Sat, Feb. 23, 2013 - [Softball]
The Loras College softball team will see a few changes from the 20-win squad of 2012. That starts with head coach Ashley Rogers' last name (the now-married fourth year head coach is officially a Winter now) and ends with two departures on the mound and a new shortstop, with a few additional tweaks possible as well. The team's win total continued to go up for the third straight year in 2012 under Winter, and the team has put out a 7-9 Iowa Conference record each of the last two season in the uber-competitive league.
So where does Winter see her team after three weeks stuck inside Graber?
"We added some depth to our roster this year, which has increased the overall competitiveness at practice," Winter says.
"Our athleticism, speed and talent prove to be great assets to our team. Now our challenge is to find the right combination on offense and defense."
The season begins today in Marquette, Michigan with four game weekend against four different teams. The annual spring trip is to Florida this year, with 10 games in late March during Spring Break. Six other games are sandwiched into mid-March.
"I really like our schedule this year," proclaimed Winter.
"We play early in Michigan, then we have 2 weeks to tweak and prepare for our non-conference and spring trip schedule. Then when we return from our spring trip we will begin conference play. At that point we will have played 20 games and should be playing some of our best softball."
Over 135 of the team's 241 innings pitched from a year ago are gone by the departures of Stephanie Popovich and Lara Mangialardi. As a results, the Klein sisters will take on more innings, notably Holly – who was largely used as the closer a year ago in her freshman campaign. Kellie, the senior and returning first team All-IIAC utility player, will continue to be a dual threat with her arm and bat.
As far as other sources of productivity, Winter sees the return of Beth Miller and Molly Bolibaugh as welcome additions after each having their 2012 seasons cut short by injury.
"It has been great to have them back at practice," Winter said.
"Both players possess great athleticism and speed that are such assets to our team."
Winter says Holly has been "looking really sharp in our practices" and called Bolibaugh "a fierce competitor" who is stepping into a leadership role.
She also acknowledged the growth behind the plate from sophomores Nora Zerante and Katie Serpico. Serpico hit a team best .371 a year ago and each backstop has shown Winter the ability to motivate and encourage the pitching staff.
As far as new faces, expect to see Bridget Bryant and Sam Shindelar contributing in the outfield. Both are speedy lefties – a part of the Duhawks' equation that has helped them compete throughout Winter's tenure. Makaila Haase is what Loras' leader calls "a true utility player". Haase and Emily Hemming (a lefty) will likely log some innings on the mound as well.
As the season kicks off, Winter is looking at the big picture and a slightly tougher non-conference schedule.
"Every time we step onto the field this year our team will be challenged," she says. "The Iowa Conference is stronger than ever."
"In addition to our competitive schedule we are also looking forward to supporting a great cause in our annual "Strikeout" Cancer Event to raise money for cancer research. This year our event is being held at University of Dubuque when we take on the Spartans on Wednesday, April 3rd."
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