Softball gearing up to follow historic season

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The women’s softball team kicks off the season on Feb.19 at the USC Upstate Invitational. 

Katlynn Emaus

Oakland women’s softball team takes the field for the first game of the season on Feb. 19 at the USC Upstate Invitational, following up a historic season. Returning senior Sarah Hartley has full confidence in the team, although they may be young.

“I truly believe that our team out-works the rest of the conference and I think that is going to show on the field for us,” Hartley said. “You can see how much our team has grown. Our confidence levels are higher and we are faster and stronger than before and I know that is going to be the difference- maker in close games.”

The team has been training since September. The first semester was aimed toward building strength and stamina, according to Hartley. After winter break, the team picked up right where they left off and “jumped right into season mode and full practice,” Hartley said.

“We are looking forward to our preseason with playing many post season teams on our trips down south,” head coach Connie Miner said. “We want to take the three-game series from all the Horizon League teams.”

Chemistry makes the group strong, Hartley said.

“We have a small team compared to most college softball teams and that’s definitely helped us get to know each other better,” she said.

However, the team is very young. They graduated eight seniors last year, two of which were on the All-Horizon first team and one on the second team. Oakland softball has some young talent and is expecting the freshman to step up.

Some key returning players include Hartley, senior Laura Pond, junior Kaley Waalkes, junior Lyndsay Hill, sophomore Haley Zemmer and sophomore Carah Pletscher.

Miner and Hartley both have faith in their young team. But according to Hartley, their biggest weakness is their youth.

“I think our weakness is inexperience because half of our team is new,” Hartley said. “However, we play a lot of games before conference starts and I think that will help get a lot of the nerves out and get our confidence levels up.”

“We are focusing all aspects of the game both physically and mentally to prepare for our preseason games which will have us ready to compete in conference play,” Miner said.

Hartley would like to end her senior season on a high note and hopefully with a second Horizon League title, paving the way for her younger teammates.

“My goal as a senior is to continue to be a leader for this young team,” Hartley said. “It’s been a big adjustment from last year, especially since I’m the only returning starter in the field besides the pitching staff. But there is a lot of talent on this team. I just want to get my job done on the field and do whatever it takes to help the newbies adjust and reach their full potential.”

Last spring Oakland women’s softball made history. They brought home their first Horizon League Tournament title, placed seven players on All-Horizon teams, lead the conference in nearly every stat (if not leading then within the top three), and broke many season and career records at Oakland.

Of the seven players that were placed on All-Horizon Teams, three were on the first team, two on second team, and two on the all-freshman team. The 2015 campaign was one of the most successful in Oakland softball history and landed head coach Connie Miner the title of Horizon League Coach of the Year.

“We were really very solid in every area last year,” Miner said. “We focused on being a true family and believing in each other early on, and once we truly understood this, everything came together.  It is our culture of being a true family in every sense of the word.

Oakland softball’s first home game is at 3 p.m. ET on April 1 versus Youngstown State at the Oakland Softball Field.