The Lady Eagles (22-7, 2-2 Appalachian Athletic Conference) opened the season 20-5 before going 2-2 in the first week of conference play against Virginia Intermont and Tennessee Wesleyan, two of the AAC’s more challenging programs.
During the opening stretch, Crawford said Reinhardt played such highly-ranked teams as Auburn-Montgomery, Lindsey Wilson and Freed-Hardeman, with mostly positive results. He said the idea is that the tough competition was to prepare the Lady Eagles for AAC play.
“We want to make sure there is nothing that we haven’t seen,” Crawford said. “I think the teams we have played will prepare us for the conference, and we are ready to go.”
When Crawford speaks of Reinhardt’s strengths, he doesn’t leave any area out, instead concluding that the Lady Eagles are well-rounded.
“I think our strengths are definitely our offensive hitting and our defense,” said the seventh-year coach. “Pitching is up there as well. I think we are strong in all categories. When we play our type of softball, we can’t be beat.”
Former Creekview High School standout Madison Luck has dominated in the circle as a freshman, as she’s 15-1 with a 2.59 ERA and 67 strikeouts through 113 1/3 innings. Other pitchers include freshman Carliegh Myatt (4-4, 3.66) and sophomore Kensey Sholl (1-2, 4.32).
“Each of them bring a different style to pitching,” Crawford said of his young staff. “If we play good defense behind them, we are good enough that we can’t be beat.”
Katie Rietkovich and Randi Wimpy are among the driving forces behind the offense. Wimpy is batting .455 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs — all team highs. Rietkovich and C.J. Browder each have seven homers on the season.
Crawford isn’t banking on instant success, though. If Reinhardt wants to repeat as AAC champion and make another run to the NAIA championships, it needs to take care of business this season and not rest on its reputation.
“I don’t look back and define this season yet,” Crawford said. “We are halfway through it. I look at it and see that we’ve had a good non-conference schedule, and now it’s time for conference. It’s a different season. I try to separate the two. We are ready to go into our conference season now and finish strong.”
In addition to Virginia Intermont and Tennessee Wesleyan, Crawford also counts Milligan and Union among the top in the conference.
“But, you know, we can’t discount Columbia (S.C.), and we can’t discount Point because they can come up and bite you in the leg if you don’t play your game,” said Crawford, who will host Point for a doubleheader Tuesday. “Our conference is filled with a bunch of teams that might not be ranked in the top 25, but they bring their ‘A’ game when they play us, so we have to be prepared for all of them.”