Imagine coming back for another season after you had won 55 in a row out of 57 games the year before. That is what the women’s softball team is doing this year.
Last season the Lady Norse broke the NCAA record for most consecutive wins in a season and this year they are hoping for a similar record. The ultimate goal is to make it back to the Division II World Series and win the championship.
Ricki Rothbauer is one of the four seniors on this season’s squad. Rothbauer, from Louisville, was voted first team All-American, broke the single-season record for hits (82) and triples (9) last season. She was an intricate part to the Lady Norse’s impressive streak.
Rothbauer says this season will be a lot different from last because they have lost so many key players. One of those players was their star pitcher Krystal Lewallen who won 32 of the games she pitched last year. “Krystal just had one of those seasons where she was unstoppable,” Rothbauer said.
The season that the Lady Norse had last year will be hard to top and Rothbauer recognizes that. “It took ten years to break the record. It’s not realistic to think that we can do it again, but it’s not impossible.”
This season the Lady Norse will dress nine freshmen on the team to replace the seniors who left last. Rothbauer says they are the future of NKU women’s softball and they will get a lot of exposure this year because they are lacking veteran players. “Our team has a lot of kids to develop, but they have plenty of time to do it,” Rothbauer said. Among those nine freshmen are infielder Amanda Smith and third basemen Cara Parker.
So far, the team is off to a 3-2 start with a tournament coming up Feb. 24 in Huntsville, Ala. “The team expectations are set for this season, but we may have to reevaluate. It’s hard to say right now; we have some kinks to work out,” Rothbauer said. She also said, “It’s pretty rocky, but right now, we’re taking baby steps.”
Along with the new faces on the team Rothbauer said that injuries are becoming a factor for the team. Rothbauer just came off her own knee surgery in the fall. She said right now it is important to get everyone healthy.
Since Rothbauer is one of the seniors on the team, she has a very important role to fill as one of the leaders for her younger teammates.
“My role is to teach the younger players their positions and make them a part of our team. If they understand their role as a player it will make everyone else’s job on the team easier,” Rothbauer said. She also said, “we may not be stronger or bigger than everyone else, but if we work together as a team, wins will come.”
Rothbauer expresses a deep love for the game of softball and said she loves the strategy aspect of the game. “People say softball is a slow-paced game, but it’s more than that, it’s very mental, almost like a chess match,” she said. She also loves that at any point, a different person can step up their game and be the hero.
That mental aspect comes into play when Rothbauer steps onto the on-deck circle during a game.
“What I look for the most is the pitcher’s release point. If I can find that out, it’s easy to hit.” Rothbauer said. Last season she finished second on the team with a .394 batting average.
Winning 55 games does not go unnoticed and other teams are very aware of the season that NKU had last year. “Everyone knows what our record was and wants to beat us now,” Rothbauer said.
Rothbauer understands teams are going to approach them in this way. However, the Lady Norse is a different team this year and may take a while to get back to their record-breaking status of last season.