HUNTINGTON, Ind. - With the Mid-Central Conference’s best pitcher and one of the league top bats, the Huntington University softball team is poised for another big season.
Senior hurler Molly Long, the reigning MCC Pitcher of the Year, and junior Katie Bower, a two-time All-Conference selection and career .447 hitter, are back for a Huntington team that went 27-7 (13-3 in MCC) a year ago.
“I’m expected a solid year, a good year,” said Huntington coach Doug Gower, the 2011 MCC Coach of the Year. “We’ve got the reigning MCC Pitcher of the Year coming back for her senior season, and we’ve got strength up the middle at catcher and centerfield. We’re expecting a big year. I like what I see so far. I’m very excited about the season.”
Catcher Brita Kuiper and centerfielder Brandi Gower, both seniors, will anchor the Foresters up the middle. Gower hit .314 a year ago while Kuiper posted a .282 average. Kuiper slugged four home runs, and Gower was 4 for 4 in stolen-base attempts.
Sophomore Katie Knous and Bowers will play the corner infield spots and hit in the middle of the lineup.
Bowers has put together two monster seasons. After hitting .435 with 12 home runs as a freshman, she hit .462 with seven long balls a year ago. Knous came in and hit .336 with seven jacks as a freshman last spring.
Freshmen will hold down the middle infield, with Peyton Klinkhamer at shortstop and Kaitlyn Troyer at second. Allison Greene (.322), a member of the Foresters’ basketball team, and Lindsay Shellabarger (.355, 2 HR) will play in left and rightfield, respectively. Freshman Amy Snider also will see time in the outfield.
Long, a two time All-MCC performer, is the Foresters’ unquestioned ace. She went 16-4 last year with a microscopic 1.22 ERA, striking out 154 batters in 133 2/3 innings. Through three campaigns, Long is 47-21 with a 1.71 ERA and has fanned 499 hitters while walking just 71. She has posted ERAs of 1.85, 1.96 and 1.22 in her first three seasons.
“Everybody I have is very athletic,” coach Gower said. “They can play multiple positions. We’ll play good defense, and we’ll pitch well. All we need to do is score a few runs. The formula is there. We just have to perform.”
Gone from last season’s team are shortstop Aubrey Garner (.391, 5 HR) and slugging first baseman Taylor Amber (.347, 4 HR).
Huntington is one of three teams expected to be at the top of the MCC. The Foresters will be in competition with Bethel and Marian for the league title. The Pilots are ranked 12th in the NAIA Preseason Poll. Huntington and Marian are receiving votes. A year ago, Bethel edged the Foresters by one game for the regular season title.
“Us three are right at the top,” Gower said, “but there are no easy games in our conference. Every team has gotten better. It’s very good softball in our conference.”
Provided by Austan Kas, The Herald Press