Softball to begin season with something to prove

The Northern Kentucky University Softball team will open its season with its participating in University of Alabama-Huntsville’s ‘Charger Chillout’ tournament Feb. 20-22 in Decatur, Ala.

According to sophomore pitcher/infielder Dani Finley, a transfer from Urbana University, the Norse will be starting this season with something to prove.

‘I know our main goal right now is to prove everyone wrong that doubts us this year,’ she said.’ ‘We were ranked ninth in the (Great Lakes Valley Conference?) preseason poll out of the 13 teams, which we were not happy about. We plan on bringing it this year all the way to the tournament.’

All missions aside, though, the Norse will kick-off the 2009 season with no actual experience in the diamond. The recent snow storms, which swept through the Northern Kentucky area, through February left the inside of Regents Hall as the team’s only option for a practice location.

When NKU takes the field for it’s first tournament game, against Wayne State at 11 a.m. on Feb. 20, it will be the first time the team has been able to do anything outside this year.

Head Coach Kathy Stewart said she is looking forward to quality and wide variety of competition present at the tournament.

‘The Charger Chillout always has good competition,’ Stewart, who is entering her 11th season with the Norse, said. ‘ We open up with Wayne State, who is always good.’

The Norse team will feature a plethora of returning talent from a 2008 team that completely lacked seniors.

Senior pitcher/infielder Amanda Smith and sophomore pitcher/infielder April Ehlers ‘- who were both named to the 2008 All-GVLC second team ‘- will join senior outfielder Katybeth Coode and junior outfielder Stephanie West ‘- who led NKU in one offensive statistical category each ‘- are among the teams top returning players.

Coode led the Norse in homeruns with ten on the season while West led the team in stolen bases, successfully converting19-of-21 of her attempts.

In addition to the returning veterans, newcomers, such as Finley and a talented freshmen class ‘- Jessica Farris, Ashley Gates, Caroline Snyder, and Rachael May ‘- will add more depth to the roster.

That depth coupled with motivation provided by the team’s sub-.500 record at the end of the 2007-08 season has generated quite a bit of confidence for West.

‘They can expect to see an improved team from last year,’ she said. ‘We all want to have a much better season and we’re working really hard right now.’

According to Stewart, certain freshman are already being looked to for an immediate impact for NKU.

‘(Farris) will be starting for us at shortstop, (Gates) may also start, and we’re looking for both of them to step up,’ Stewart said. ‘(Finley) will get time on the mound, but will definitely have an immediate impact offensively.’

The Norse are also scheduled to meet the University of West Alabama at 1p.m. on Feb. 20, and will see the likes of University of West Georgia and three Florida schools ‘- Lynn University, the University of West Florida, and Barry University ‘- throughout the rest of tournament.