The Angelo State softball team is off to a torrid start. Last weekend, the Rambelles tied the program record with their 20th consecutive win. They are playing some of the best softball in Division II.
Apparently, not many expected this performance. The Rambelles -- who play in the stacked Lone Star Conference with perennial national champion threat West Texas A&M -- were picked to finish fourth in their conference.
Coming off their second sweep of the season against LSC rival and 20th-ranked Lubbock Christian on Monday, ASU is 26-1 on the season with a perfect conference record and a program-best 22-game winning streak.
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"It feels great to be 26-1," junior ace Brandy Marlett said. "We know the LSC is a very competitive conference. We have a goal of winning the LSC championship. Hopefully at the end of the season, we are at the top of this great conference."
"I think our coaches filled what was missing from the team last year," senior Kenedy Urbany added. "Last year, we only had 22 or 23 home runs as a team. Now, we have over 30, and we aren't even halfway through the season. Having more power hitters this season has really impacted how we are doing this year. I definitely think we have what it takes to make the national tournament, but we have to do things right and take it one game at a time. We don't plan on taking any teams lightly."
Urbany has been to the South Central Regional all three years of her tenure on the San Angelo, Texas campus. Her Rambelles have averaged 37 wins a season. Her storied career began with LSC Freshman of the Year honors.
While Urbany has led the team in home runs in each of the past two seasons, she's also been a driving force in the circle. She's in the middle of a season that is on par with the lofty numbers expected of her on an annual basis. She is hitting .325 with six home runs ad 23 RBIs. She's pitching some of the best innings of her career, at 9-0 with a 1.17 ERA behind two complete game shutouts. She's also picked up a save.
"I love being both a pitcher and a hitter because I want to contribute as much as I can to my team," Urbany said. "Playing both roles is something that I have always done through my softball career, so it's something that I am very comfortable with. I love having the opportunity to make a difference in both ways."
Urbany has been the major power source for the Rambelles over the past two seasons, leading the team in RBIs and accounting for 34 percent of their home runs. This season she has extra help, too. Freshman Courtney Barnhill is hitting .500 with a team-best eight home runs and 30 RBI.
"It's awesome," Urbany said. "I love having teammates who are power hitters and can hit home runs. This year, I know that I have people around me in the lineup who can hit for power, so I do not feel pressure like I did last year. Having Courtney behind me in the lineup makes me feel very comfortable because if I don't get the job done, I have confidence that she will. She has been a huge asset to the team in the batter’s box for us this year."
Joining Urbany in the circle is junior Marlett, one of the most dominating pitchers in the LSC since her freshman year when she took home LSC Pitcher of the Year honors. Since then she has become a strikeout machine.
This season she is on pace to shatter most of her career marks. Marlett sits at 12-1 with a career-low 1.58 ERA. She also is among the top 10 in DII in strikeouts (122), coming off a program record-setting 17-strikeout performance last weekend.
"This season has been the healthiest start for me since I first joined the Angelo State Softball team," Marlett said. "I had injuries my first two years that prevented me from going through an entire offseason. It gives me great confidence to know that Kenedy and Morgan [Hill] have my back on my off games just like I have their back. Knowing that we have so much depth in the circle this year takes a lot of stress off me and allows me to be the best pitcher I can be."
Head coach Travis Scott is in his 13th season. Scott, who led Angelo State to the 2004 national championship, is just seven wins shy of 700 on his career, 592 of which have come at ASU.
While the team -- who jumped to No. 2 in this week's NFCA rankings -- is focused on getting its coach that big win, the Rambelles have their eyes set on a bigger prize. They hope to finally get over that regionals hump and head back to the championships one more time.
"It would be such an awesome and special feeling because everyone wants to have a great end to their senior year," Urbany said. "I believe that we had the talent the past few years but we fell short of our goal. I really believe that we can with the way we are playing this year if we do things right."