Looking to bounce back from a 23-22 season which ended in the NJCAA Division II Region 16 Tournament, the East Central College softball Falcons are ready to start their season.
Now, if only Mother Nature would cooperate.
The Falcons were scheduled to play last week in a tournament in Booneville, Miss. However, wet field conditions there have forced organizers to reschedule.
Now, the Falcons are set to open the season Tuesday, Feb. 27, against the Missouri Valley College JV team. The doubleheader starts at 2 p.m.
The Falcons remain at home for a March 1 doubleheader against Lewis & Clark of Godfrey, Ill.
Home games are played on the East Central College campus.
Head Coach Brad Wallach has been impressed with what he’s seen so far during the buildup to the season.
“We’ve currently got 14 players and each one of them can do some good things,” Wallach said. “Overall, I think we’ve got a chance to be good.”
Wallach feels this year’s team will be able to pressure opposing teams.
“We’ve got a little bit of speed and hope to put pressure on the defense,” Wallach said. “We have the ability to hit the occasional long ball. And I think all three of our pitchers can do a good job and give our defense a chance to help them. We’ve got the potential to be a pretty solid ball club.”
Two pitchers return from last year’s staff. Ashley Miller (South Callaway) and Abby Ray (St. James) return and will be joined by Shelby Carr (Salem).
Miller and Ray tied for the team leadership in wins with seven apiece last season. Miller was 7-5 with a 3.56 ERA. Ray was 7-7 with a 4.26 ERA.
At catcher, Jensen Crenshaw (Canton) is the starter. She’s already signed with the University of St. Francis in Illinois for next season.
Wallach indicated she’ll bat in the leadoff position. She batted .401 with six doubles, five home runs, 49 runs, 23 RBIs and 20 stolen bases last spring.
First base is one of the open spots going into the season. Wallach said any one of the pitchers could play there when not pitching. Two more possibilities are freshmen Kori Fiedler (Union) and Taylor Ruth (Owensville). Ruth had been a shortstop candidate, but has an arm injury and playing first base might be a way to keep her bat in the lineup.
At second base, a pair of sophomores are expected to split the position. Alayna Abney (Owensville) and Jordan Vrba (Dixon) are expected to platoon there. Abney batted .209 last season with a double and a triple. Vrba hit .263 with one double, one triple and three home runs.
The team’s top returning player is back at shortstop. Megan Micke (Washington) will fill the important No. 3 spot in the order after hitting .452 with 12 doubles and nine home runs last season. She scored 44 times, drove in 41, led the team with 23 walks and had 19 stolen bases.
Micke was among the NJCAA Division II batters in several offensive categories last year.
Just like Micke, who followed older sister Rachel Micke into the East Central lineup, the Falcons have another legacy at third base.
Seeley Friend (Newburg), a freshman, is expected to start at the hot corner and back up Crenshaw at catcher.
Seeley’s older sister, Shelby, was an All-American with the Falcons in 2016 while hitting 13 home runs with a .488 average. She also won 15 games in the circle.
In the outfield, returning starter Jamie Kluba (Borgia) is being redshirted due to an injury. That’s opened up another outfield spot.
Samantha White (Jefferson, Festus) is expected to start in right field. She batted .235 with five doubles, a triple, 23 runs, 18 RBIs and nine stolen bases last spring.
The other two spots will be determined between four freshmen. Fiedler, Marge Barger (Kennedy), Marissa Boyd (Union) and Amber Struemph (St. Elizabeth) are vying for the starting spots and it’s possible all four could be rotated through early in the season.