SOFTBALL: Juniors lead way for freshman

Michael Zogg

It has been 14 years since the ISU softball team finished a season above .500.

Yet after a 29-29 season last year and a lot of returning experience, the Cyclones want and expect a better season this year.

“Talking to some the girls, one of our big goals is to make it past the Big 12 Tournament, you know, make the tournament, super regionals, regionals, and I definitely think that we are capable of doing that,” said junior second baseman Amanda Bradberry.

The Cyclones return 10 players — six of whom are juniors with starting experience, and eight who started at least 30 games last year.

“That junior class, the majority of them played a lot as freshmen and so now it’s great because now is when it’s really going to pay off,” said head coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler.

The Cyclones will add eight new freshman to the experienced line-up and the team has high hopes for the youngsters. Bradberry sees similarities between this freshman class, and her junior class when they were freshmen.

“You’ve got speed, you’ve got power, you’ve got defense, you know, you’ve got all these things that make a strong class, and that’s exactly what they are,” Bradberry said.

Adding talented freshmen to the ISU line-up created what Gemeinhardt-Cesler thinks will be a much deeper team.

“I look at our line-up offensively and I just think, ‘Man, we can get on base and score one through nine,’ and that’s a great feeling to have going into the season,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said.

With a lot of starters returning, the newer players have been able to benefit from their experience through the fall and in practice.

“I think both Car [Charissa Carlin] and Rachel [Zabriskie] have been very helpful from a pitching standpoint. They really helped me with the mental part of it,” said freshman pitcher and first baseman Katie Harms. “And then Sid [Sydni Jones] has done a great job at first base. She is always there, she is always telling me what to do, not like in a bad way, but she is always encouraging, always trying to help.”

Conversely, the freshmen have brought in some competition for starting roles. Gemeinhardt-Cesler said she will try some different combinations of players, especially early in the season, to see what works.

“I would think between second, short, and third, I definitely don’t think that anything is set and I think in the outfield too,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “That’s that depth that I’m talking about. Just let them play and compete and whoever then rises up [will play].”

The older players aren’t complaining about having to re-earn their playing time, however.

“It has actually made us starters, us returners, work a lot harder because we know that our position could ultimately be taken,” Jones said.

Although the upperclassmen are accepting the new competition for their jobs, the fact remains that with so many players, someone won’t get as much playing time as they would like.

“I think that it definitely seems to be a healthy competition and a good problem to have,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “But you know, we also haven’t played yet at all, and so no one is not playing. So I think that as time goes, that’s something you have to be aware of.”

One thing that might help the team stay positive is the fast friendships and camaraderie that has developed between both the new and the old players.

“We do a lot of silly things, you know, like breakfast dinners, and cooking, and, you know, going to the movies and just stuff like that and hanging out,” Bradberry said. “I think that that’s been a big part of making them feel like a part of us.”