PIONEER SOFTBALL: Strong Upperclass Presence Heads TU Roster

by Abby Ferguson

The 2011 softball season is in full swing, and with that comes a more experienced Transylvania team. The Pioneers have seven seniors, six juniors and three sophomores on this year’s roster. Half of these returning players were on the All-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference team in 2010.

“We return everyone and that will have a very positive impact this season,” said head coach Michelle Manning. “Experience and talent are a great combo — we are looking to have a great year because of those two factors.”

Senior pitcher Kendra DeArk led the team with 21 wins last year and had 163 strikeouts in 169 innings. Fellow senior Olivia Wall was 13-4, 9-1 in the conference, and had 111 strikeouts in 109 innings.

Sophomore infielder Megan Mitchell was a first team All-HCAC selection in 2010, Freshman and NCAA All-American and the conference Player of the Year. She also set a

Transy record with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs. Fellow All-HCAC first team members were DeArk, senior infielder Alicia Winans and junior outfielder Emily McCarty.

Those named to the second team were senior outfielder Jessica Pierce, sophomore infielder Michelle Ladanyi and junior outfielder Anne Broadhead.

In the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll that came out just days before its first game, the team moved up two spots to No. 19. Although there might be pressure, the team has turned this ranking into something positive.

“I feel people will be gunning for us but that only gives us more motivation to fight to win,” said Wall.

“A little pressure is a good thing,” DeArk said. “Pressure pushes athletes to their fullest potential. It motivates us to work hard every day with the mindset of reaching our goals at the end of the season.”

The pressure gives the team more motivation and they expect competitors to bring their “A” game every time.

“We know the pressure’s there, but we don’t focus on it,” said Mitchell.

The team’s goal once again is getting far into the NCAA Division III tournament. The team believes it has a chance of making this goal a reality this season.

“Having as many upperclassmen as we do will definitely play to our advantage, and having that experience at tournament time will be crucial to our team’s success,” said DeArk.

“We know that we have the opportunity to make that happen this year, especially with the hard work that we have put in during the preseason,” said Mitchell.

As the season progresses the team understands the importance of having a team full of upperclassmen, but the players hope the newcomers will give them a boost.

“The underclassmen (just the two freshmen), who haven’t played college ball before, are learning quickly and adjusting very well,” Mitchell said. “They have made great additions to our team.”

“We work hard at a high level — that is our goal,” Manning said. “We try not to focus on other teams or perceptions. We just want to play Transy ball.”


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