Softball welcomes new faces to begin fall season


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Junior Paris Imholz pitches against Texas on Friday, April 11. The Cyclones fell to the Longhorns 2-0 in the second game of the series.

Kevin Horner

As the first tournament of the fall season approaches for the ISU softball team, the Cyclones have a renewed confidence in their recently revitalized lineup.

This fall, the softball program welcomes eight new faces to the team, meeting and exceeding the necessary boost needed as five seniors graduated last spring. 

As the newcomers will cover nearly half of the current roster, there is no questioning the confidence in the team’s ability to adapt for this upcoming season.

“The eight newbies that we have here are doing fantastic,” said ISU coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler. “I think it will be a pretty good transition.”

Of the eight rookie Cyclones, two are transfers, one from Iowa Central Community College and the other from Northwest Florida State. The remaining six are freshmen.

One of the freshmen has particularly stood out early on. Right-handed pitcher Brianna Weilbacher, a native of Columbia, Illinois, has made an early impression on her fellow coaches and teammates.

“Bri Weilbacher has a ton of potential,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “She throws decently hard and moves the ball well. I’m really excited about her.”

Weilbacher, among others, looks to strengthen a pitching staff that has struggled over the past few years, ending the 2014 season with a 6.78 earned run average. 

Despite the disappointing numbers from last season, Iowa State holds a positive view on the future of the pitching rotation.

“We’ve been focusing on driving forward in all aspects, physically and mentally,” said senior pitcher Paris Imholz. “It’s nice to be able to play off of the success of the offense, but we are also focused on what we can do to come up to [the offense’s] level and even go past that.”

Matching the productivity of the Cyclone offense, however, will be no simple task. 

Last season, the Iowa State bats produced record-breaking numbers including a .325 batting average, which shattered the previous team record of .288. In addition, the spring 2014 season tallied 476 hits and 262 runs scored, the best and second-best numbers in Iowa State softball history for each category, respectively. 

Leading the high-powered offense is junior OF Brittany Gomez. She is the current Iowa State record-holder in career batting average with .379 and career stolen bases with 55. Gomez finished the season last year with a .397 batting average as well as 75 hits and 24 stolen bases. This performance in 2014 earned her a spot on the All-Big 12 Second Team as well as the NFCA Division I All-Midwest Region First Team.

With half of the incoming players this season being outfielders, Gomez, as well as the rest of the team will have to learn to adjust to the new system.

“We have almost all new outfielders, except for me,” Gomez said. “So, learning how to work together with them is definitely a goal for this season.”

The Cyclones will kick off their fall season Oct. 4 as they are set to host the Big 4 Fall Tournament. This exhibition tournament will bring in the four Division I teams from the state: Iowa, Northern Iowa and Drake as well as Div-II Upper Iowa.

Since the actual season does not begin until spring and this tournament only consists of exhibition matches, Gemeinhardt-Cesler will focus on more than just winning this weekend.

“It’s a great test to see where we’re at,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “We’ve made a lot of changes and we get the chance to see how well those changes are sticking.”

The tournament will provide the Cyclones with an excellent opportunity to begin to put together the all of the aspects of their new team.

Even so, the team said there is always a desire to win when competing against in-state rivals.

“It’s exciting,” Imholz said. “Even though this isn’t the official Cy-Hawk series, it will be interesting to see how we match up.”

Iowa State will try to rebound from a 1-2-1 record against these teams from last season.

“We always want to be the best team in Iowa,” Gomez said. “To be the best softball team in Iowa would be a great name to put out there, especially for the fall. It would be great going into the season, being able to say, ‘We’re the best team in Iowa, and we can compete even better than we have in the past.'”

The Big 4 Fall Tournament will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4 at the Cyclone Sports Complex.