After 18 games in Florida, the Ferris State softball team has officially begun conference play.
The Bulldogs currently sit at 9-13 overall with a 2-2 conference record after their first weekend of conference play. The team is currently in a four-way tie for fourth in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) between Findlay, Ashland and Hillsdale. Senior third baseman Bailey Darwin said the team has high hopes for this year.
“We have a really tough conference, so going down south to play 12 games prior to GLIAC play was super beneficial to us,” Darwin said. “We sort of figured out what we needed to improve on down there, so once we got back practicing, we knew what we had to focus on before conference play started.”
The conference has seen a number of years under the dominance of Wayne State, who has been the GLIAC champion for the past two years and the GLIAC tournament champions for the past five years. The Warriors only lost three conference games total in 2016.
GLIAC titles have eluded the Dawgs for a while, as their last conference championship came in 2000 when Ferris won both the GLIAC outright as well as the tournament.
The 2000 conference title was the Dawgs’ first since 1982, a span of 18 years.
Last year’s Bulldog program made it to the GLIAC tournament for the first time in three years. To get back to the tourney and be able to take down conference powerhouses like Wayne State, Darwin said it’ll have to be a complete team effort.
“We have a huge team and all of us can contribute to the team in different ways, we can hit one through nine,” Darwin said. “We are all willing to step up when needed. We have a lot of young players stepping up and playing huge roles for our team, which is awesome.”
Another team doing well this season is Saginaw Valley State, currently sitting at the top of the conference with a 4-0 GLIAC record.
Other teams at the top that the Dawgs are sure to have in their cross-hairs are Ohio Dominican and Northwood, both tied for second with the same 3-1 record.
Walsh is currently the team at the back of the pack in the GLIAC with an 0-4 conference record, suffering a 0-19 loss to league leader Saginaw Valley during their doubleheader opener Saturday, March 25.
Junior pitcher and outfielder Sam Bates said that she feels every team in the conference can be a challenge, so every game is unpredictable and exciting.
“The main focus is to make it to the GLIAC tournament at the end of the season and then winning the tournament,” Bates said. “Personally, I’m excited to see how well our team does throughout the season. We have come a long way, and our team continues to grow and get stronger each day.”
The Bulldogs will hit the diamond for a doubleheader 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, April 1, to take on the reigning league champion Wayne State Warriors.