2007 Season Preview
Beavers locked in and ready to go for 2007 campaign
By: Rustin Pickett, sports information assistant
February 13, 2007
|With a new sheriff in town, the Bluffton University softball team looks to bring a new game plan to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. Entering her first year at the helm, head coach Heather Bruder is excited to get the season started. "I'm very excited to have the opportunity to coach these fine student athletes," said Bruder, "and I will give great effort towards keeping these ladies successful on and off the field." She has already seen positive signs of commitment in the early stages of the preseason. "When we started winter workouts, the squad as a whole was working very hard," said Bruder. "Their willingness and desire to get better is good to see this time of year."|
|'All day till May' is an important key in both the players and Coach Bruder's eyes. "It's a little saying to keep motivated," said Bruder, "If we can stay true to this then we will be on the right track towards success." If the Beavers are able to win games up till May, they will find themselves in the conference tournament, which will be handled differently than in the past years. Previously, every team in the HCAC was eligible to make the year ending tournament, but this year the league has decided to go with the top four teams format. So in order to have the chance to advance to the Division III NCAA Tournament, the Beavers must leap three spots from their 7th place preseason ranking in the conference. "We like the underdog position," said Bruder, "it allows us to play ball without the added pressure and focus on our own goals."|
|The Beavers have come up with a few goals to help guide their transition. "We must remember that the season is a marathon, not a sprint" said Bruder, "and to do that we need to set short term goals and be able to look at the big picture at the same time." One important key for the Beavers is keeping in mind that there are 21 outs in a ballgame. "If we get every out when it presents itself, we will be in great position to win games," said Bruder, "There are 21 outs in a contest and we can't give another team 22." The Beavers must also work to win every inning. "Winning every inning is very important," stated Bruder, "we don't have to always put runs up in each inning, but if we capitalize on getting outs each inning and force the other team to make errors then that inning goes in our favor." Some other key aspects to each game will be the pitchers staying up in the count and hitters putting the ball in play.|
|A team effort is what it's going to take this year due to the youthfulness of the squad. The Beavers have one lone senior returning, in shortstop Carrie Weisbecker (Okeana/Ross). "Weisbecker is a key returner for us," said Burder. "She is a great role model and leader and will be a big part of our team's success." Weisbecker has been named captain and will share that role with sophomore shortstop Lindsey Miller (Wapakoneta/Wapakoneta). Miller enters this year with an injury that will sideline her for the beginning of the season, but both Weisbecker and Miller have been hard at work making sure the team is focused for the 2007 season.|
There are two juniors, three sophomores and seven freshmen to round out the young squad this year. "We have two freshmen who will battle for the catcher's spot," said Bruder, "this is a very important position and we are currently grooming them on blocking, calling a good game and knowing when to take a timeout to talk to the team or pitcher." Coach Bruder feels she has two strong pitchers who will be able to keep them in games. "I'm confident in our pitching staff right now and I believe they have the ability to keep the game in hand," quipped Bruder.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Beavers feel they can bring a mixture of long ball and small ball to the table. "We have a handful of kids who can hit the long ball," said Bruder, "but at the same time I see us playing small ball and coming with a balanced attack." With that said, they will plan their attack on a game-by-game basis depending on the opponent.
The definition of success varies by team. Some teams value wins and others look at the smaller parts of the game, but the Beavers try to put great value in both. "Success is not built overnight and not simply weighted by wins and losses," said Bruder "but at the same time, wins are important. We must also look back on the season and evaluate if we got better every game from March 5th through the conference tourney."
"I firmly believe that hard work pays off, and when a coach projects success, he or she is looking at whether or not the team is getting better on a daily basis," said Bruder. "We must remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint and that working hard through the season will take us to the next level."
The Beavers will open up play against traditional powerhouse Muskingum, who finished third in the 2006 season ending national polls a year ago. The two squads will kick off the Rebel Spring Games in Orlando, Florida, on Monday, March 5. The first pitch is scheduled for 9 a.m.