Softball finds strength in pitching

Northern Kentucky University’s softball season is creeping up fast. The Norse have been picked to finish fourth in the Eastern Division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Lewis University has been picked to win the East, with Quincy University and University of Indianapolis rounding out the top three.

Returning for the Norse this season will be senior pitcher/infielder April Ehlers, who led the Norse last season with a 1.65 ERA and compiled a 15-14 record. She currently sits with 672 career strikeouts, and will have a chance to break Krystal Lewallen’s school record of 836 career strikeouts.

Also returning to the circle for the Norse will be sophomore pitcher Emily Schwaeble. She finished the year just behind Ehlers with a 1.70 ERA, and only dropped two decisions while grabbing 11 wins.

Junior infielder Jessica Farris will be the leading stick returning for the Norse. Farris led the team with a .366 average and also tied for the team lead with 44 runs scored last season.

With the entire pitching staff from last season returning, the Norse will expect pitching to be a team strength, according to head coach Kathy Stewart.

“Our pitching staff is very good,” Stewart said. “We have all of our players returning. I’m expecting April Ehlers and Emily Schwaeble to step up. Chelsie Roy will get her chances too, and she is quite the competitor.”

While the Norse won’t be without veteran leadership this season, Stewart also believes that the nine newcomers on the team will also step up this season.

“They have a good work ethic,” Stewart said. “They’re buying in. It’s an impressive class, and they just need to continue to do the things that they’re doing.”

While there are six returning starters, every member of the team will have a chance to compete for playing time, according to Stewart.

“It’s been a while since we have had twenty players and competition makes you better because nobody gets complacent,” Stewart said. “If we don’t have enough players, they get very comfortable and may not work as hard. Everybody has to stay on their toes.”

While Stewart was confident that she will have a competitive team this season, she understands the GLVC will be a strong conference.

“There is a lot of parity in our conference now,” Stewart said. “Any conference game is tough. At this level, if you play, you play to win.”

The Norse has its vision focused on Lewis University, according to Stewart.

“Our nemesis right now is Lewis,” Stewart said. “We were runners up to them for the conference championship.”

NKU’s first game will be at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 18 against West Georgia at Charger Chillout in Decatur, Ala. The first conference game will begin at 1 p.m. March 12 against Rockhurst on in Kansas City, Mo.

The Norse finished last season with a 35-20 overall record, 19-8 in conference play and fourth in the final conference standings. Indianapolis claimed the regular season championship.

Story by Stephen Wilder