By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
MADISON COUNTY —
The Lady Colonels softball team has some unfinished business to take care of from last season.
EKU had a good season, finishing 27-30 on the year and 16-13 in OVC competition and sixth in the conference.
But it was the last week of the season that has been a motivating factor for the Lady Colonels as they prepare for the upcoming year.
The Lady Colonels entered the final week of the season in second place in the conference.
But back-to-back losses at home to Murray State, then losses to Murray and Jacksonville State in the OVC Tournament ended their year and dropped the Lady Colonels all the way down to sixth place in the OVC.
The disappointment is still fresh and Coach Jane Worthington said the team has worked hard to insure that doesn’t happen again.
“We had a good year, but not as well as we would have liked. We just kind of fell off at the end and had to go with one pitcher a little bit more instead of spreading it out because of some injuries,” Worthington said. “Regardless. We should have done better. But I promise you we will do better this year.”
EKU returns almost its entire team from last year, which relied heavily on young players.
With another season under their belts and coming off a good fall campaign, the Lady Colonels are primed and ready.
Pitching and defense should be strong points for the Lady Colonels this year and their most productive hitters are also returning.
Add to that some talented freshen and the Lady Colonels should be tough to handle this year.
Pitcher Laura Pittensbarger returns as the ace of the Lady Colonels staff. The sophomore started 32 games last year and had a 15-16 record and a team-leading 2.79 ERA.
Two other pitchers will be counted on heavily as well. Sophomore Shaylon Robb, who is coming off an injury last year, and freshman Hayley Flynn. Flynn beat Kentucky in a fall game last season.
Defensively, the Lady Colonels are very strong up the middle with returning All-OVC players Raquel Howes at second base and Katie Tackett behind the plate and Lauren Mitchell at shortstop.
The outfield is loaded this season, Worthington said, and should provide some of the best competition for playing time on the team.
“Our defense up the middle is strong and our outfield looks great,” Worthington said. “I honestly have on idea who will be starting. We have five quality outfielders, so it will depend on hitting the ball. It’s just see who gets on a roll and then somebody else has to beat them out.”
Sarah Fobbs, Carissa Reisinger, Kayla Joyce, Nicole Heitz and Melissa Costa will all be battling for playing time in the outfield.
The team is also blessed with some good leadership Worthington said, which will only make them tougher.
“Christina Ciolek from Madison Central and Raquel House have really stepped up and become leaders,” Worthington said. “They have done a fantastic job as has Shannon MCQueen, so we are in good hands.”
The Lady Colonels open play Saturday against UAB in Woodstock Ga. They will also play Liberty, Mercer and Ball State in the tournament.
EKU plays in tournaments in Chattanooga Tenn and Clearwater Fla. before returning to Richmond for their home opener on March 5.
This will be the first season for the OVC to have two divisions of play and Worthington said she’s not sure how the new format will work out.
“It’s going to be interesting. I’m not sure how it is going to affect it. We play teams in our division in three-game series and teams out of our division in two-game series,” Worthington said. “One thing that is scary is that if you play a series against a team out of your division on a Saturday and it gets rained out. You can’t play two games on Sunday because now you have to travel to another town to play the Sunday games, so you don’t have the flexibility of waiting to see if you can still play on Sunday.”
“I’m not sure how it is going to work out. But weather absolutely could be a difference maker this season. I think it is a work in progress for sure,” Worthington added.”