From OBU Sports Information
Lady Bison Open for Challenge of 2013
Coming off a sub-par season, the Lady Bison softball team of Oklahoma Baptist University begins 2013 with optimism.
What looks to be improved pitching, a change to a staff of all OBU softball alumni, speed in the outfield and the possibility of having too many good bats for nine spots in the lineup have Coach Pam Fink entering her 20th season at the helm with hopes of something special.
Coaching staff newcomers Jayme (Boyer) Hutchcraft and Alison Tunnell gives the team an all-OBU look that brings with it a commitment to the program.
“Part of developing a great program is surrounding yourself with outstanding people,” said Fink. “Jayme and Alison fit into that category. Having a staff that is committed to the program helps me but more importantly, catapults this team to a much higher level of competing. I am proud to work alongside them. Having them here will push the program to the championship level.”
Joining Noelle McDowell and Chianelle Flores on the pitching staff are junior transfer Hannah Wilbur and freshman Amanda Barritt. Injuries have been a bug to overcome so far, but McDowell and Wilbur seem ready to shoulder the largest part of the burden.
“Noelle finished her sophomore season like she did her freshman year and has been in throwing and working hard every day,” Fink said. “She looks even better now. Hannah is a good complement to her. I think those two will be a really strong 1-2 punch.”
The question of who will be handling those pitchers behind the plate is where the abundance of bats comes in.
Returning catcher Dara Gray is the front-runner but sophomore transfer Erin McLeod and freshman Kasey Maddox also will be hard to keep out of the lineup because of their offensive ability.
“We’ve got three strong catchers,” Fink said. “Dara is a quiet leader and a hard worker and the team respects her. Erin has that junior college experience and Kasey has been a huge surprise with a great arm and bat.”
The infield is chock full of experience with senior Krystal Johnson at third, junior Kenna Self at first, senior Katelynn Garrett at second and junior transfer LeNae Sanchez at shortstop.
“I think the lights came on for Krystal last year and she has a lot of confidence coming into her senior season,” Fink said. “It’s been fun to watch her develop each year. She’s got quickness on the corner and a great arm. Kenna has that big bat and has gotten even stronger.
“Adjusting to a new program can be difficult, but LeNae has made that adjustment very well and I think she’ll do a good job holding down short for us. KG gives us a lot of quickness at second base.”
OBU has only four outfielders on the roster with senior Audrey Branscum, juniors Amanda Harmon and Bre Russell and Newcastle freshman Shalee Cordell.
“There are only four of them, but we have one of our fastest outfields,” Fink said. “We don’t know yet who will be playing where, but it’s a quick group.
Adding the ability to play multiple positions are utility players Ashlee Hankins – a sophomore – and freshman Hannah Morris, who both come from Piedmont High.
Also working to OBU’s favor is a schedule that – for the first time in several years – is loaded with home games.
“I’m excited that we have 18 home dates out of 28 that we play here on our home field,” Fink said. “We’re hosting two tournaments and all of our games that we play in the St. Gregory’s Tournament. We’ve got some northern teams coming in and, of course, those always-tough Sooner Athletic Conference games.”
OBU has 36 home games on the schedule. The Lady Bison had 34 the previous two seasons combined. Eleven of those 36 games are against Top 25 teams. At least three of the 10 dates away from home will be doubleheaders against Top 25 squads.
The action begins Feb. 8 at Lady Bison Park with Oklahoma Wesleyan and No. 18 Central Methodist visiting.
Ray Fink is the Sports Information Director at Oklahoma Baptist University.