Notebook: Morgan Lashley lifts Hofstra

Zack Lane/Hofstra University

Morgan Lashley won 62 games in her two seasons at Army, and she is already 6-0 this year for Hofstra.

There are plenty of reasons Hofstra's Bill Edwards is one of just 13 active Division I coaches with 900 career wins, and reached that milestone this past weekend with a better winning percentage than any of his peers save Arizona's Mike Candrea, Oklahoma's Patty Gasso, Michigan's Carol Hutchins and Tennessee's Ralph Weekly.

The challenges of indoor preseasons on Long Island aside, the teams Edwards puts on the field always excel there. In the past five seasons alone, the Pride committed 183 fewer errors than their opponents and allowed 167 fewer unearned runs.

Although not always flush with lineup power, the Pride are disciplined at the plate and get on base by any means necessary (amazingly, in that same span, Hofstra batters were hit by pitches 162 more times than their opponents).

And also because Edwards always seems to have a plan in the circle.

So, waking up to a new reality in which he no longer had the services of Olivia Galati, the ace of the staff the past four seasons and the most decorated pitcher in program history, or Kayleigh Lotti, the pitching ace who preceded Galati chronologically and atop the school strikeout chart, Edwards went out and got himself the winningest non-senior pitcher in college softball. There have been worse plans.

Although, technically, it was Morgan Lashley who went out and got herself a coach who has never had a losing season.

After Lashley went 3-0 this past weekend to improve to 6-0 with a 1.66 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 38 innings this season, ace and coach seem well positioned to keep the victories coming.

"She is absolutely throwing the ball as well as anyone we've ever had here," Edwards said.

A North Carolina native who came north, Lashley spent her first two college seasons at Army, where she went 33-16 as a freshman and 29-14 as a sophomore. Those 62 career wins left her tied for 17th among active pitchers after the 2013 season. That's an impressive accomplishment on its own, given the names like Hannah Rogers, Jackie Traina and Whitney Canion ahead of her. It is all the more so considering that every pitcher ahead of her needed three seasons to get there.

But, after two years at West Point, a stage at which cadets are able to leave without penalty, Lashley came to the realization that the military life that awaited was not for her. Hofstra offered what she described as "regular college," as well as one of the best softball programs outside the major conferences.

Plus, neither Edwards nor longtime pitching coach Larissa Anderson looked down at her.

That has long been something of an issue for the 5-foot-3 pitcher.

"It happened a lot with really big schools," Lashley said. "I would always be told, 'Morgan, you have great spin and your pitches move really well, but you just don't have the height. There's nothing for us to work with.' I think that's great that Larissa and Coach Edwards look past that and see that it doesn't matter your height, it just matters how hard you're going to work, how hard you're going to push out there because clearly it's working right now.

"I think it is a big block as far as what people see when I walk out to the mound, but the game speaks for itself."

Without Galati, Hofstra returned just 13 1/3 innings from last season's pitching staff. Edwards insists he was ready and willing to take on the season with sophomore Maggie Hawkins, who threw those stray innings, and freshman Jessica Peslak, but he wasn't going to turn up his nose when Lashley and Fordham transfer Taylor Pirone told him they were interested in the program. The combination of all four, once Hawkins is healthy, could give the Pride more of a full staff than they have had in some years. Still, if Lashley keeps pitching the way she has thus far, all 5-foot-3 of her is likely to get the ball enough to make a run at another 30-win season.

"You have to coach a 6-2 pitcher differently than you do a 5-2 pitcher," Edwards said. "But there have been some unbelievable 5-2, 5-3, 5-4, 5-5 pitchers. There is a misconception that you have to be tall and lanky, powerful. ... It's totally a different kind of pitching and fundamentals that a smaller kid has to have than the bigger kid. The bigger kid is going to use the big, long levers. The smaller kid is going to use her shorter levers with more quickness and velocity than maybe the big kid is going to use.

"You're going to coach them differently. You're also going to condition them differently."

Because of conditioning work, a change in her grip and a tweak to her motion, Lashley and her coach contend the pitcher who was pretty darn good at Army has reached a new level this spring. To that end, she struck out 27 batters in 19 innings this past weekend against Florida Gulf Coast, Eastern Michigan and Michigan State, and her overall strikeout rate in the admittedly very early going is well above what it was at West Point.

Although not as high-profile a transfer as some in college softball -- Oklahoma's Kelsey Stevens, Georgia's Alex Hugo and Missouri's Sami Fagan among them -- Lashley might prove equally valuable if she can help keep Hofstra in the role of postseason spoiler. As she put it, inspired by what she heard another supposedly short ace say en route to leading the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl title: Why not us?

"It all depends on how hard you're going to work, the team you have behind you and how much you care for the game," Lashley said. "I love this game. I've been playing it for my whole life, and I wouldn't want to be doing anything else."

It does tend to help when you win a lot. And Hofstra and Lashley have a knack for it.

Players of the week

Tatum Edwards, Nebraska: Just because Nebraska doesn't visit the state of Oklahoma in conference play anymore doesn't mean the Huskers have to stay away until the Women's College World Series. Edwards helped make a trip to the state a success this past weekend, providing much of the offense and some of the pitching behind a two-game sweep at Oklahoma State and a split at Oklahoma. In the circle, she struck out 10 and allowed just four hits and one earned run in a win against the Cowgirls, and, at the plate, she drove in eight runs on the weekend and had a home run and a double as part of a .500 average.

Lauren Haeger, Florida: Florida's slugger didn't lead the nation in hits, but she might have led in yardage. Haeger hit four home runs in her team's five wins in the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. Some of the damage came in wins against Fordham, Ohio State, Maryland and Radford, in which the Gators piled up a 41-3 scoring edge, but she also had perhaps the biggest hit of the weekend with a home run against Oregon immediately after the Ducks had taken a 1-0 lead. The Gators went on to win 2-1 in extra innings. Just for good measure, Haeger also threw five innings of three-hit ball against Ohio State.

Isabella Geronimo, Seattle: There is more than one team in the Emerald City that can hit. Often in the shadow of its Pac-12 neighbor, Seattle rolled off five wins in as many tries at a tournament in Santa Clara, Calif., this past weekend and scored 48 runs in the process. The production started, not surprisingly, right at the top of the order. Geronimo scored nine runs, batted .652 (15-for-23) for the weekend and had at least two hits in every game, including five doubles. She even walked twice to boost her on-base percentage to .494 for the season.

Shelbi Redfearn, Louisiana-Lafayette: Redfearn was good all weekend for Louisiana-Lafayette, which put together its first undefeated weekend of the season with five wins at the Gulfport College Classic in Mississippi. But she was great in the game that mattered most for her team, and likely for her. Playing ranked Baylor, the school at which she spent her first two college seasons, Redfearn hit two home runs and drove in seven runs in an 11-10 win. That included a three-run home run off Baylor ace Whitney Canion to open the scoring in the first inning. Overall, Redfearn hit .389 (7-for-18) with nine RBIs.

Lacey Waldrop, Florida State: Florida State's ace didn't throw a lot at the Easton Crimson Classic at Alabama but she made her innings count. Waldrop opened with a win against Houston in which she struck out 10 batters in five innings, then struck out nine and allowed one earned run in a tough-luck 1-0 loss against host Alabama a day later. The big prize came in Sunday's finale. Again facing the Tide, she allowed just one hit in four shutout innings, good for the win with some support from Jessica Nori (whose four saves already match the program single-season record she tied a season ago).

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