WOODWARD — Experience? Check. Impact player? Check.
In two key areas, the Woodward-Granger softball team has important factors weighing in their favor, but will those be enough to lift the Hawks back to their standard of winning against a conference that has grown increasingly tougher to compete against?
“This isn’t the conference it was a few years ago, and that means that on every night you have to play at a high level — you can’t take any game easy,” W-G head coach Noah Bean said. “I think our girls understand that and I think our experience is really going to help us.”
W-G was 13-22, 9-7 last year after finishing 23-11, 11-5 in 2014. Flipping the 2015 record will be a much easier task thanks to the return of senior Dalaney Bice, who missed last season with a devastating knee injury.
Bice should have an immediate impact at the plate. She led 2A with 12 home runs and finished tied for second with 56 RBIs two years ago, and her pop adds both punch and flexibility to the lineup.
“We are going to be able to do more things now as far as moving people around,” Bean said. “That goes for offense and defense.”
Bice was 15-11 and threw 170 innings as a sophomore, with Riley Jamison tossing 43 innings. Jamison was forced to shoulder the load in the circle last year, throwing 212.2 of 223 total innings. The sophomore was 13-19 with a 4.21 ERA, striking out 74 while issuing 75 walks.
“That is one thing we can’t do — give up walks,” Bean said. “Its one thing if the other team hits you, but you can’t give away free bases. I think we will be much better in that, with either girl.”
Meagan Bandstra (.417, 50 hits, 35 RBIs) was at catcher last year and could return behind the plate this season, although Bean indicated he may use Maggi Mallon at backstop and play Bandstra in the field.
Miranda Aunspach (.389, 49 hits, 30 runs, 29 RBIs) started at shortstop but could play either second or third base as necessary, with Jamison (.296, 34 hits, 25 RBIs) certain to find a spot in the infield.
Kaycee and Carli Major both return, as does Kendra Husmann (.288, 34 hits, 35 RBIs) and Bree Lesch (.312, 39 hits, 28 RBIs), giving Bean a lineup full of players with plenty of game action under their belts.
“We need to settle on some spots defensively, especially at first base, but I think we will be better in the field than we were last year,” the coach said. “I like the flexibility we have as far as being able to move girls around as needed.
“We are going to hit the ball and score runs, so what we need most is to pick it up on defense,” Bean concluded. “Last year we kept hurting ourselves, which I think we can avoid this year.”
W-G opens their season tonight at Ogden. Guthrie Center visits Woodward Thursday, with the Hawks to play in the Centerville Invitational Saturday.
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