Southeast coach hopes infusion of youth mixes well with returning experience

Thursday, February 7, 2013
Taylor Cowan is one of two returning pitchers for the Redhawks. (Fred Lynch)

Luck was certainly not on the side of the Southeast Missouri State softball team last year.

Southeast suffered 14 of its 16 Ohio Valley Conference losses by one or two runs. Overall the Redhawks went 4-17 in one-run games.

"You look back at all those one-run games. ... it was the difference in the season," said Southeast coach Lana Richmond, whose squad went 25-30 overall and a seventh-place 13-16 in OVC play to miss the six-team conference tournament. "But that was last year."

Richmond plans on the Redhawks, who return nine players and have nine newcomers, reversing their fortunes in close games during the 2013 season that begins today at Jackson State in Jackson, Miss.

"We're going in to close out games. A new outlook, a new team. We're looking for different results," said Richmond, a five-time OVC coach of the year who has a 30-year Southeast record of 858-643-2 and ranks as the OVC's all-time winningest softball coach.

It won't help the Redhawks' cause that their top two pitchers from last season -- Alora Marble and Shea Cothren, who combined for 21 of the team's 25 wins -- left the program despite having eligibility left.

Southeast's only returning pitchers are senior Taylor Cowan, who went 2-6 with a 5.72 ERA while making five starts; and sophomore Lindsey Patterson, who was 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA in just 10 innings.

"It will be pitching by committee. We don't have a No. 1, a No. 2, a No. 3 or a No. 4. It all depends on the opponent we're playing," Richmond said. "We might not strike many people out but we've got a really solid defense as long as we don't walk or hit people. Don't be surprised if we change pitchers frequently during the course of a game."

Lana Richmond has won 858 games over 30 years of coaching softball at Southeast. (Fred Lynch)

Joining Cowan and Patterson in the circle will be two newcomers: former Notre Dame Regional High School standout Lauren Reinagel, a junior who transferred from Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and freshman Hannah Clemons.

Richmond said first-year pitching coach Sarah Willis, a former hurler at Texas Tech, has already had a big impact on the staff and Richmond expects that to continue.

"You've got a pitcher's mentality coaching pitchers. It's been very beneficial for our staff," Richmond said.

Southeast graduated two of its top four hitters -- including Evan Sallis, the team's only all-OVC selection in 2012 -- but returns five position starters, led by Cowan. She primarily played first base last year but will also be used in the outfield and at DH.

Cowan was third on the squad with a .343 average while ranking second with 11 doubles, second with 39 RBIs and third with four home runs.

Senior outfielder Simone Patterson was second on the team with a .351 average and two triples although she received just 77 at-bats after emerging as a regular late in the season.

Lindsey Patterson, an Anna-Jonesboro (Ill.) High School graduate, provided a power boost last year primarily from the DH spot. She led the squad with 12 doubles, was second with five homers and third with 28 RBIs while batting .244.

Other returning starters are senior Xia Wilson (.282, three homers, 14 RBIs) and senior Kaitlin (Wallace) Zink (.250, three homers, 21 RBIs, 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts).

Wilson, primarily a catcher a year ago, will likely see the bulk of her action at first base although she will miss the first few games of the season after having surgery. Zink moves to shortstop after playing third base last season.

Southeast’s Lindsey Patterson is congratulated by coach Lana Richmond after hitting a solo homer for the go-ahead run against Belmont last season. Patterson is one of a handful of returning starters for the Redhawks. (Fred Lynch)

Others returning who saw limited action last year are junior outfielder Renee Terry (.267), junior outfielder Brittany Smith (.242, one homer, 12 RBIs), senior outfielder Leah Becker (.100) and sophomore catcher Jamie Woodworth (.083).

Richmond said Simone Patterson will open the season in right field, with the other outfield starters likely being Becker and junior college transfer Alexis Anderson in either left or center.

Woodworth and freshman Chelsea Smith will split time at catcher.

Freshman Savannah Carpenter will open the season at third base, with two freshmen -- Summer Burger from Notre Dame Regional High School and Elysia Mesa -- splitting time at second base. Mesa could also see action at shortstop and third base.

Adding more depth to Southeast's outfield are junior college transfer Kelsey Gass and freshman Sarah Lindsie Heifner. Heifner is currently injured and Richmond said there is a possibility she will redshirt.

Southeast was picked to finish fifth in the six-team OVC West Division. The OVC features 12 teams for the first time and eight squads will make the tournament for the first time, up from six in previous years.

"We are unproven but I look for us to be very competitive in the OVC," Richmond said. "Our goal is always to be in the top tier of the OVC."

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