said. “Being able to play these championship caliber teams down in Florida really sets us apart, kind of gives us that leg up on conference play here.”
McDaniel went 14-1-1 in the Centennial last spring and hosted the conference tournament, only to drop its first two playoff games and be done at 24-17-1.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to last season, but we did host and we’re looking to repeat,” Hishon said. “We’re definitely everyone’s Saturday night game. Everyone wants to us play us … they’re bringing their ‘A’ game, so we’re just looking to match that and be better.”
Hishon, a first-team all-Centennial pick last season, is picking up where she left off. The Terror’s third baseman is batting .392 with two home runs and 12 RBIs. She has also scored 11 runs on a team averaging 5.3 per game.
Junior outfielder Tori Wilkins leads McDaniel’s regulars with a .405 average, but freshman outfielder Michaela Persinger is hitting .414 in limited at-bats and has also scored 11 runs. Junior first baseman Alicia Wagner has three homers and 14 RBIs, both team highs.
McDaniel coach Phil Smith has used a trio of pitchers so far, with junior Fiona Johnson and sophomore Cassie Rickrode getting five starts apiece. Valerie Lamb, a senior, has three starts.
Johnson, who has made 10 appearances and has two wins, said the Green Terror are ready to put their Florida trip behind them and be Centennial contenders again.
“I would say we’re extremely motivated,” Johnson said. “Being that close [last year] and not following through at times really has a lot of us fired up.”
Hishon and Johnson said McDaniel’s team chemistry is where it needs to be at this stage of the season, with its Centennial opener scheduled for Tuesday at home with a doubleheader against Swarthmore. Winter Storm Toby this week left its mark on the area, however, and Smith said he’s planning for a jam-packed schedule because of potential postponements.
(McDaniel practiced in the Gill Center gym Friday afternoon with its field still blanketed by snow.)
All the more reason to gather a little momentum from spring break.
“It’s a little disappointing,” he said. “But I told them [Thursday], and I’ve repeated it numerous times, I said, ‘The bottom line is, the team’s the most focused and the most passionate about what they want do to will be there in May.’”
Smith’s teams have been there in May in recent years — McDaniel has 165 wins in the past six -plus seasons, a span that includes six Centennial tournament appearances, two conference titles, and two NCAA tourney berths.
Last spring, McDaniel went 3-7 on its spring break trip before dominating the regular season.
“They’re winners, they’ve been there,” Smith said. “It’s not like it’s something new to them.”
Persinger is the team’s lone freshman, so the Green Terror field an experienced bunch. Smith also has four transfers — Wilkins and fellow junior Kristina Shank were top junior college players in 2017, Smith said — but will be leaning on his veterans to lead McDaniel this spring.
Washington College is the preseason favorite to win the conference, but McDaniel received some first-place votes (as did Franklin & Marshall and Gettysburg).