From NWOSU Sports Info.
ALVA, Okla. – Seniors are generally the foundation of sports teams. The 2013 Northwestern Oklahoma State softball team is no exception.
“Your season is always going go as far the seniors will take you,” said Northwestern head coach Cody Hooper, who is entering his 12th season as the head coach sports a 321-310 overall record and has been the only coach since the program’s inception. “We will lean on them to lead this team and show the freshmen and transfers how Ranger softball is played.”
Northwestern returns six starters, five of which are seniors, from a 2012 squad that finished 21-22 overall and 6-18 in its final season in the Sooner Athletic Conference.
Hooper expects the team to rally around senior outfielder Megan Burditt, who redshirted in 2012.
“She isn’t a verbal kid and is pretty quiet, but she leads by example,” Hooper said. “She has great practice habits, shows up on time and works hard. There is very little conversation with her. If I ask her to do something she just goes and does it and doesn’t ask why. Megan is a total team player and at the end of the day she just wants to win.”
Two more seniors, catcher Monique Zevada and third baseman Alyssa Taylor will play pivotal roles for the Rangers.
Hooper isn’t shy to hide his admiration for Zevada, who posted a team-high .469 on-base percentage last season.
“Monique is one of the most talented kids I’ve had here,” Hooper said. “She is a pure hitter and she has great power. When she is 100 percent in the zone and just focusing on playing softball she is such a great player. If she can keep her head in the game she’ll have a great senior year.”
Hooper says “California Cool” is the best way to describe Taylor, who hit a team-leading seven homeruns last season and batted .393 – also a team high.
“Alyssa is just a cool customer and pretty low key,” Hooper said. “But, I’ll tell you this: she’s the best defensive third basemen I’ve ever coached, period. When she’s focused she’s dangerous. The only thing I would like to see improve is her intensity.”
Hooper is looking forward to seeing the progression made by seniors Megan Bourdon and Ali Seibel.
Bourdon, a native of Duck Lake, Saskatchewan and transfer from Western Nebraska Community College had a slow start to 2012 but has improved in the offseason and will start at second base.
“The beginning of the 2012 season was rough for Megan,” Hooper said. “The first half of the season she wasn’t comfortable and was trying to do too much. But towards the end of 2012 and during the fall she finally started to feel comfortable. I expect her to have a great 2013 campaign.”
At first base Hooper expects big things from Seibel, who is in her second with the Ranger program after transferring from Northern Oklahoma Community College.
“Ali is a smart player and she has a great glove,” Hooper said. “She doesn’t let a lot past her. She’s really improved her hitting in the offseason and it’s going to be exciting to see her improvement.”
Hooper believes infield defense will be the team strength.
“We have a lot of experience in the infield. Taylor at third, Bourdon at second, Seibel at first and we now add Jessika Sandoval at shortstop. I’m really excited to have Jessika on this team. She’s a Division I transfer (Mississippi Valley State University) and she brings energy to our roster. She was their defensive MVP last year as a freshman and that says it all right there.”
The Rangers will use a four-person pitching rotation in 2013.
“Our pitching is a question mark, but we have a lot of potential. Of course, potential doesn’t win any games,” Hooper said. “Each pitcher has the ability to be a No.1 starter. They just have to be consistent and just focus on each pitch.”
Junior Kellie Mason returns after leading the Rangers with eight wins in 2012.
“She used to be a power pitcher, but she had an injury and has reinvented her game,” Hooper said. “She still has the stuff to be a great pitcher, but time will tell.”
Hooper is high on junior Katie Parsons, who posted a 1.95 ERA last year but was limited to just 14 innings due to injury.
“It’s good to have her back,” Hooper said. “According to our girls she has the nastiest stuff out there. The ball spins and they just hate hitting off her.”
Hooper is also excited to see Alora Miller – a transfer from Miami Dade College – make her Ranger debut.
“I really like her stuff,” Hooper said. “She is pure power, and that’s going to be her game. She’s worked hard every day and has a great attitude.”
Hooper has just about seen it all in 12 seasons at the helm, but even he’s not sure what to expect as Northwestern prepares for its first season as a provisional member of NCAA Division II and the Great American Conference.
“I always look forward to the start of each season. We are in a new conference and playing different teams and I know the returning players are excited,” Hooper said. “We’ve played Division II teams and even Division I teams before. I just can’t wait to go out there and compete.”
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Bryan Holmgren is the Director of Athletic Communications at Northwestern Oklahoma State University.