02/13/09 — MOC softball success will be based on team's consistency

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MOC softball success will be based on team's consistency

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on February 13, 2009 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Most teams define progress by wins and losses.

Not the Mount Olive College softball team.

The Trojans recount their progress by consistency.

Following a successful 2008 campaign that included a runner-up spot in the Conference Carolinas tournament, Mount Olive looks from the outside to be better prepared for another run this season. Stars like Kat Cahoon and Jenny Jackson anchor a squad that begins its search for an identity Saturday at in-state rival Catawba College.

First pitch is 1 p.m.

League coaches picked the Trojans to finish third in the preseason poll.

"The best thing this year is that we are healthy going into the season," said seventh-year Trojans head coach Jamie Kylis-Higginbotham. "Last year we were bitten pretty hard by the injury bug, and we are thankful that we have avoided those issues."

With team health no longer a concern, the focus on the program has turned to meshing experienced players with talented newcomers.

Jackson leads the Trojan pitching staff. The hard-throwing senior finished 2008 with a 16-11 record and a 1.39 earned run average. Jackson tallied 166 strikeouts in 186 innings. Fellow starter Anna Turvin also returns to the Trojan rotation. Turvin finished with 13 wins last season and a 3.37 ERA.

A pair of California products, Kristin Ware and Sasha Snyder may also see time in the circle this season.

"This is really a fun group to work with," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "They are a great group of really intelligent kids. They challenge me as a coach with some of the questions that they ask."

The Trojans will look to Jackson, Cahoon and Kelly Minshew for guidance at the plate.

Jackson batted .385 last season and belted 11 home runs. Cahoon carried a .353 average and led the squad with 40 runs scored. Minshew, a sophomore from Wilson Beddingfield, swatted a team-best 59 hits and earned a .347 batting average.

Newcomers Abi Earle and former Southern Wayne standout Alyssa Bradshaw also impressed the coaches during fall workouts.

"We have 12 new players on this year's team and most of them are freshmen," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "Overall, this is probably the most-talented group I have ever brought in."

With so many quality players suiting up for the Trojans this season, expectations are higher than ever around the college. None of the talk from outside the program bothers Kylis-Higginbotham.

"The polls are really meaningless. All that does is light a fire for the players," she said. "All that really matters is where you finish, and I hope that end of the year the players see it as a success."

After traveling to Catawba on for a weekend series, the Trojans visit Chowan University on Feb. 18. The team's home opener is Feb. 20 against Shippensburg (Pa.) University.