WBC Softball Looks to Repeat Success
by Caleb Livingston
Coming off a school record 2010 season, the Williams Baptist College softball team is looking to take things to a new level in 2011. Coach Eric Newell's squad won a conference co-championship in 2010 and is looking to take the "co" off the championship crown this year.
The softball Eagles have all the motivation they need this season after losing in last year=s conference tournament semifinals to McKendree. Newell noted, "Our girls have really worked hard this off-season. They don't want to have that same feeling they had last year in losing in the conference semis. We have set very high expectations this season and we expect to reach them."
Newell may have good reason for the high expectations due to the experience returning to the team this year, but he noted that someone will have to step up and fill the leadership void left from last season.
"We have a core of returnees who are very motivated. One thing we will have to do is have some of our girls fill a leadership void that we lost in Marisa Hoehn and Kim Emmons. If we can do that we will be very good again," he said.
One of the main reasons for optimism is the return of reigning American Midwest Conference Freshman of the Year Karisa Hendrix. Hendrix had a 15 6 record with a 1.60 ERA in 144.2 innings pitched. She also recorded 10 shutouts, 18 complete games and 142 strikeouts in just 24 starts last season.
Newell is understandably excited about returning one of the best pitchers in the league this season. "Having Karisa back gives a stabilizing factor while we work out some of the other kinks in the field. She brings tremendous leadership and work ethic, on and off the field."
Williams also has many other returners who will look to build on promising seasons last year. Sophomore Jill Graham is coming off an All AMC campaign in her freshman year as she hit .371 with 19 stolen bases. Graham stands to be the catalyst for the WBC lineup, having had an on-base percentage of .406.
Newell will turn to senior Tricia Driver for leadership this spring. "Tricia has been a great influence and leader for our squad. She shows up every day with an attitude of wanting to get better," he noted. Driver hit .300 last season while playing first base.
Newell is also counting on juniors Ashley Boyles and Chelsea Sanders to have a big impact on the WBC lineup, as they both have started since their freshman season. Boyles, who serves as a utility player, hit .341 and had 25 RBI last season. Sanders, a catcher and first baseman, hit .317 with a team leading seven home runs and 32 RBI in 2010.
The coach is also excited about some newcomers who look to have an impact for the Lady Eagles this season, and he has noticed a buzz in recruiting since coming off a co conference title last season. "There has definitely been a big upswing in recruiting, not only for this season, but in future seasons as well."
Two newcomers that Newell hopes will boost the WBC lineup are junior college transfer Wendy Eftink and freshman Hallie Horton. Eftink, a transfer from Three Rivers Community College, looks to plug the hole at third base. Horton, who set an Arkansas high school single season record with 14 home runs at DeWitt High School, will bring some pop to the lineup.
Newell will also expect other newcomers to help contribute to the WBC roster, noting, "We expect some of our newcomers to push our older players and make everyone better."
He is looking forward to a challenging non-conference schedule this season. WBC will take on in state rival Lyon, as well as NCAA Division I member Southeast Missouri State. Newell also expects the AMC to be very tough again this year.
"Columbia is tough as always, McKendree is going to be good again, and William Woods will have a strong squad this season. We are looking forward to the challenges that the conference provides," he said.
In addition to the considerable softball talent on his squad, Newell is also proud of the fact that his team has 15 academic all-conference members. "It goes to show you the character we have recruited on our team. It also shows the dedication this team has shown to be the best on and off the field."
Williams will open on Saturday, Feb. 12, with a doubleheader at Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Miss. Their home opener is slated for Friday, Feb. 18, hosting Blue Mountain for a pair of games starting at 1:00 p.m.
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