SB : In place of sister, Daniels steps up to become threat in SU lineup
Lisaira Daniels was one of the Syracuse seniors honored last weekend, but her sister stole the show.
Shirley Daniels, a sophomore outfielder, led the Orange to a pair of victories over No. 18 South Florida in its last weekend of the regular season.
‘I think this weekend, everyone got a taste of the things Shirley can do,’ Lisaira Daniels said. ‘This weekend, it was her weekend. I know it was senior weekend, but she stepped up in so many ways.’
In front of the biggest crowds of the season at Skytop Softball Stadium, Daniels stepped up in the absence of Lisaira, who was resting due to a knee injury. She was the catalyst of the SU offense, going 6-for-11 in the three-game series. For a hitter who usually relies on slapping the ball, Daniels flashed an abundance of power, smoking two long balls.
After wrapping up its regular season, Syracuse (40-13, 17-5 Big East) begins postseason play at the Big East tournament in South Bend, Ind., Thursday, when No. 3 seed Orange takes on No. 6 seed St. John’s (21-33, 9-12) in the first round. Shirley Daniels will be crucial to SU’s chances to defend its tournament title.
In the first game against USF, Daniels hit a two-run homer that proved to be the game-winning blast in a 2-0 win. Then on Senior Day, Daniels once again showed off her power with another two-run home run. The drive gave SU some extra insurance in a 7-0 win for the Orange.
‘I’ve just been working really hard because I haven’t really been having great at-bats but (working with) coach King and seeing all my other teammates doing well and just believing in my abilities,’ Daniels said. ‘And just seeing the ball.’
The power was especially surprising, considering Daniels only had two home runs in 50 games this season going into the weekend set. In three games against the Bulls, she doubled that total.
Still, her teammates and coaches weren’t surprised. Hitting coach Wally King said Daniels has always had the ability to lift the ball out of the park, but she needed to get the mindset to do it.
While a potent home-run hitter like Jasmine Watson can muscle the ball out of the park, King said Daniels puts a good swing on every pitch she sees. She might not have the stature to be a long-ball threat, but she’s still capable of hitting for power.
Daniels’ strong performance this weekend also helped reinforce an ideology SU head coach Leigh Ross preaches. When some players go down with injuries, others need to step up and produce.
‘When something happens, other kids step up. They rise to the occasion and that’s what we did this weekend,’ Ross said. ‘Shirley Daniels stepped up for her sister being out. You know, kids do that when they are put in the spot.’
Ross expects Lisaira and Julie Wambold, who injured her left leg after being hit by a pitch during the weekend, to be back for SU’s postseason run. For Ross, it adds more power and forces her to readjust a lineup with plenty of depth.
But for one weekend, with Lisaira sidelined, the younger Daniels had a chance to step out from her older sister’s shadow and shine.
Lisaira described it as a release for Shirley. Lisaira said that growing up, many people tried to tell Shirley she had to live up to her big sister. But Lisaira always made it clear to Shirley that wasn’t the case.
She can be her own person. And this weekend, Shirley Daniels certainly proved just that.
‘I think this weekend, she got to be Shirley Daniels,’ Lisaira said. ‘She definitely made a name for herself through her actions.’
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