Jazzmaine Hammond and Shannon Buffington
Frank Selden

Spartans Open MEAC Play at Home against Coppin State

| By: Mike Bello, Asst. SID
NORFOLK, Va. – MEAC play gets underway this weekend when the Norfolk State softball team faces Coppin State at home for a three-game series at the NSU Softball Field.
 
The first official MEAC Northern Division games for the Spartans will take place on Saturday when the two teams play at doubleheader at 1 p.m. They will also play once on Sunday at noon.
 
Both live stats and a live video feed will be available.
 
NSU comes into the weekend at 10-16 overall after wrapping up the Holy City Showdown on Sunday with a win over Charleston Southern in eight innings. Coppin State has played a more limited schedule so far this year, sitting at 3-9 overall after dropping two home games to Albany on Tuesday.
 
Only Bethune-Cookman (14-16 overall) has more wins this year than the Spartans among all MEAC teams.
 
This weekend will mark the first of five straight for the Spartans in conference play, although the next two and three of the next four will be on the road. Of the 15 games in April to close out the regular season for Norfolk State, 12 of those will be at home.
 
The team has been without its top two hitters lately in Shelby DesChamps and Meaghan Barfield. Instead, Kylee Lopez has done the heavy lifting, hitting .350 with 17 runs, nine doubles, six home runs and 23 RBI, all tops on the team. Hunter Halford has bumped her average up to .324 and also has 17 runs scored, and Jaylene Pryor is batting .303 with seven extra-base hits and 10 RBI.
 
Halford, in fact, has hit safely in 11 of her last 13 games, going 15-for-35 (.429) during that time. Tuli Iosefa is hitting 7-for-19 (.368) over her last seven games as well.
 
NSU owns a 3.98 team ERA, with Skylar Swain (5-5, 3.31 ERA in 48.2 innings) and Halford (3.39 ERA in 53.2 innings) leading the way. They have combined to start 18 of the 26 games so far this year.
 
Ranked in the MEAC
Lopez currently stands first in the league in doubles (9), second in home runs (6), RBI (23) and total bases (55), fourth in hits (28), fifth in runs (17) and sixth in slugging (.688). At the plate, Halford ranks second in walks with 12, and she also sits sixth in ERA. In addition, Swain ranks fifth in ERA but is also tied for first in wins with five.
 
As a team, NSU ranks first in the league in doubles (33) and home runs (19) and second in runs (124), hits (183) and walks (67). The Spartans are fifth in both batting average and ERA.
 
National Standings
Halford ranks in the top 25 in fewest walks per nine innings (0.91), and Pryor also sits in the national rankings in hit-by-pitches. But it's Lopez, however, who sees her name pop up the most.
 
She finds herself in eight separate categories, including 10th in doubles (9), 38th in total bases (55), 46th in home runs (6) and No. 68 in doubles per game (0.35).
 
In the team stats, Norfolk State pitchers have hit just two batters, the second fewest in the nation. The Spartans also sit No. 67 in the nation in stolen bases per game (1.38), No. 73 in home runs (0.73), No. 83 in scoring (4.77 runs per game) and No. 95 in doubles (1.27).
 
Slowly Moving Up
Lopez now has 13 home runs in her career, tied for eighth all-time at NSU with Rebecca Barnes and now nine away from tying the school mark of 22.
 
In addition, Seana Moriarty is two sacrifice hits away from tying the school mark of 30 set by Michelle Baytop in the 1980's.
 
Who are the Eagles?
They are a team hitting a respectable .281 on the season, with wins over Fairleigh Dickinson, Saint Peter's and St. Bonaventure, all at home. Of course, the opposition is hitting just slightly better – read, a lot better – at.399.
 
Coppin State's Nia Bowe (.433, team-leading 14 RBI) and Patricia Soria (.412, team-leading 11 runs and seven doubles) have been big forces on offense. Cayla Brown is the only other player hitting above .300, as she currently sits at .375 with 10 RBI. In the circle, Madison Didion has pitched 43.0 innings, 58 percent of the team's total. She owns a 5.70 ERA and a 3-2 record with 50 strikeouts and just 10 walks.
 
Series Edge
NSU has a commanding lead in the series against Coppin State, 48-12. The Eagles won two-of-three last year at their place, although prior to that they had lost 14 in a row to NSU dating all the way back to the 2012 MEAC tournament.
 
Up Next
The Spartans can gain an edge in the MEAC standings next weekend when they travel to Delaware State for a three-game series. Either DSU or Hampton has finished first in the North since the Spartans moved into the division from the South in 2012. This season will mark Hampton's last in the league before moving to the Big South next year.
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