The 2010 season is a season of new beginnings for the Spring Hill College softball team. Exactly half of the Badger roster will be made up of new faces as four freshman and three transfer students will appear in purple for the first time.
"We're still a young team," says Head Coach Alison Sellers-Cook. "But this year we have a great attitude and a wonderful team chemistry. Our players are always working hard at practice and doing the little extra things that that make you better - things that a coach can't always make you do, but things you have to want to do."
On the infield, sophomore Monica Zeringue of Destrehan, La., will anchor the Badgers following her All-Conference selection as a freshman in 2009. Zeringue moved to short from centerfield midway through last season and quickly proved to thrive at her new position closing out the year with a .906 fielding percentage. Experienced junior Jessica Edgar of St. Louis, Mo., will again cover second base and continue to split time with senior Brittany Abate of Lake Charles, La., when Abate is not on the mound.
The infield corners will be covered by four interchangeable players as transfer junior Kayla McCraney from Mobile Christian School along with freshmen Mallory Sullivan of Citronelle, Ala., Lindsey Bouché from Chalmette, La., and Haley Brown of Satsuma, Ala., each look to earn their stripes.
Behind the plate, junior Brooke Turlich from Belle Chasse, La., returns as the Badgers' backstop where she turned in a solid 2009 season with a .976 fielding percentage. Both McCraney and Brown will also see action behind the plate in 2010 and also serve as the team's designated player when not in the field. "Catching is a position that I have full confidence in no matter which player we plugged into that spot," says Sellers-Cook. "All three of my choices are consistent players who make good decisions and work hard."
The outfield will be patrolled by senior Lindsey Taylor of Hurley, Miss., transfer junior Ersy Pacheco from Venezuela and freshman Katelyn Hinson from Cottage Hill Christian Academy in Mobile. Juniors Lauren Crane from Houma, La., and Samantha Brooks from Belle Chasse, along with transfer sophomore Kaitlyn McMellon from Hurley will each see significant playing time since Sellers-Cook will have the advantage of an experienced bench.
At pitcher, the Badgers return a veteran corps of starters with Brooks, Abate and Crane taking the ball. Brooks ended 2009 with a 2.72 ERA and led the team with 75 strikeouts. Abate pitched over 116 innings and struck out 46 batters. Crane compiled a 5-5 record last year, a 3.0 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 49 innings pitched. Newcomers Pacheco and Bouché will provide the late inning relief inside the circle this season.
The Badgers will need to improve offensively if they look to compete in the rugged Gulf Coast Athletic Conference schedule ahead of them. "We'll look to our younger players for power, but we do have some players with strength," Sellers-Cook says. "Right now, we definitely can play ‘small ball.' We're hitting the ball well in practice and moving runners around the bases."
Zeringue is the team's leading returning hitter with a .304 average and a .399 slugging percentage. She also showed patience at the plate taking a team-high 16 walks while striking out just four times in more than 160 plate appearances. Abate drove in 12 RBI with five doubles and Edgar pounded out seven doubles and 10 RBI.
Personifying the Spring Hill commitment to moving the base runners, Lauren Crane collected 14 RBI in 2009 while leading the team in both sacrifice bunts and flies.
"This year, we have to cut down on our errors in the field," says Sellers-Cook. "Defensively, we are playing as one unit and showing signs of solid pitching. The biggest thing we need to do is improve our hitting and confidence at the plate. If we can accomplish that goal, we'll have a successful season."
Spring Hill College opens the 2010 season on Wednesday with a doubleheader exhibition scrimmage at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Fla., at 5 p.m. before traveling to play in the Belhaven University Bash this Friday and Saturday in Ridgeland, Miss. The Badgers open the home season versus NWFSC on February 18 at 1 p.m.