The season starts a week earlier, and they may have to practice indoors, but the Missouri Western softball team is making the most of every single practice moment.
Kenzie Hilzer, a junior pitcher out of Altoona, Iowa, talks about one of the main struggles of practicing indoors.
“The ball bounces different in here, here on turf instead of out on a grass field,” Hilzer said. “Also communication isn’t as crisp. Outside it’s different. We can use our outside voice.”
Senior outfielder Shelby Uhl, a bright spot of last season, points out another disadvantage of practicing inside.
“Obviously, the ceiling in here is lower than outside. That really does affect some of the drills we do,” Uhl said. “But, there is more room in here than there is outside. We’re able to run more drills at the same time, and that does help.”
Coach Jen Bagley-Trotter actually points out how this may be an advantage.
“Our first matchup will be inside a dome,” Trotter said. “So it’s actually not too bad that we’re practicing a lot indoors. This is truly getting us ready for our first road stint.”
The dome that Trotter is talking about is the Husky Dome in St. Cloud, Minnesota; the team traveled there on Feb. 1. They played four games in two days inside this dome. They first played Minnesota State University – Mankato twice on Friday where they won their first game 5-2 and lost their second game 6-9. They then went on to face Concordia University, St. Paul and St. Cloud State University on Saturday. Beating both teams by scores of 7-4 and 9-8 respectively.
In the game against St. Cloud, Missouri Western was down 4-1 and scored six runs in one inning to give coach Jen Bagley Trotter her 600th win here at Missouri Western. She is the second ever MIAA coach to hold the honor and is only 14 wins away from becoming the all-time wins leader in MIAA softball history.
With the season starting a week earlier, that’s a week of practice that the team loses, a fact that coach Trotter thinks is an advantage.
“The pressure is on. One less week means we have to put every effort into the practices we do get.” Trotter said. “And, in this first week of practice, I can say I’m happy with the efforts put in by all my players with relatively little injuries.”
Last season was a rough one for the Griffons, going 25-29, far below their 2017 mark of 38-20. Suspect relief pitching and streaky offense left the Griffs an inconsistent team, and that’s something Hilzer believes won’t happen again.
“We’re not a team to look back into the past,” Hilzer said. “This season will be better, and our practices so far have shown that.”
Coach Trotter has done something different this year to try and help with last seasons struggles.
“We did move the start of hitting up,” Trotter said. “Getting these girls reps at the plate is something we want to do early this year to get them into the groove of things.”
With a new season comes new faces to Missouri Western, and they’re pretty split down the middle in terms of new faces and returning faces. Coach Trotter is very excited to use a few specific players.
“We brought in two four-year transfers in Lexi Kinnaird, pitcher, and Cassidy Kelsheimer, catcher, who will both get a considerable amount of time,” Trotter said. “We’re also seeing some good things out of Tamara Hicks who started last year but struggled at the plate. She’s currently winning most of the hitting competitions. She’s really turned a corner.”
Coach Trotter’s praise for her athletes did not stop there.
“Another person who really impressed so far has been Emma Hoffart,” Trotter said. “She was on our roster last season in a DP/1st base role, but as a freshman, struggled to adjust to pitching at this level. We’re seeing things now at practice that I think excites us all to see when the season starts.”