Southeast Missouri State softball season preview: Redhawks eager to build on last season

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Southeast Missouri State softball team came within one win of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament title and an NCAA tournament berth last season.

An experienced Southeast squad hopes to carry that momentum into the 2012 season, which opens today at Jackson State.

"We finished really strong and we think we'll carry that over this year," said Lana Richmond, the OVC's all-time winningest softball coach who begins her 30th season at Southeast. "When we had our exit meeting last year, the whole attitude they had ... they're so looking forward to the season."

Southeast went 31-30 overall and 17-12 in OVC play to tie for fifth among 11 squads. The Redhawks posted the program's most wins since the 2000 unit also recorded 31 victories.

The fifth-seeded Redhawks, who featured just four seniors, took Jacksonville State to the final game of the double-elimination conference tournament before losing.

Southeast returns six position starters and four of its five pitchers from a year ago.

"We have a good mix, a lot of returning veterans and some new players who will help us," said Richmond, a five-time OVC coach of the year who has a 833-613-2 record at Southeast.

The Redhawks lost their top hitter and lone all-OVC first-team performer in second baseman Carmen Fowler but return three players who received all-conference recognition.

Senior shortstop Renee Kertz and sophomore pitcher Alora Marble were selected to the second team, while Marble and senior right fielder Cheyenne Gipson earned all-newcomer squad honors.

Kertz ranked second on the team with a .328 batting average and led the squad with a school-record 48 RBIs that ranked among the conference leaders. She also led the Redhawks with a .517 slugging percentage while ranking third in doubles (11) and home runs (seven).

"She had a great year," Richmond said.

Marble went 18-8 with three saves and a 2.99 ERA to rank among the league leaders in all three categories. She tied the school's single-season save record.

"She had a really good year, especially for a freshman," Richmond said.

Gipson, who joined Southeast as a junior-college transfer, was third on the Redhawks with a .306 batting average. She led the way with 20 stolen bases in 22 attempts. Her stolen base total ranked fourth on the school single-season list.

Other returning position regulars are senior center fielder Evan Sallis, junior first baseman Taylor Cowan, junior second baseman Kaitlin Wallace and senior left fielder Shelby Stein.

Sallis, a member of last year's OVC all-tournament team, batted .303, scored a team-high 43 runs and stole 15 bases in 16 attempts.

Cowan hit .279, ranked second on the team with eight homers, tied for first with 12 doubles and was fourth with 31 RBIs.

Wallace, who played third base last year, batted .259, and Stein hit .252. Stein will miss the season's first three games due to a family illness.

While Marble pitched a team-high 159 1/3 innings, Southeast's other three returning hurlers all worked at least 40 innings.

Cowan went 6-8 with one save and a 4.65 ERA in 102 1/3 innings; sophomore Shea Cothren went 4-12 with two saves and a 5.48 ERA in 101 innings; and senior Stefanie Barnes was 3-2 with a 4.17 ERA in 40 1/3 innings.

"I feel good about our pitching," Richmond said. "We have experience there."

Other returning squad members are sophomore first baseman Alene Bethel, who received 59 at-bats, and sophomore outfielder Renee Terry, who scored 18 runs while primarily being used as a pinch-runner.

Southeast has eight newcomers, including three junior college transfers: third baseman Leah Becker, outfielder Simone Patterson and catcher Xia Wilson.

Richmond said Becker and Wilson have earned starting spots.

"Leah has a great arm and a good glove," Richmond said. "She'll really add to our defense. I feel like our middle infield is one of the best in the OVC."

Freshmen are first baseman Megan Cidlik, infielder Katy McAllister, pitcher/utility Lindsey Patterson and catcher Jamie Woodworth. Patterson, a graduate of nearby Anna-Jonesboro (Ill.) High School, will open the season as Southeast's designated player.

Rounding out the squad is sophomore Brittany Smith, a transfer from Drury University who will open the year in left field.

"I'm really looking forward to the season," Richmond said. "I think we'll be exciting to watch because of our speed and defense."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: