Expectations for Western Softball are higher than ever after returning a strong majority of players who went 42-13 last season and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Western has been to the tournament for six out of the last eight seasons.
“It’s been a long-standing program expectation to finish in the top of the conference and make it to the NCAA Tournament,” Bagley said. “That’s definitely something we aim for every year and I don’t see any reason why our talent level or anything would make us question that goal this year. If we can get ourselves into a position to be there then I feel good about our chances to continue and go deep.”
The Griffons have been successful in making the NCAA tournament for the last two seasons, but haven’t been able to make a deep run once they got there. That’s a fact that catcher Keri Lorbert believes will inspire them on the field.
“It makes us have that much more of a hunger for the postseason when we have all had a taste of it,” Lorbert said.
Western returns eight players who hit over .300 last season including Senior Maegan Roemmich who led the team with a .347 batting average. She knows that expectations are high, but that they can play better than their 7-3 start to the season.
“I think we have as much if not more potential than any year that I’ve been here,” Roemmich said. “Our team chemistry is really good and we know eachothers personalities and how to work as a team, we just need to come together. These past two weekends we’ve seen that there are things that we still need to put together.”
Pitcher Jackie Bishop returns as the ace of the pitching staff after going 24-5 last season and winning the MIAA Pitcher of the Year award and setting the single season strikeout record with 243. Besides working on her own game, Bishop has served as somewhat of a mentor to freshman Janie Smith. Smith is the only freshman on the team and has already racked up a perfect 4-0 record to the start of her career at Western.
“Jackie’s main focus besides herself is helping Janie develop too and showing her what to expect in MIAA competition,” Bagley said. “It will be interesting to see how that progresses. I think she has had a great teacher in how to be that person in Jonnelle Belger.”
The homerun ball has been a strength for the Griffons in the early season. Lorbert leads the team with four while first basemen Tiffany Gillaspie has three. Third basemen Sarah Elliott has also contributed a pair of homers.
“We are excited by the power that we have been seeing,” Bagley said. “Sarah Elliott, who doesn’t usually generate that kind of power normally, is seeing the ball big right now and taking good aggressive hacks. So that’s fun.”‘
Its a trend that Bagley isn’t sure will continue or not. “It’s early and when it’s early it means that everyone is a little more hungry,” Bagley said. “The other thing is pitchers aren’t usualy as sharp. Teams that we have played against don’t have a lot of footage on us.”