Q-C College softball outlook

Posted Online: March 26, 2013, 9:48 pm
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By Tom Johnston, tjohnston@qconline.com
Weather-permitting, the softball teams from Augustana College and St. Ambrose University are scheduled to meet today if either school is able to have a field in playable condition.

If they do get to play, it will be an interesting battle between the two local programs. They have built themselves into very solid teams with some lofty goals for the season. Both could be major players in their respective conference races. In fact, add the always dominant Black Hawk program that has ruled the Arrowhead Conference and Region IV play and it could be a banner year for all three local collegiate softball squads.

With expectations and optimism running high, it has become even more frustrating for those on all three teams to wait for some cooperation from Mother Nature.

Here are quick looks at each program heading into the 2013 season:

Augustana Vikings
Coach: Kris Kistler, 14th season, coming off a 25-13 season

Key players: Sr.: Jenna Nelson (C, Orion); Jr.: Sarah Hintz (P, LeRoy, Ill.), Jamie Rehmert (1B/P, Sterling), Chaney Tambling (3b, Dwight), Krista Watson (SS, Coal City); Soph.: Laura Behnke (OF, Wheaton St. Francis), Chelsea Lavin (OF, Downers Grove South), Jenna Teson (2B, Algonquin Jacobs), Christy Wiersema (1B/P, Morrison), Jaclyn Wrona (C, Glenbard South); Fr.: Ashley Anderson (P/1B, Sherrard); Cheyenne Burnett (OF, Rock Falls).

2013 outlook: The Vikings (8-4) opened the season with an 8-2 road trip to Florida which included a pair of victories over NCAA Div. III National Tournament qualifiers Alma and Ferrum. Kistler likes her team's play up the middle, pitching depth and chemistry. The Vikings are a team with a huge up-side, but they play in the CCIW, one of the toughest conferences nationally, and will have to find a way to battle to the level of Illinois Wesleyan and Carthage.

Coach Kistler says: "I really, really like this team. I think we have really good balance in everything we do – pitching, hitting, defense and base running. We have a little bit more speed than we had last year and that can definitely help open some doors.Our conference is going to be really, really tough, but our goal is to always win conference and go from there. It's doable, but it's going to be a very, very tough challenge.''

St. Ambrose Queen Bees
Ron Ferrill, third year at SAU, coming off a 29-27 season.

Key players: Sr.: Britney Carlson (OF, Fort Dodge, Iowa), Kara Devine (OF, Dixon), Sarah Frerichs (OF, Fisher, Ill.), Nichole Garland (OF/P, Springfield, Ill.), Jenna Harshbarger (P/1B, Monticello), Kristen Paulson (1B, Bettendorf), Sammy Saladino (OF, Davenport West); Jr.: Kathryn Brown (Jr., P, Bloomington, Ill.), Stephanie Hebison (Jr., OF, Fremont, Calif.); Soph.: Niki Green (Soph., C, DeWitt), Erin O'Donnell (Soph., SS, Evergreen Park), Kaitlyn Ryser (Soph., 3B, Springfield, Ill.), Leah Smith (Soph. 2B, Marion, Iowa); Fr.: Mackenzie Snowbarger (Fr., utility, Durant).

2013 outlook: Ferrill says this could be the year SAU catches NAIA's nationally ranked William Penn for a Midwest Collegiate Conference title. The Queen Bees are 13-3 and have shown the skills needed to contend. SAU leads the conference in fielding percentage (.968) and batting average (.396). The team's ERA is 3.25, but was goosed by a couple of rough outings. Depth is also key. Ferrill says some of his lineups will be determined by who is swinging the hot bat.

Coach Ferrill says: "This is the school's best chance in over a decade, I would say, to battle for the Midwest Collegiate Conference crown. It's all these kids' second year with me; we brought them all in last year in my big recruiting class – either junior-college transfers or incoming freshmen. … We've got all the tools except maybe the leadership. … Some days, we're a little hit and miss with which team shows up. When we bring our best game, we'll be a handful for anyone in our conference.''

Black Hawk Lady Braves
Carrie Calderon, 18th year as head coach, coming off a 33-17 season.

Key players: Soph.: Emily Medinger (3B, Rockridge), Haley Pulse (P, Camanche); Fr.: Taylor Ambrozi (SS, Moline); Kassi Anderson (CF, Geneseo); Shelby Blair (P/1B, Moline); Karissa Herman (2B, Geneseo); Jordan Marshall (C, Galesburg); Jenna Winthurst (P, Moline).

2013 outlook: The Lady Braves have dominated the Arrowhead Conference in Calderon's tenure, but she thinks this spring that "everybody will beat up on everybody; it doesn't look like there will be one dominant team.'' Expect BHC to be in that hunt, even with a young team – 10 freshmen and only two sophomores – and some players working at new positions. BHC features an explosive offense, solid defense and some dangerous speed that can turn ball games. A young, inexperienced pitching staff will just have to keep the Lady Braves in games and not necessarily win them.

Coach Calderon says: "This team, overall, has to be the best quality team that I have had in the last couple of years. They are a joy to be around and they get along with great team chemistry. They come to practice and work hard, really support each other and have fun. That's what is going to pull us through besides the talent we have on this team.''
-- By Tom Johnston, tbone@qconline.com


Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.

(More History)