Streaking softball team is making college sports history

Posted: April 12, 2007

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - On a chilly afternoon this week, Northampton Community College softball coach Sam Carrodo walked around the field, planting bases and waiting for a few students to arrive for practice from work.

Not much has changed as far as glamour for the two-year college surrounded by freeways and farms in Bethlehem, but the school has received more attention since the team surpassed the North Carolina women's soccer team's 1998-99 streak of 92 straight wins.

The Spartans reached the 93-0 mark - one of the longest win streaks in college athletics - on April 1 after a three-game sweep of Montgomery College of Rockville, Md.

"There's a lot of buzz," Carrodo said.

The only dark cloud came when Carrodo was informed that the impressive win streak, which is now in its third season, is not the longest on record with the NCAA. The Miami men's tennis team won 137 straight from 1957 to 1964, and the BYU-Hawaii women's tennis team won 130 straight from 2002 to 2005.

Carrodo called the players one by one to inform them. There was initial disappointment, they said, but it did not destroy their drive. They take comfort in holding the record for the longest streak in a sport that is not played as individuals.

"We worked really hard for it," said Roxi Schisler, a sophomore first baseman. "We're just going to take the momentum and keep pushing. You never want to be the team to stop the streak from going."

The Spartans will try to record a 94th straight win today when they face Penn State-Abington on the road.

Winning over the course of multiple seasons is one thing for big-time Division I colleges with athletic scholarships to hand out and high profiles, such as UCLA's 88-game winning streak in men's basketball from 1971 to '73.

For Northampton Community College, it has been a little different.

The school offers no athletic scholarships. On top of classwork and two-hour daily practices, many players work or have clinical studies that take up more than 20 hours a week.

The most an athlete can play for the Spartans is two seasons, so Carrodo is constantly looking for replacements. From the 2005 team that went 40-0, only three players returned. From last season's 38-0 squad, only six came back.

Scheduling is difficult as well; four opponents have already canceled this season because their programs collapsed.

"At the community-college level, it's tough," Carrodo said. "They have school, they work, they're playing ball. It's a tremendous burden. You've got to be flexible with scheduling."

Lisa Klinger, a sophomore leftfielder, arrived a few minutes late to practice on Monday, after working 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. as a cashier at a convenience store. She works part-time four days a week and takes classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"I'm really organized," she said.

Eleven of the Spartans' 13 players hold jobs. It helps that Carrodo, 46, is more of an understanding friend than a demanding drill sergeant, the players said.

His office door is always open, and inside a jar of candy is available and sodas are chilled in a small refrigerator. He espouses a coaching philosophy that does not include yelling.

Players call him by his first name, talk to him about their financial debt, and even give him advice.

"Roxi came to me and said, 'All you're doing is worrying about the streak and you're not coaching the same. This is ridiculous,' " Carrodo recalled. "I was like, 'She's right.' I went back to my old way and said, 'Forget about the streak.' "

Players said the laid-back environment and open-door attitude have helped them win.

"To have a coach so supportive, where you know if you make a mistake he still cares, everyone plays 10 times better," said Schisler. "It's an awesome atmosphere to play in."

Don't mistake them for Girl Scouts, though.

The Spartans have batted .497 through the streak, registered 41 shutouts, and have won back-to-back state titles.

"They're fiery," Carrodo said. "At one point they want to rip your head off, and the next they want to bake you cookies."

Carrodo earned the job 10 years ago by responding to a newspaper ad and was surprised to learn he would get paid.

He used to worry about fielding a team. Once, he played a doubleheader with just eight players - and won both games.

Those days seem to be over as the team's success has helped with recruiting. Carrodo has 14 players signed to come for next season's team, which also could return six of its 13 players from this season.

"Word is starting getting out about us," Carrodo said. "People said, 'Yeah, let's give it a shot.' "


Contact staff writer Shannon Ryan at 215-854-5503 or sryan@phillynews.com.

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