BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Spring may seem like it’s a long way off, but the Olivet Nazarene University softball team has been busy preparing for the 2013 season. The hard work is already paying off as the Tigers find themselves ranked 12th in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Softball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll released on Tuesday, Nov. 13, the highest ranked northern team.
There are some big holes to fill from this year’s team as the Tigers lost four key players to graduation last fall. The pitcher’s mound will be missing two pitchers who accounted for 40 of the teams 54 wins last season, Katie Hannagan and Kelly Blucker ('12). Also missing is Molly Anderson ('12), who has been a staple at third base. Anderson finished last season with a .552 slugging percentage, with 12 homeruns and 55 runs batted in.
Possibly the biggest shoes to fill will be at shortstop. Jordan Reynolds ('12) roamed that area for four years and compiled quite a resume. Reynolds finished the season with 55 stolen bases in 59 attempts earning her the 2012 NAIA Golden Shoe Award from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) for the second consecutive year. She amassed a .455 batting average with 29 doubles, seven triples and six home runs. She lead the NAIA in total hits (101), steal attempts (59), runs scored (90), stolen bases (55) and assists (178). She also ranked in the top ten nationally in nine other categories. . The three-time Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Player of the Year did not go far however, as she now fills the role of graduate assistant coach.
The CCAC should not put their guard down and assume that the Tigers are in a “rebuilding” year, however. Nine players return from last year team that went 54-9, winning both the regular season and the conference tournament, returning to the NAIA National Championship.
The lone senior on the roster is Bethany Holaway (Wheaton, Ill.). Holaway finished last season with a perfect fielding percentage while holding down center field in all 63 games. She also batted a solid .327 with 65 hits. Juniors Hannah Gardner (Frankfort, Ill.) and Cheryl Sendzik (Mokena, Ill.) will return to the infield. Gardner, an NAIA All-America Second Team honoree, was second on the team with a .429 batting average. She broke the school record for homeruns in a single season with 18. She compiled 85 hits with 13 doubles and five triples, while leading the Tigers with a .818 slugging percentage. Sendzik compiled a .344 batting average and a .997 fielding percentage, committing just two errors at first base in 63 games. She was an All-Conference Second Team honoree.
The Tigers return four sophomores, including NAIA All-America Honorable Mention Erika Tatum (Bourbonnais, Ill.). Tatum finished the season with a .370 batting average, compiling 64 hits including 15 doubles and 10 homeruns. Megan Bulter (Frankfort, Ill.) returns behind the plate. She settled into the hot seat quickly a year ago, throwing out 15 runners while allowing just 13 stolen bases against her. She finished with a .276 batting average, including some key hits for the Tigers down the stretch. Jordyn Trulock (Princeton, Ind.) and Rachel Holaway (Wheaton, Ill.) saw limited playing time a season ago, but will compete this season for outfield positions.
Returning the circle are sophomore Lindsay Stotler (Bloomington, Ill.) and junior Caitlin Santefort (Mokena, Ill.). Stotler started in only nine games last season, but led the Tigers in relief appearances with 19. She was named CCAC Tournament MVP for her relief efforts, earning a win and two saves in the three games the Tigers played. She has worked hard in the off season to prepare herself for the starting roll. Santefort saw limited playing time last season due to injuries. In her nine pitching appearances, she 1.26 ERA and the opposition hit just .150 against her.
Junior transfer Justine Phillips (Metamora, Ill.) is the likely replacement for Reynolds at shortstop. Phillips comes to Olivet from Illinois Central College. During the 2012 year, Phillips lead the Cougars to a record of 37 wins and 25 losses, with a 5th place finish at the NJCAA Division II tournament. As ICC’s leadoff hitter, Phillips batted .500 with an on base percentage of .536. She had 14 doubles, 10 triples, and 3 home runs. Phillips scored 77 runs and batted in 48 of her teammates. She added 35 steals to her arsenal in 36 attempts. Phillips accomplishments on the year earned her NJCAA Division II 2nd team All-American honors.
Also transferring in is junior pitcher Virginia McAndrews (Wheaton, Ill.). McAndrews comes to Olivet from Judson University where she finished 9-6 with an ERA of 2.18 as a freshman in 2011. In 109 innings pitched, she gave up 34 earned runs with 38 walks and 122 strike outs. Opposing batters batted just .226 against her. Her achievements earned her honors as the CCAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year.
Tiger Class of 2016:
Cristen Seiders (Sherman, Ill.), OF: Seiders led Calvary High School to a 26-8 record during the 2012, leading the team with a .500 batting average and a .536 on base percentage. Her achievements earned her 1st team All-Conference, All-Area, and All-State honors.
Katie Megyesi (Washington, Ill.), IF: Megyesi, a graduate of Washington Community High School missed her senior season due to injury. As a junior, Megyesi had 116 at bats with 53 hits, compiling a batting average of 0.453. She was 2nd team All-Conference as she led the conference in homeruns, doubles, and extra base hits in 2011.
Jaimee Wiseman (Normal, Ill.), IF: Wiseman prepped at Normal West High School, where she led the Wildcats to a 26-12 record as a senior, including an appearance in the Elite 8. She batted .448 with 52 hits including 12 homeruns and 12 doubles. Her accomplishments earned her 1st team All-conference honors and a spot in the Pantagraph All-Star game, where she earned MVP.
Lindsey Krippel (Fairbury, Ill.), IF: In her senior year at Prairie Central High School she batted .442 with an on base percentage of .520. Krippel accumulated 14 doubles on the year and scored 28 runs. Krippel’s success earned her 1st team All-Conference and 3rd team All-State honors. She was also selected for the Super 60 and Pantagraph Area All-Star games.
Ashley McKnight (Deer Creek, Ill.), OF: In her senior year, McKnight produced 50 hits in 106 at bats, giving her a batting average of 0.472. She scored 34 runs and had 25 RBIs. Out of her 50 hits, 10 were doubles, 7 triples, and 2 homeruns. McKnight ran the bases well stealing 21 bases. McKnight’s success earned her 1st team All-Conference and honorable mention All-State honors. She was also selected for the Super 60 and Pantagraph Area All-Star games.
Not to be overlooked, head coach Ritchie Richardson enters his 18th season at the helm of the Tigers with a 790-279 career record. He is currently the second winningest active coach in the NAIA.
The Tigers are scheduled to take the field for the first time in the 2013 season on Friday, February 22 on the road against William Woods University (Mo.). They will then travel to Central Methodist University (Mo.) on Saturday. Olivet is not starting the season off easy as both teams are in the pre-season coaches poll, Central Methodist is 18th and Williams Woods is receiving votes.