Feb. 10, 2012
Bearcat softball returns solid core for 2012
By David Boyce
The wicked north wind that blew into Maryville last weekend was particularly cruel for Northwest Missouri State softball team.
After spending nearly 2 weeks outside during a historically warm late January, the Bearcats were sent scurrying inside to take ground balls off cement floors.
“The ball bounces different,” said Northwest coach Ryan Anderson. “Everything is perfect indoors. You do not have to deal with dirt and holes that really, you need to work on outside.
“We’ve practiced outside 10 days to two weeks. We had that little stretch of 50 degrees so it was nice to get outside and do some things.
“When you are outside, you can play the bad hops.”
Unfortunately, spring didn’t arrive two months early. The Bearcats spent this week indoors preparing for their first game, which has been moved to Tuesday in Springfield against Drury.
Like most seasons, the Bearcats will also be checking the forecast. With temperatures dropping into the low 30s or colder, Northwest may see more postponements on its schedule.
Anderson wants to get his team into competition as soon as possible. The Bearcats are still a month away from playing their first MIAA contest.
A year ago, Northwest finished 25-19 overall and 14-8 and tied for fourth in the MIAA. They were picked to finish fifth this season.
Anderson pointed out that the top three teams in the MIAA last year all reached NCAA Division II Regional. That’s a goal of the 2012 Bearcats.
“I think we have the talent to do it,” Anderson said. “To me, our biggest thing is finding those bats. We have kids who can do it. We need them to grow up and grow up fast.”
For just that reason, unseasonably warm weather the rest of February is so valuable to the Bearcats.”
Northwest lost three strong hitters from a year ago.
“To me hitting is the toughest thing to get back after the month off for Christmas break,” he said. “You have all this time you hit and take balls and then it’s December and you can’t do anything until mid-January. We hit all we can, five days, six days a week. Realistically, we will hit every day.
Anderson is not as concern with his pitching and defense because he returns experience.
“It seems like with our pitching and defense we should be able to stay in the game,” he said.
“We started off strong last year and finished decent. Our pitchers got a little tired at the end. We came out strong and got to the point we could compete against anybody. We beat some teams that people didn’t think we were going to beat. We played well.”
Two of the pitchers Anderson will be counting on are juniors Jenna Creger and Morgan Brunmeier. Last year Creger went 15-10 with a 2.11 ERA and Brunmeier was 10-8 with a 2.58 ERA.
Creger and Brunmeier will have a strong defense behind them. Returning on the infield are juniors Hailee Hendricks, Rachel Schmitz and Kristen Uthe and sophomore Angela Wright.
“We have a good little core coming back,” Anderson said.
Hendricks will also be one of the hitters Anderson is looking to for big hits. As a sophomore, Hendricks was second on the team in hitting with a .313 average. She also tied for the team high in RBI with 30.
More than anything else, the Bearcats just need the warm weather to return so they can get back outside.
“You cannot really do situations and things you want to inside,” Anderson said. “That is what is good about playing a couple of early games. You see things you can work on, defensive situations and hitting situations.”
The first softball game awaits the Bearcats. Anderson is eager to see how the team will respond at certain points in the game.
“We have pieces,” he said. “They want to get in and hit the ball. When somebody is standing on second base, we need that kid to step up and hit the single and score that player.”
Hopefully, the blustery north wind will switch to a warm southerly breeze soon so the Bearcats can play ball!
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