The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

Keeping the hot streak rolling

The Norse softball started 2009 cold, then caught fire. They will look to keep the fire burning in 2010.

“Last year we got hot at the very end of the season,” said senior catcher Sam Del Vecchio. “We struggled for most of the season and I don”t think that will be the case this year. I”m seeing a lot of good things and hopefully we can start hot and stay hot.”

The Northern Kentucky University softball team will open their season as part of the Captain D”s Classic in Dahlonega, Ga. on Feb. 12. The Norse will play four games in the Peach State and will kickoff the tournament in a match up with Delta State University at noon and tournament-host North Georgia College & State University at 2 p.m.

NKU went 32-23 overall and 13-11 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference last season. The Norse struck fire late in the season, lifting them to an upset over Lewis (38-18) in the GLVC championship game. It was the first time they claimed the GLVC title since 2005. NKU was picked to finish third this season in the GLVC preseason polls by league coaches, according to the NKU Athletics Web site.

The Black and Gold have six returning starters on the club this season. Seniors Stephanie West (center field), Del Vecchio (catcher) and Rose Broderick (second base) hope to defend the GLVC title and advance in the NCAA tournament to close out their final season of eligibility.

Broderick returns as NKU”s all-time home run leader with 16, and she will look to add to that total this season. Broderick is an outstanding power hitter and she has the capabilities to hit for average as well.

West will supply the speed at the top of the lineup for the Norse. Her season was shortened last year by injury but she still managed to hit .308 with 16 runs scored. She also led the team with 11 stolen bases before her injury.

Del Vecchio had a strong 2009 season and looks to continue her success. She batted .297 with 10 runs batted in and drew 13 walks last season, according to the NKU Sports Information Web site.

“We have consistent hitters returning this season,” sophomore shortstop Jessica Farris said. “I think our team will be able to string some hits together when we need them the most. Most of us have been through big games so we”re going to be prepared on how to handle those situations.”

Junior pitchers April Ehlers and Chelsie Roy will take to the circle again in 2010 for the Norse – the two combined for 32 victories last season. Ehlers struck out 254 batters and recorded an earned run average of 2.09 in 214 innings of work. Roy struck out 77 batters and recorded an ERA of 2.16 in 152 innings of play. She also tallied 10 complete games for the Black and Gold. If the duo continues to get better and they get the run support they need, NKU could be a tough team to beat.

“It is a huge deal to have two pitchers returning for us, especially two juniors who are so strong,” Del Vecchio said. “April has played in big games and can handle the pressure, and we need that leadership on the mound to make sure the energy on the field stays at a maximum. Chelsie was so solid last year, very consistent, and that will take away any worries of an off-on year for her.”

Coach Kathy Stewart has versatility and depth on the squad with junior utility players Gretchen Lorenz and Jamie Raabe. Lorenz played in 41 games, hit .291 with 10 runs scored and eight RBIs. Raabe played in 27 games as reserve last season, according to the NKU Sports Information Web site.

Sophomore sensations Ashley Gates (right fielder) and Farris started all 55 games as freshman last season for the Norse. The two players put up productive numbers in their first full college season.

Farris was named GLVC Freshman of the Year and was named to the All-GLVC second team. She led all returning starters with a batting average of .315 and 31 runs scored during her freshman campaign. Farris has an exceptionally strong arm and she exhibits exceptional ability with the leather on the field. Gates broke the single-season home run record with 12 round-trippers in 2009. Along with Broderick, Gates will help supply the power for NKU”s lineup. She drove in a team high 42 runs and batted .270. Gates accounted for 10 multi-RBI games and two multiple-home run games with six or more RBIs.

NKU has added five freshmen to its roster this season after losing three seniors to graduation. The departure of Cara Parker, Shatona Campbell and Amanda Smith has left voids at third base, left field and first base. Four of the freshmen will challenge for the infield spots.

Freshman pitcher Emily Schwaeble will look to contribute in the circle and utility player Alesa Collinsworth is a versatile defender who is capable of playing the infield and outfield. Samantha Smith could grab a starting spot as she was scouted as a solid defender and a productive hitter.

“The biggest challenge early on is going to be getting new players used to a new system,” Farris said. “We”re going to have to get used to playing with each other and we”re going to have to learn each other”s strengths and weaknesses.”

Story by Mike Collins