2006 Softball Preview
By Molly Burnell, sports information assistant
February 22, 2006
A Bluffton University softball player must possess many qualities to be successful. Toughness, determination, strength, and the will to succeed are all vital characteristics of a Beaver softball player. Under the direction of third year head coach Holly Spann, the 2006 softball squad has learned how to use the off-season to prepare for the upcoming spring campaign. "I expect the players to be mentally tough during practice. Consequently, they work hard mentally as well as physically during each drill and every moment of practice," Spann said.
"The key at the beginning of the season is finding the right balance of players to help us be competitive in every contest," stated Spann. The Beavers start off their season during spring break as they travel to Kissimmee, Florida to compete in the Rebel Spring Games. "Our goal for Florida is to find our team dynamic and spend some quality time together as a squad away from the stresses of classes," Spann said.
The 2006 schedule for Bluffton includes many competitive teams. "To be a great team you must play solid teams. Playing teams of this caliber will force us to play to our level, and show other teams that we are a force in every game," explained Spann. The Beavers have included traditional powers such as Wartburg, Wittenberg, Alma and Denison, along with their Heartland Conference foes on the 2006 spring schedule.
Bluffton has been pegged to finish second in the HCAC in 2006. The Beavers will be replacing five starting seniors lost to graduation in 2005, but Coach Spann feels that with hard work and team play the 2006 edition will be able to prove themselves on the field.
2004 All-American and Heartland Conference Player of the Year Sarah Betts (Bryan/Bryan) will lead Bluffton on the mound. "Sarah is a major threat to other teams; no one we play wants to face her at the plate," Spann said. While the senior pitcher has received many awards and already holds most of Bluffton's pitching records, she stays humble and is able to lead her team through example.
The outfield core will be led by three seniors, Kate Barringer (Dayton/Chaminade-Julienne), Lindsay Miller (Grover Hill/Wayne Trace), and Michelle Motter (Lakeview/Indian Lake). "Kate is a competitive player and a student of the game. She is working hard to learn the outfield position this season," Spann stated. "Lindsay is the fastest member of our team and she has vastly improved her hitting skills during the off-season; she will be the stimulus of our offense. Michelle is a savvy base runner and will be looked upon to get things done at the plate for Bluffton," Spann said.
Junior Carrie Weisbecker (Okeana/Ross) will see considerable time at shortstop this season as well as other key positions in the infield. "Carrie is a clutch player; she is calm at the plate and often proves intimidating to opponents," stated Spann
Four sophomores will see extensive time this season for the Beavers. Pitcher Tonya Dean (Kettering/Kettering) returns with a wealth of experience on the mound for Bluffton. Amanda Harris (Greenville/Greenville) has come into her own during the preseason and she will see time at first or third base. Sarah Nusbaum (Fairview/Fairview) will command the field from behind the plate with her acute ability to manage the pitching staff. Catie Richman (Upper Sandusky/Upper Sandusky) will use her speed on the bases and her skills at the plate to provide pinch running and hitting duties for the Beavers.
Joining the Bluffton lineup for the 2006 season are five freshmen who will provide depth for the squad. Gretchen Handley (Ashland/Ashland), Kellie Kenney (Toledo/Emmanuel Baptist), Lindsey Miller (Wapakoneta/Wapakoneta), Liz Wineland (Oregon/Cardinal Stritch) and Randi Yeager (Harrison/Harrison) will all make important contributions on the diamond this spring.
A new face in the dugout this year for the Beavers is graduate assistant coach Amy Prichard. Prichard played outfield from 2001-2004 for the Michigan Wolverines softball team. She helped lead the team to three Big Ten conference titles and NCAA college World Series appearances in 2001, 2002, and 2004.
The returning core and the talented underclassmen have displayed an outstanding work ethic that is vital for achieving success. The team has high expectations and is determined to set new standards of excellence in the Heartland Conference during 2006.