2013 NCAA softball regionals: Hofstra is a giant-killer with an ace

Olivia Galati's really, really good. - YouTube

With the only team we know we will play out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the team that, based on seeds and rankings, is the most likely for us to play moving forward, the Pride of Hofstra.

With an RPI of 20, Hofstra is actually a little ahead of the S-curve as our #2 seed (if based solely on RPI which obviously seeding is not). With that said, let’s get right into what could be one of the top pitching battles all season.

Hofstra Schedule/Results:

They burst on to the national scene last year by taking down their regional and ultimately falling to USF in the Super Regional. The Colonial conference has some solid teams in it (#35 James Madison and #51 Georgia State) and the Pride ruled it with an iron fist, going 18-2 on their way to 44 wins (against 11 losses) on the season. They were 23-2 at home and 13-3 on the road, but went only 7-6 in neutral (tourney) games. Their best win on the season came against #3 Texas who Hofstra thumped 7-2 in a Disney tournament. They also had two wins against #25 Arkansas, who they beat 8-1 and 6-4 in the first weekend of the season. They have experienced losses to #8 Michigan, #17 UL-L, #22 Florida State (twice) #27 Tulsa and #33 Mississippi State. They also have games against common opponents of Mizzou.

  • Arkansas – MU went 2-2 against them, but basically gave up one earned run in three games worth of innings (5, 5 and 11) with Thomas on the mound.
  • Maryland – MU won 13-1, Hofstra won 11-3.

All in all, pretty even against those two. They come into the weekend having won 13 games in a row, dating back to their last loss against George Mason on April 20th. Their worst loss of the year would be that loss, as GMU is #217. Next worst is Rutgers, who beat them 1-0 in 8 innings.

Hofstra Offense:

From a high-level, I think their offense is pretty solid, but has abandoned them at times. I will run down their lineup here in a moment, but at a high level, here is how they compare to MU:

  • Team Batting Average: Hofstra is .318 to MU .320
  • Team OBP/Slug: Hofstra is .400/.499 to MU .416/.531
  • Runs: Hofstra scored 309 in 54 games to MU scoring 302 in 46
  • HR’s: Hofstra had 51 to MU’s 59
  • BB’s/K’s: Hofstra has 158/212 to MU 189/175
  • Steals: Hofstra had 33 to MU 56

So in all, a team that is fairly comparable, though you certainly need to take into account strength of schedule and games played (again, 54 for Hofstra to 46 for MU). Now, on to their lineup as taken from their last game played.

1. Chloe Fitzgerald (Fr-DH) - .321 and led the team in steals (8)

2. Tori Rocha (Jr-2B) - .303 in 51 starts

3. Tessa Ziemba (Sr-CF) - .342 and led the team in HR’s (13), slugging (.703) and runs (43)

4. Erin Trippi (So-C) - .338 and led the team in walks (25) and RBI (46)

5. Jess Hirschbuhl (Sr-3B) - .345 and led the team in HBP (13) and OBP (.446)

6. Becca Bigler (Sr-SS) - .294 and led the team in K’s (30), but was also 2nd in HR’s (11)

7. Maggie Hawkins (Fr-1B) - .340 and was 2nd on team in doubles (15)

8. Caryn Bailey (Fr-RF) - .373 and led team in AB’s (161), hits (60), doubles (16), and total bases (110)

9. Olivia Galati (Sr-P) - .274 in 39 games

10. D.J. Slugh (Sr-LF) - .219 in 48 games, though she appeared as the DP in this game and only had 64 AB’s on the year.

Five seniors but three frosh as well in the lineup. I am guessing Caryn Bailey must have been the leadoff hitter for much of the year and has since seen a demotion down to the 8th slot. But, from a number standpoint, their lineup has very nice balance to it with some pop and the ability to get on base. Their speed (or lack thereof) shows they may not be apt to manufacture many runs, but with their defense and pitching, they have not always had to. It also does not appear they have much to offer from the bench, as the next most active hitter has only 27 AB’s (Kim Smith, hitting .296 who appeared in 20 games), but she does have 3 HR’s, so a little pop is there if they need.

Hofstra Defense:

I referenced the defense above, but Hofstra committed only 37 errors on the season for a fielding percentage of .973. Bigler at short led the way with 10 errors, with Rocha committing 7 from her spot at second base. Hirschbuhl at third only committed 4 errors, so that is some nice corner defense to have out there.

Hofstra Pitching:

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Olivia Galati. In her four years at Hofstra, here is how she shakes out:

126-32 in 147 career starts. She has thrown 1,062.1 innings, giving up 653 hits, 235 runs (195 earned). She has walked just 127 while striking out 1,394. Let that K-BB ration sink in for just a moment. Add in the K-IP and WHIP, and wow…yeah.

Her seasonal ERA has never been higher than her frosh year when it was 1.60. It was 0.95 last year in almost 300 innings. This year, it has actually climbed just a bit to 1.39, but I imagine that is due to a stronger national schedule and likely even some familiarity within her own conference. But on average, 8 of your batters will strike out per game, with only about five of them reaching base via hit or walk per game (and obviously only less than 1 and a half are scoring without the assistance of an error). That makes the margin for error of the offensive team VERY small, especially with the solid defense behind her. In the event she does not pitch well, Galati is the only true pitcher on the roster. The other three who have thrown a pitch this year have combined for just over 43 innings, so we will not see them under any circumstance barring injury.

Overall Thoughts:

If the seeding holds, this is who MU will end up playing twice this weekend. Beating Olivia Galati twice only happened once this year. Florida State (#22) really knocked Galati around in the second and third games of her season, winning 9-1 and 4-0. In games this year against teams with RPI’s in the top 25, Galati and Hofstra went 3-4 (with two more losses to #27 and #33). Certainly Hofstra is capable of winning a game against us, and that is where MU has to be very wary. If Hofstra takes down MU in a (potential) winner’s bracket game on Saturday, it means Chelsea would be needed to get MU to Sunday before having to win two more times against Hofstra. If MU wins on Saturday and gets to the championship game, a loss in the first does mean MU has another shot, but honestly, I trust Galati’s arm in a back to back game more than I do Chelsea’s. In the end, this is a VERY dangerous team that could very well walk out of Como with a ticket to the Super Regional. The Tigers will need to be efficient and clean when playing them; because Hofstra has enough offense to stake Galati to a big enough lead for her to hang on to.

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