- Evening, Weekend & Online Programs
- ALUMNI RELATIONS
- GIVING TO LAKELAND
- ABOUT LAKELAND
After making its fifth-straight Northern Athletics Conference Tournament and nearly eliminating top-seeded Benedictine last season, the Lakeland College softball team is eager to begin its 2012 campaign.
The Muskies, who finished fifth in the NAC last year with a 14-10 record, 15-26 overall, look to surprise their competition this year with an experienced group of returners and a talented freshman class.
Eighth-year head coach Chad Buchmann is enthusiastic about this year's team and is eager to begin competition. "This is the most diverse team I have ever coached," said Buchman. "We have multiple players who can slide into any position and makes plays. That versatility makes us a threat."
With seven of last year's nine starters returning, the Muskies are shooting for a 20-plus win season and a return to the top of the NAC.
Lakeland opens its season on March 11-16 at the team's annual Tucson, Ariz., trip. The Muskies struggled at the Tucson Invitational last year, but the trip always gets the team ready for NAC play.
"The majority of the Arizona trip is gaining experience with live pitching," said Buchmann. "Defensively, we look to be athletic and have fun, while finding a lineup that works for us. This trip is a chance for the freshmen to show what they've learned and were we stand as a team."
The Muskies biggest challenge this year is consistency.
"We had too many splits with the middle of the NAC teams last year, and we can't afford those mental lapses this year," Buchmann said. "We need to make the plays and keep focused in our doubleheaders."
Buchmann's approach consists of continued growth throughout the year that focuses on learning the mechanics of the game before focusing on the mental aspects. Buchmann is hopeful the freshmen will buy into his system and become students of the game.
Last year, Lakeland was second in the NAC in triples (11), third in doubles (80) and fourth in home runs (16) and slugging percentage (.449). The team ranked fifth in batting average (.306), runs scored (215), hits (320) and runs batted in (197). Buchmann said he's less concerned about statistics than the importance of having a solid lineup.
"If you look at the top teams in the conference, they are strong in every position and that's exactly what we have this year," said Buchman. "This year, our focus isn't on just one or two players leading the team. Instead, every player we have is competitive and will be depended on."
The Muskies return four All-NAC players, including senior Leah Sheahan, juniors Jenny LaLuzerne and Heather Haeflinger and sophomore Sammy Rieder.
LaLuzerne returns as the team's leading hitter. The Sturgeon Bay, Wis., native posted a .424 batting average, which ranked fifth in the NAC, and a .586 slugging percentage. She led the team in triples (four), which was second in the NAC.
LaLuzerne is expected to return to the outfield, but could play second base when needed.
"Jenny has turned into a great player for us," said Buchmann. "She continues to learn the game and knows when to take advantage of a situation."
Sheahan garnered first team All-NAC honors last year and returns as the team's only senior. The Salem, Wis., native recorded a .330 batting average and led the team in runs (31). "Leah is the most unselfish player," said Buchmann. "She's solid in the outfield and is always willing to help the underclassmen learn our style."
Sheahan will return to the outfield and could see time at first base.
Haeflinger also returns to the outfield. The Shawano, Wis., native led the team in stolen bases (13) and posted a .355 batting average. Her speed and agility give the Muskies an added dimension on the offensive end.
Lakeland will also depend on junior pitcher Erin Henk and sophomores Chelsea Gile, Brittany Jurek and Reider to lead the team.
Henk returns as the team's leading pitcher with 31 strikeouts and a 5.81 ERA. The Hoopeston, Ill., native pitched 78 innings last year and is the Muskies most consistent and confident pitcher.
Gile (Grand Junction, Mich.), Jurek and Rieder (Fond du Lac, Wis.) are all expected to return to the infield and make an immediate impact. As freshmen, all three were play makers, and Buchmann expects that experience to help the team succeed in close games.
"Last year, Gile and Reider were so coachable that they bought in right away and made an impact," said Buchmann. "Sammy's athleticism is outstanding and she's the type of player who is going to come up with big plays for us."
Reider was named second team All-NAC and received All-Freshman team accolades last year.
Jurek (Gladstone, Mich.) had a breakout performance at the 2011 NAC Tournament, hitting two home runs to power the Muskies past Dominican University in the opening game. Jurek, a versatile player, is expected to bounce between third base, shortstop and catcher.
Junior McKenna Wenzel (Brillion, Wis.) and sophomores Kaylee Ninnemann (Marinette, Wis.) and Megan Lawson (Marshall, Wis.) also return to the Muskies lineup. Wenzel will compete at third base, while Ninnemann will contend at first. Lawson returns as the team's catcher.
Five freshmen look to compete for playing time, including pitchers Elizabeth Zimmerman (Shawano, Wis.) and Amanda Graves (Clintonville, Wis.).
Buchmann likes the effort from freshman Kate Wallen (Mundelein, Ill.) and believes Kaitlyn Hoffman (Plymouth, Wis.) has the right mix to compete for third base. "Kaitlyn has a great arm and has shown promise at third base," said Buchman. "Kate is a competitor and has gone above and beyond in practice."
Freshman Celena Perez, a native of Kenosha, Wis., is expected to contend at second base.
Lakeland opens its 2012 campaign on March 10 against McKendree University at the Tucson Invitational in Tucson, Ariz. Lakeland plays 10 games in five days in Arizona before heading into NAC play on March 28 against Alverno College.
The Muskies host NAC powerhouses Benedictine University and Aurora University on April 22 and 29, respectively. The NAC Tournament begins on May 3 in Milwaukee, Wis.
"The conference isn't expecting us to do much, but we are preparing to win every game," said Buchmann. "We will surprise teams, but we need to play good defense and be prepared for whatever comes at us."