Experienced Beavers expect great things in 2008
By: Amanda Bell, sports information intern
January 30, 2008
Entering her second year as head coach for the Bluffton University softball team, Heather Bruder is looking forward to getting on the diamond. With a record of 14-17 overall and 9-6 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference last year, Coach Bruder's outlook for the season is high after losing only one senior to graduation. She is confident that the Beavers are ready to make another run at the conference championship after Bluffton gained valuable post-season experience with a couple of close losses in 2007.
Prior to the season, Coach Bruder and the team outlined a few goals for this year's team. "Making the post season tournament would be a great kick start for the program," stated Coach Bruder. "During the season, hitting above .300 as a team would be ideal." Bruder wants her players to always play with maximum effort in the non-conference games, which, she is confident, will put them in the right frame of mind once conference play opens. For the Beavers, winning the HCAC is an ultimate goal which would allow Bluffton to make its first regional appearance.
|The batters have to maintain discipline and control as advancing runners will be the key. "For teams to be successful you have to score more runs than your opponent," Bruder smirked. On the defensive side, "its not just about making the play, you need to be in the right position to make the play," Bruder remarked. The strength of this year's team, however, will be its pitching, as the top two starters from a year ago are back to put Bluffton in a position to be competitive each time they step on the mound.|
Making up the Beavers' roster this season are three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, and seven freshmen. "With three returning seniors from last year, leadership is going to be very important for the team again this year," Bruder commented. The returning seniors for the Beavers are outfielders Tonya Dean (Kettering/Kettering) and Gretchen Handley (Ashland/Ashland), as well as first baseman Amanda Harris (Greenville/Greenville).
With the strength of the 2008 squad coming from inside of the circle, the pitchers who gained a wealth of experience in pressure situations last year are junior Kellie Kenney (Toledo/Emmanuel Baptist) and sophomore hurler Brooke Babcock (Findlay/Findlay). Kenney finished last season with a 2.60 earned run average and 83 strikeouts, while Babcock completed the formidable one-two punch with a 2.86 ERA and 61 whiffs.
|With junior infielder LindsEy Miller (Wapakoneta/Wapakoneta) coming off an injury that slowed her last year, great things are expected in 2008. She is a very diligent worker and has continued to work hard after her injury to be prepared to step back onto the field. "Lindsay brings great enthusiasm, along with her great love and passion for the game," Bruder shared. Two freshmen that have been impressive in pre-season workouts are outfielder Mollie Brown (Fishers, Ind. /Hamilton S.E.) and second baseman Tiffany Buckmaster (Lima/Bath).|
Recruiting is one of many things coach Bruder does to prepare her team for each and every season. Motivation is also a key factor, stressing the basic fundamentals of the game. "We may not be the most talented softball team, but we will be the best conditioned and the most prepared," Bruder stated.
Coach Bruder is expecting to witness the will to want to win and also the will to prepare to win from her team this season. It all starts now in the pre-season with conditioning and workouts. "You have to put as much in as you want to get out and you always have to expect great things!" explained Bruder.
|The Beavers will open up play against Muhlenberg on Monday, March 3. The two squads kick off the Rebel Spring Games in Kissimmee, Florida, at 9 a.m. Bluffton will begin its Ohio slate with a home doubleheader vs. Indiana Tech on Thursday, March 13, at 3 p.m. The Beavers jump into Heartland Conference action when they travel to Hanover on Saturday, March 22.|