BY BROOKS HOLTON – SPORTS EDITOR
Every team has a game or two that gets away from them. For some, these losses can be minor setbacks in the grand scheme of a championship run. For the 2015 Centre Softball team, however, a couple more wins would have moved the 14-18, fifth-place Colonels into the top half of the SAA standings—a goal that has taken hold of head coach Ashley Taylor’s 2016 squad.
“We have to continue to build on what we started last season,” Taylor said. “We are striving to be in the top half of our conference come tournament time and make a run for the championship. We have the ability to beat any team in our conference if we do the little things correctly.”
The cornerstone of any deep postseason run is pitching, and it also happens to be one of the strengths of the ball club heading into their first games of the season.
“We have five good pitchers that have strengths of their own,” Taylor said. “Too many times in softball you rely on two or three pitchers. Having a surplus makes it harder for teams to prepare for the games against us, not knowing who will start and that they are so different from each other.”
Losing only one player from the everyday lineup following the 2015 campaign, the Colonels should have a strong defensive nucleus working behind their starters. Senior centerfielder Alisha Russell will be one of the anchors on the field, and believes that keeping things loose under pressure will prove to be a valuable trait of the team.
“We’re hysterical,” Russell said. “Sometimes we get in our heads and beat ourselves before we even step on the field. I think to be competitive we have to trust the process, know we can do the fundamental things, and stay positive. If we can channel our excitement, the positivity will play a big role in winning those close ballgames.”
Offensively, senior shortstop Ashley Merkin and junior pitcher/infielder Jessika Young will be called upon to cultivate production and run support in crucial moments. Young led the team in home runs during 2015 (5) and Merkin in RBI (23). Expect junior Brittany Sears to be even more active on the base paths in 2016 as well, after leading the team with six steals in 2015. Senior catcher Tori Silcox will also play an important role in facilitating the game from behind the plate as Coach Taylor’s “Captain on the field.”
With another offseason under the team’s belt, Silcox expects the team to use the underdog psyche to propel them to big things.
“People don’t expect what we are bringing to the field this year and we are definitely going to use that as a strength,” Slicox said. “We have worked incredibly hard this year to prove that we shouldn’t be considered the underdogs anymore. We started to prove that last year and I think our hard work in the off-season will help us to continue to prove we are a force to be reckoned with.”
The Colonels will play their next eight games on the road before returning home for a matchup with Adrian College on March 12.