The Northern Kentucky Women’s Softball team, which has been predicted to finish 7th in the GLVC in 2008, is looking to rebound from its first sub-.500 season-23 wins, 25 losses-during the 9-year career of head coach Kathy Stewart.
The team will once again have to rely on a lineup lacking in senior leadership. Last year, the team had one senior, and this year the team has none.
The team’s youth will be tested right off the bat, as the Norse face a slew of South Region powerhouses, in Delta State, West Florida and Alabama-Huntsville in the season-opening “Charger Chillout” tournament in Decatur, Alabama. Another disadvantage facing NKU in these games is that they will be going against southern, warm-weather schools that will already have 10 or more games under their belts.
Some of the key players from last year’s team that will be expected to play well for the team this year include Amanda Smith, who was the team’s No. 1 pitcher and had the team’s highest batting average; Rose Broderick, who belted a single-season record seven home-runs; catcher Jenny Weis, who stole 22 bases and threw out nine base-runners last season; and Cara Parker, who led the team with eight sacrifice bunts and 28 runs scored.
Additions to the team include two pitching recruits, April Ehlers and Chelsie Roy, who will add much-needed depth to the rotation, and Stephanie West, a transfer from Eastern Kentucky University who batted .462 last season against Division I opponents.
“We have the ability to be a good offensive team, and with experience, I believe our pitching will also become a strength, said coach Stewart who went on to say that the team’s weakness is the lack of “game experience” of the new pitchers.
In 2005, the Norse set an NCAA Division II record when the team won 55 games to start the season, finishing with a 55-2 record. Stewart, however, does not think her team feels pressure to try to match the accomplishments of that season.
“If they have pressure, it’s to win (not 55 consecutive games), as that’s what we expect. Last year’s results were totally unacceptable for the program and we definitely expect to turn that around this year.”
After 16 straight away games to start the season, NKU’s first home game will be against Grand Valley State on March 16, followed by home games against Missouri-St. Louis and Missouri-S’T March 29-30.