2011 Softball Season Preview: New faces present new challenges and opportunities
Athletics - posted on 3/4/2011
The Lakeland College softball team will be led by several new faces in 2011. With no seniors and one junior on the roster, Lakeland head coach Chad Buchmann is anxious to get his team to Arizona for its annual Spring Break trip to begin play.
"I haven't seen half of our players play an actual college game yet, so I'm anxious to get started" Buchmann said. "Usually we have five seniors or five juniors that offer some stability and provide some direction. I do know we'll be athletic, disci¬plined and uphold all the values that past players have exemplified."
Junior outfielder Leah Sheahan, along with eight sophomores will lead the way for the Muskies. In the outfield, Sheahan will be looked at as a leader and contributor offensively and defensively. "Leah provides some awesome power at the plate and is the leader in the outfield," said Buchmann. A pair of sopho¬mores, Heather Haeflinger and All-NAC freshmen Jenny Laluzerne, will solidify the remaining outfield spots.
Sophomores Erin Henk and Brittany Myszka return for the Muskies on the pitching mound, along with freshmen Marissa Roovers and Samm Janc. Henk has five pitches to work with, and has become a team leader with her big-game experience. She also has good knowledge of the game and understands how to attack batters. Janc is left-handed and offers a different look, while Roovers is a power pitcher from the right side that should give the Muskies several weapons on the mound. Myszka has a great change-up and drop ball that enables her to be successful against aggressive teams.
Competition for starting spots in the infield is intense. Lakeland has several young athletes who can play various positions. Kaylee Ninnemann is expected to contribute right away at first base; she's talented and knows the position, Buchmann said. At second base, Brittni Peterson is converting from outfield to the infield. "Brittni is a very smart ball player and I believe she will have no problem solidifying that position," said Buchmann.
There is a log jam at the shortstop position with four freshmen battling for playing time: Chelsea Gile, Emily Cook, Sammy Rieder and Brittany Jurek. "We have four athletic ladies that can all play the position well," said Buchmann. "They are all smart, fast and can get to the ball, similar to our former shortstop and current assistant coach, Elisa Waltz."
While less crowded, third base has some competition as well, with sophomores April Schmitz and McKenna Wenzel and freshman Brittany Jurek all looking for some playing time. The wild card in this young group of freshmen is Megan Lawson, who is capable of playing catcher, third base and first base.
Sophomore catcher Jessie Eichner will be asked to lead this young pitching staff.
"Most of our freshmen can play two or three different positions," said Buchmann. "That's why Arizona is important for us. This trip gives us a chance to evaluate how our athletes are adapting to the college game and understanding how we play the game. We can get a feel for who is hitting well and we will put the best hitters on the field every day."
Lakeland opens the season with 10 games at the Tucson Invitational, March 13-18. The Muskies will play back-to-back games each day, beginning with Southwestern University (Tex.) and Midland University (Neb.), Denison University (Ohio) and College of Staten Island (N.Y.), Rutgers University - Newark and Augsburg College (Minn.), Lubbock Christian (Tex.) and Husson University (Mass.), and UW-LaCrosse and North Central (Ill.).
"Any time you play those southern teams that can be outside all year, they have an advantage at the plate," said Buchmann. "We will close that gap as we get at-bats. Our main goal right now is to just put the ball in play, recognize pitches sooner and play solid defense. If we win those games, awesome, but we can't afford errors."
After returning from Tucson, the Muskies will entertain non-conference opponent Ripon College before opening the NAC schedule on the road against Edgewood. The Muskies have a four-game mid-season home stand that includes three NAC games.
"I feel very confident that the experi¬ence the returners had in 2010 will provide us with some stability until the younger players can settle into their new roles," said Buchmann. "The freshmen class is very athletic and we're looking forward to experimenting with different combinations and line-ups in Arizona."
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