The softball team will see its hard work pay off on Feb. 26 after almost two months of practice.
“I think I speak for all of the girls in saying that we are antsy to start playing games,” junior outfielder Jordan Mixsell said.
The ’Cats were scheduled to open the season Feb. 23 against Concordia University, but the double-header was postponed because the field was too wet. The games are rescheduled for March 9.
The team’s first games are now at home against conference opponent Whitworth University at noon on Feb. 26.
Only three seniors graduated from last year’s team, leaving a solid core of returning players. Senior outfielder Kayla Hubrich listed the returners as one of the team’s strengths.
“The team has a lot of returners that have experience in big games, and our hitting line-up will be solid,” she said. “The pitching staff has good depth and the returning pitchers have a lot of experience.”
Two key components of the pitching staff are senior Claire Velaski and junior Lauren
Harvey, who each earned NWC All-Conference honors last year.
Mixsell siad the duo is a vital part of the team.
“Their pitching styles really complement each other, and they both have pitched in a lot of pressure-filled games,”she said.
Junior All-American Staci Doucette also named pitching and offense as reliable aspects of this year’s team, adding defense and work ethic to that list.
“We don’t really have any weaknesses,” she said.
The ’Cats’ strengths and returning line-up have not gone unnoticed. Linfield was voted the No. 1 Division III softball team by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association in its pre-season poll.
Both Doucette and Mixsell were wary of the ranking’s effect and said that it put a target on the team’s back.
“The ranking is a nice honor but it’s not everything,” Mixsell said.
The team will focus on using what it learned from last year to stay concentrated on getting back in the championship game, Doucette said.
“Last year I think we struggled at the beginning of the season with the expectations from the year before. This year, the main thing is that we want to get better every day,” Doucette said.
Last year’s loss during the National Championship game seems to have left this year’s returners with more motivation to take home the NCAA title.
“Like everyone, I want to win a championship, especially after getting so close last year,” Hubrich said.
Mixsell listed a championship win at the top of the team’s goals.
“I think, in the back of our minds, getting back to the championship is where we want to be, but there are a lot of steps to get there,” she said. “First we have to win the conference championship and then regionals.”
Check out the Catline to the left for Northwest Conference preseason standings in softball.
Rae Smith/Staff reporter
Rae Smith can be reached at email@example.com.