IUS softball team picked to finish first in KIAC

IUS Horizon

The IUS softball team is going to have to win with good defense and a lot of help from underclassmen this season.

The team gained 13 newcomers, 11 of which are freshman.

Todd Buckingham, head coach, said because of losing four players and gaining so many newcomers he has changed the way the team plays.

“Last year our philosophy was to outscore our opponents, this year we play through our defense to manufacture runs,” Buckingham said.

Buckingham said the team’s defense and pitching are much stronger and better prepared than last year’s team.

Thirteen players were recruited this season because the softball program is still new. This season is the program’s third year.

Jennifer Bartley, senior pitcher and first baseman, said this season’s team is young.

“The newcomers bring something different to the table which helps to make us a well rounded team,” Bartley said.

Paige Dickey, senior outfielder, said the freshman can make the team just as good, if not better, than last season.

“Game time is when the pressure is on,” Dickey said.  “We have a great team, but it will come down to the first game to see what works or doesn’t work.”

Dickey said Buckingham’s coaching technique is different compared to last season.

“He’s not letting things fly,” Dickey said.  “He is working us hard to make us a better team.”

Buckingham expects some tough times with so many newcomers this season.

“We will have some losing streaks, but they all will be ready to lead us back to Decatur,” Buckingham said.

Decatur, Ala., is where the National Championship was held last year and will be there  again this year.

Dickey said last year they faced tough teams in Decatur and this season their schedule is full of harder teams.

“I think we got scared playing tough teams, and that’s why coach has us facing tougher teams,” Dickey said.

Shana Andres, junior shortstop, suffered a knee injury in the fall, but is expected to return in March.

“Shana Andres is improving everyday,” Buckingham said.  “She is healing on schedule.”

Andres played shortstop last season and the coach said she is a talented offensive player.   She led the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in triples with 11 last season. 

Heather Shepherd, freshman catcher and shortstop, will be covering the position while Andres is out.  Buckingham said Shepherd could be the best defensive shortstop in the conference.

Jennifer Harriman, sophomore third baseman, has a shoulder injury and will redshirt the entire season.

Buckingham will have two players to cover third base while Harriman is out, Brooke Martin, junior third baseman and pitcher, and Rachel Ferguson, freshman third baseman.

Martin split time at third with Harriman last season, but Buckingham said they have confidence in Martin now.

Ferguson will be helping out at third base a lot too.

Buckingham said the team will have to overcome adversities to win the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“The true test of how good a team is, is how well they can handle adversities,” Buckingham said.  “We have the people to do the job.”

This season the softball team has garnered some attention.

The KIAC pre-season coaches’ poll has the Grenadiers ranked first in the conference. The NAIA coaches’ top 25 pre-season poll ranked them just out of the top 25 at 30.

Buckingham said rankings never mean anything to him.

“It just puts a target on our backs, but at the same time, it’s nice to know other teams see us as an elite team.”

Staff Writer