Softball Eyes Birth in PBC Tournament
By Cody Parker, Sports Editor
The UNCP softball team looks to continue to build upon the improvements they made last season as well as progressing further this season.
They finished last season just under .500 with a 22-24 record.
The team was close to having its first non-losing season since 2009.
A specific area the team has focused on is improving on the road.
The Lady Braves went a solid 14-10 at home last year, but were 4-13 when playing on the road.
“The very first thing, when we sat down and talked about our goals for this year, was to be a better road team,” head coach Brittany Bennett said.
Coach Bennett said she was trying to put the team under more pressure when everyone is fatigued to try and get the team more comfortable with the pressure of performing on the road. Also, the team’s schedule was rough last year as they had two different stretches of nine or more straight road games.
The team expanded its roster this season, and Bennett said she wanted to do this to promote competition.
This also adds pressure to more mundane situations because someone is always behind you ready to move into that starting spot.
Bennett said that she has seen an improvement in the communication throughout the team so far in practices.
She said that when she isn’t talking everyone has been better about talking with each other and pushing one another.
The team has seven freshman on the roster this season.
Bennett said she has thrown a lot at these new players early because she thinks that will make them improve quicker than trying to acclimate them more slowly.
“Even though they fail a lot on the front end, we improve faster and then it doesn’t seem so foreign,” Bennett said.
She said that in past years when she has tried to bring the new players along more gradually that their improvement wasn’t as much or as soon. Some of the players are frazzled at first she said, but they begin to improve and get comfortable more quickly this way.
The team will have several key players from last season returning. Brea Hartley is in her senior campaign and was named to the pre-season PBC All-Conference team. She batted .331 last season with a team leading 30 RBIs, eight doubles and five home runs.
Selena Ashley will be returning to the mound again this year for the Lady Braves.
She pitched the second-most innings on the team last season with 129 1/3 innings.
She had a 2.65 era, which was best on the team.
The team’s leader in batting average from last season, Whitney Jackson, is also returning. She will be a junior this season.
Another player entering her senior season is Megan Hillard.
She was second on the team in RBIs and home runs with 28 and four respectively.
“The goal is to get to the conference tournament.” Bennett said .
She believes, based on practices so far, that the team has a good shot to get there this season.
File Photo by Emily Thacker. The team huddles together during a game last season. They finished 22-24 last season, just missing their first non-losing season since 2009.