ISU softball leaning on offense for 2016 season

Junior Aly Cappaert is congratulated by her teammates after the first of two solo home runs during Iowa State’s 11-4 loss against Kansas on Friday.

Sean Sears

The Bergstrom Football Complex, the practice facility for the ISU football team, is usually associated with the sounds of football pads colliding and whistles blaring.

But in the middle of winter, the building has a slight change of tune.

The soft pings of bats lofting lazy fly balls rings throughout the building, as the ISU softball team starts to prepare for the 2016 spring season.

And that season looks bright.

The Cyclones have a strong foundation of upperclassmen, headlined by utility hitter Aly Cappaert and center-fielder-turned-shortstop Brittany Gomez. Cappaert was tied for the team lead in home runs in 2015 with 11, but her focus isn’t all about driving the ball out of the park.

“What I really go for is high on-base percentage, high average, and I think the power comes with that,” Cappaert said. 

Last season, Cappaert had an on-base percentage of .459 along with a .351 batting average, which put her first and second on the team, respectively. She was also second on the team in runs, with 32.

The only Cyclone with a higher batting average was Gomez, who batted .425 at the plate in 2015, which was the second-best batting average in ISU softball history.

Gomez ended her junior season as Iowa State’s all-time leader in hits, steals and runs. To cap off her successful 2015 season, she was one of 18 women selected to play for the Woman’s U.S. National Baseball team in the Pan America Games in the summer. 

This season, Gomez is making the switch to shortstop, after playing the last three seasons in center field.

“Now I feel a lot better, whereas at the beginning the of year I didn’t feel as comfortable,” Gomez said. “But I’ve gotten a lot of practice there, especially with assistant coach [Lindsey] Ubrun helping me. I’ve made a lot of progress.”

Cappaert and Gomez provide some of the team’s power, but the entire team has plenty of power behind it. ISU coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler has put together some impressive offensive numbers in the last three seasons, setting the single-season program records for runs, home runs, RBIs, walks and stolen bases.

Her teams own a blend of power and speed, allowing the Cyclones to manufacture runs in multiple ways.

“I just think with time we’ve gotten better,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “We’ve continued to improve and become better athletes.”

Gemeinhardt-Cesler also pointed out the team’s depth, calling it “the closest group in terms of skill level we’ve had.” She said it gives the Cyclones plenty of versatility going forward this season.

Pitching is the one question mark for the team, with Brianna Weilbacher being the lone returning player. However, the team will bring in a few freshman pitchers to make up for it. 

The pitching staff will need a boost, as it owned a 4.81 ERA last season. 

The Cyclones will start their season with a doubleheader against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Eastern Illinois on Feb. 12 in Ames. The first game starts at 4:30 p.m., and the second starts at 6:15 p.m.