MOC softball ready for the season to start
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on February 8, 2011 1:47 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Recruiting and building a team from the ground up is no easy task.
Mount Olive College softball coach Jamie Kylis-Higginbotham hopes to see the fruits of her labor on the diamond this season.
The Trojans' roster, which was flooded with freshmen and sophomores in 2010, has had a year to learn the ropes of the college game and should be able to compete with anyone in the Conference Carolinas ranks. Led by just two seniors, the squad also boasts a strong number of experienced underclassmen that bode well for the future around Nancy Chapman Cassell Field.
Coming off a 23-29 campaign that included an 11-8 record in league play, stability seems to be the theme of the Trojans' early practices.
So how is the balance of returning talent and youth going to gel when the regular season starts?
"I think we have a good group of girls this year and that they are really looking forward to getting games started," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "We really are at a point where we need to play someone other than ourselves."
Shortstop Kelly Minshew has emerged as a leader heading into her senior season. The Beddingfield High School alum started all 52 games last season and delivered a .347 batting average. She also led the team in walks (19) and stolen bases (22).
"She is the key that turns over our engine," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "She is a natural leader on and off the field. She helps the younger girls, and she is always the first player here and the last to leave."
Other Trojans who are sure to have an impact on offense include Southern Wayne alum Alyssa Bradshaw, who hit at a .387 clip last season. Second baseman Katie Nalley will also be called upon to help bolster the top of the order for the Trojans. Nalley hit .240 in 2010 with 17 runs scored.
In the pitcher's circle, the Trojans boast a pair of returning hurlers that includes standout Kristen Ware. In 29 appearances last season, Ware compiled a 3.58 earned run average and an 8-7 record.
Sarah Saunders will also take a lot of innings in the Trojans' starting rotation on the heels of her 3-7 season in 2010. Carly White, who also plays on the Mount Olive volleyball team, will also see time in the circle.
"Pitching has definitely improved and now we have a much tighter group," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "If we are able to get some good outings from a variety of people, it will take the pressure off our offense a little bit."
Mount Olive opens the season at UNC Pembroke on Wednesday. Following their road outing, the Trojans return home for a pair of weekend games with Mercyhurst and conference foe Lees-McRae on Saturday and Sunday, respective.
The first major test of the year comes Feb. 26-27 at the Tusculum (Tenn.) College Tournament where the Trojans will play Southern Indiana, Tusculum, Alderson-Broaddus and West Virginia Wesleyan.
Mount Olive was tabbed as the fourth-best team in Conference Carolinas coaches preseason poll.
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