Following 20 games in Illinois, Florida, West Virginia and Columbus, Ohio, Ashland University's softball team is ready to come home and play at Brookside Park.
A scheduled eight-game homestand, starting 2019 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play, begins with a doubleheader on Wednesday (March 20) at 3 p.m. vs. Northwood. The Eagles are 14-6 through the majority of its non-conference schedule, and recently went on a seven-game winning streak.
"You look at the losses that we've had, any of those games could have been wins," said Ashland head coach Emlyn Knerem, "and probably should have been wins. We feel really good about that."
After Wednesday against the Timberwolves (8-9-1), Ashland will play host to Ferris State (9-11) on Saturday (March 23) at 1 p.m., No. 10 Grand Valley State (16-2) on Sunday (March 24) at noon, and No. 16 Wayne State (17-4) on March 27 at 3 p.m.
"The girls are excited to be at home, finally," Knerem said. "There's a lot of excitement around the season so far. We all know that our conference is strong, it's something that we talk about all the time. But we have no fear of anybody in this conference. We just go out there and play our game, and focus on what we can do to control the game."
The Eagles have been impressive in all three phrases of the game so far this season.
Offensively, Ashland is hitting .301 as a team, and with 36 doubles and 45 extra-base hits, the Eagles lead all GLIAC teams in those categories. The pacesetter has been junior designated player Dayna Denner, who leads the conference with a .467 batting average and .562 on-base percentage, and is second with 18 RBIs.
"Our hitting has been great," Knerem said. "We've had a couple games that have not been as a strong as we'd like, but right now, our lineup is very, very tough. We just feel really good about our offense right now.
"Dayna's one of those kids who just hits the ball. She sees the ball well, puts the ball in play hard, and just finds ways to get on and move runners. I suspect that Dayna will continue to be a steadfast hitter in this lineup."
Junior shortstop Bree Gill is hitting .304 with 10 RBIs, as Ashland boasts eight starters who hit at least .261, and three players already with double-digit RBIs this season.
"For the most part, our pitching has been very good. Hannah has just been very strong since Day 1," Knerem said. "We've gotten some good performances from Abbie and Laney, as well. Hannah, she looks so much different to me this year. She looks a lot more confident. She has great control of her pitches right now, she's mixing really well.
"Cassie (junior catcher Cassie Haight) has been calling great games."
Defensively, Ashland has had just 23 errors in 20 games, a better pace than the 64 errors in 48 games through all of 2018.
"We've had a couple hiccups along the way, but you'll have that," said Knerem.