02/06/12 — Higginbotham: Let frustrating season go

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Higginbotham: Let frustrating season go

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 6, 2012 1:48 PM

Replacing individual parts to keep the machine humming hasn't been Mount Olive's problem on the softball diamond during Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham's tenure as head coach.

It's figuring out how to avoid sputtering at the wrong time.

The Trojans had trouble closing out opponents last spring and endured some disappointing results in doubleheader play. Higginbotham hopes the players learned valuable lessons and apply that knowledge during games this spring.

"The past is the past," said Higginbotham. "All we can do is take the lessons and move forward, and we are doing that. We have 10 new players who care less what happened last year. They are hungry, aggressive, talented and ready.

"Our strength is our team as whole ... its belief in our system."

MOC launches its 2012 campaign at home today against Kutztown (Pa.) University at Nancy Chapman Cassell Field. First pitch is 1 p.m. for the doubleheader, which begins a string of eight consecutive home dates (16 games in all) during February.

Higginbotham hasn't penned a starting lineup, but the Trojans return five starting position players off last year's team that logged a 23-27 worksheet.

Leading the group is catcher Robbin Kennedy, who earned All-Southeast Region accolades last spring and appeared on the All-Conference Carolinas first-team squad for the second straight year. Kennedy batted a crisp .337, swatted eight home runs and collected 40 RBI.

Returning second baseman Katie Moore looks to build on her 13-game hitting streak and batting average that jumped 100 points in the final weeks of regular-season play. Patrolling the outfield are veterans Katie Devenuto (left field), Anna Munizza (center field) and Danielle Mitchell (right field). The trio combined to swipe 15 bases and plate 23 runs.

Freshman Laurie Smith and transfer Christie Wright join returning starters Sarah Saunders and Carly White inside the pitcher's circle. Saunders worked 134 innings last season and posted a 3.81 earned run average (ERA). The senior took off the fall to recover from an injury.

White, a sophomore right-hander, tossed a team-leading 143.7 innings and finished with a team-best 2.83 ERA. The West Brunswick alum won 11 games in 21 starts and recorded 53 strikeouts.

"Lauren and Christie have something special between them, being our only throwers this fall and they have created quite a chemistry," said Higginbotham, who is approaching 200 career wins. "Carly has made some strides in just a short amount of time, so we are looking for her to be a staple in our rotation.

"We are still working on some things and our new players are doing big things as well. We are working hard every day with the focus being on us and only us. There is a new attitude about us this year. I can thank my assistant coach (Craig Hurba) for that. The only thing we tolerate is going 100 percent."