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The Hilltop


Howard Softball Sets The Tone For The Season At Black and Gold Classic 

Despite challenges and successes at the Black and Gold Classic tournament, the Howard University softball team demonstrates new chemistry, sparking optimism for the season ahead.

The Howard University softball team at the UCF Softball Complex. (Photo Courtesy of Howard Athletics) 

Hosted annually by the University of Central Florida (UCF), the Black and Gold Classic tournament is an event that features various collegiate softball teams from conferences across the country. This year, UCF hosted the Bison, the Georgia State Panthers, the University of Connecticut Huskies and the Seattle University Redhawks.

The Bison, who went into the tournament as underdogs, were able to finish against the competition with a 2-3 record.  

The Bison started the weekend with a big win against the University of Connecticut. Winning 8-7, the Bison finished with 11 hits, led by freshman Merci Hart who hit .750 on four appearances. 

In their second match of the day, the Bison lost in five innings to the UCF Knights 2-10. 

On the second day of the tournament, the Bison lost to the Georgia State Panthers by one run in a narrow 4-5 loss.  

On the third day of the tournament, junior pitcher Mia Gonzales helped the team make history after pitching the shutout that led to the team’s first win against a Western Athletic Conference (WAC) opponent in program history. The Bison were able to shut out the Seattle University Redhawks in five innings with a final score of 10-0. 

In the final game of the tournament, the Bison lost to the Georgia State Panthers again with a final score of 1-4. 

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Despite the losses, Lealani Ricks, a junior infielder for the Bison, emphasized the team’s resilience and unity.

“We all came together as a team knowing we could go in and do damage, so I’m hoping to see that more as a collective through the rest of the season,” Ricks said.

Throughout the weekend, Ricks had five hits and four runs heavily contributing to the team’s success. 

“I was proud of my mindset in the box and my approach with each pitcher this weekend. It felt good being able to go in doing what we’ve been practicing for and scouting,” Ricks said. 

Amidst roster changes ahead of the season, junior shortstop and utility player Sidney Fletcher was proud of the team’s overall chemistry. With the addition of nine new freshmen and four transfers, the Bison faced the challenge of integrating new faces into the lineup; however, Fletcher highlighted the seamless integration of the newcomers. 

 “Our line up flowed really well together and the newcomers just meshed so well with us. It’s something that we’ve never had before and it’s been a problem in the past so it was nice to know our team blended this well together,” Fletcher said. 

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Following these recent triumphs against strong programs, head coach Victoria Tyson acknowledges the possible shift in perception within the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). 

“When you have success like that, other teams in the conference will notice and now our team will be the hunted and that’s a role I think we haven’t conquered yet,” Tyson said.

However, Tyson sees this as an opportunity for growth and believes her players are prepared to rise to the challenge. 

“I was very very proud, specifically of one of our pitchers, Mia Gonzalez, because last year was essentially her freshman year since her actual freshman year we had three senior pitchers. I saw her grow and mature as the weekend went, which is an improvement from last year,” Tyson said. 

While recognizing room for improvement, Tyson is focused on leaving mistakes behind and maintaining a forward-looking approach for the season.

“Your identity can’t be tied to your results, in this game you cannot do that because that’s when you’ll see yourself continuously fail,” Tyson concluded. 

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In a final reflection, Ricks expresses optimism about the team’s progress and the upcoming season.  

“We could have done a lot better last weekend, but the weekend still showed we are progressing each and every day and that we are coming to do some damage this season,” Ricks said. 

In their next matchup, The Bison will face the Bowie State Bulldogs on Feb. 21, more information can be found on their Howard University Athletics profile page

Copy edited by D’ara Campbell


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