After making two consecutive NCAA Tournaments, women’s softball coach Kathy Bown is “expecting big things from this year’s team.”
The Norse return six starters and three outstanding pitchers from last year.
Last season NKU tied a school record for wins, which, going 36-17 overall and finishing 15-5 in the Grand Lakes Valley Conference.
The team finished with the second-best regular season record in the GLVC and outscored its opponents 200-97 throughout the season.
The team also picked up its first ever NCAA tournament victory.
NKU swept the season series with conference rival Southern Indiana and split with Southern Illinois University-Evansville, Lewis, and Wisconsin-Parkside.
Bown believes that with added power in the lineup this season they will be more effective in close games.
The team was picked to finish second in the GLVC Coaches’ Poll behind two-time defending conference champion SIUE.
Bown expects this year’s squad to be much improved, having a group of players who have experienced success, winning 72 games the past two seasons, as well as a group of newcomers who will contribute right away.
Junior Angie Lindeman plays first base and led the team hitting .333 last season, as well as driving in 30 runs.
Also returning is junior catcher Megan Owens, who batted .327 and led the team with three home runs and 34 runs batted in.
Junior centerfielder Stephanie Leimbach hit .309 last season and led the team with 29 runs scored.
Sophomore outfielder Kara Lorenz, who led the team with 15 stolen bases, also returns.
Sophomore Rachele Vogelpohl will take over for Crystal Wilson at shortstop.
Vogelpohl had a “very good fall” while learning the position, according to Bown.
Ricki Rothbauer is a sophomore transfer from Ohio University who will play second base.
Junior third baseman Sara Becker transferred from Kishwaukee Community College and is expected to provide the team with added power at the plate.
The pitching staff will be a strong point this season.
Krystal Lewallen won GLVC Freshman of the Year and made Second Team All Region last year.
Lewallen posted a 16-9 record last season, with a 0.82 earned run average, while holding opponents to a .170 batting average.
Also returning is junior Emily Breitholle who went 13-7 with a 1.42 ERA last season.
Sophomore Sarah Newland appeared in 13 games last season and recorded a 6-0 record with a 0.78 ERA.
NKU will face stiff competition in the GLVC this season.
Aside from top-ranked SIUE, other top teams in the conference include Wisconsin-Parkside and Southern Indiana.
The team begins the season February 13 in Florence, Alabama, against another highly touted GLVC team, Lewis.
Coach Bown enters her sixth year at NKU as the all-time winningest coach, going 145-94 in her first five seasons.