Sarah McCullough, Erin Sweeney and 2018 SUNYAC pitcher and player of the year Rebecca Vilchez have been voted the first captains in Oswego State softball program history by their teammates and head coach Abby Martin.
This announcement comes off the heels of the team’s first winning season since 1998. Their 19 win campaign last year was the most wins the program has had since going 19-7 back in 1981.
“I thought it was warranted, it’s special with [McCullough and Sweeney] finally being seniors.” Martin said on the decision to name captains. “[McCullough’s] probably the most underrated player that we have. Her career has taken her to, obviously her senior year, but I think the most special season that she’s going to have so far based on her work ethic and how bad she wants it.”
McCullough batted over .300 (.311) for the first time in her career last season for the Lakers. She had 20 RBI’s her junior year after only driving in 6 combined runners during her freshman and sophomore years. Her 33 hits, 15 runs scored, 11 walks, 8 stolen bases and .387 on-base percentage were all career highs a year ago.
“When I first started I was a little frazzled and hectic as a freshman and each year I think my confidence built,” McCullough said on her growth as a hitter. “I worked on changing my swing a lot, especially in the past year our coach has done a bunch of different things that have just worked out well for my swing.”
Not only has McCullough grown and evolved over the past four years, but so has the softball program as a whole. The Lakers went 5-21 under interim head coach Kevin Ahern back in 2015. He was the one that talked to McCullough about recruiting, but then she learned the team was in the process of looking for a new coach. It wasn’t until the middle of the summer of 2015 that McCullough learned from an email that Martin, formerly an assistant at the University of Buffalo, would be the one taking the head coaching position.
“It definitely is [a weird scenario to be in going into freshman year], but I didn’t really care,” McCullough said jokingly on the team’s coaching situation. “I just wanted to get an education and playing softball was just a plus.”
Since Martin took over the head coaching job before the 2016 season, the Lakers have gone from afterthought to legitimate contenders to win their first SUNYAC championship in school history. Oswego State was picked third in the conference in the first preseason poll and McCullough enjoys the challenge of leading her team towards that championship goal.
“Sarah always makes sure that everyone on the team is happy in the aspects of softball, personal life, and school life,” Sweeney said about her friend and roommate. “She will put aside her life for others.”
When McCullough was a freshman in high school, she was inspired by upperclassman who were paraded out of the school when they took the bus to go to states. She had the opportunity to experience the same thing as a junior and hopes to be a player other’s can look up to.
“What impresses me most about Sarah is her mental toughness, she always have positive body language and a positive attitude,” Vilchez said on her co-captain. “Her character on the field reflects a lot of the person she is outside of softball.”
McCullough is pursuing a degree in health promotion and wellness. She plans on going back to school to get her master’s in nutrition or exercise science. Sarah is unsure what path her career will take her down, but she’s interested in coaching other’s on health and helping physically train them.
“Even if I was just coaching younger teams too, like I want to have an impact on people like my coaches did when I was little,” McCullough said.