Feb. 12, 2003
NKU AIMS FOR GLVC TITLE IN 2003
Norse return talent and experience from 36-13 team
By John Rasp, Assistant SID
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - In its 18-year history of fast pitch softball, Northern Kentucky University has never won a Great Lakes Valley Conference championship.
That, however, is NKUs goal for the 2003 season. And there is plenty of reason for optimism this year, given the fact NKU is coming off a season in which the Norse broke 10 school records and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in history.
NKU, with five seniors and seven talented sophomores, hopes to win its first GLVC championship and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2003. This is the second year (the automatic bid) has been in effect, so (winning the GLVC) is certainly an important goal, said head coach Kathy Bown.
The Norse hope to build on the momentum of a record-setting 36-13 finish in 2002, a season in which NKU earned the No. 2 seed in the GLVC Tournament.
Last year, NKU - which excelled during the regular season with a youthful lineup - lost consecutive games in its NCAA Tournament debut, but the Norse return 12 letterwinners who realize what it takes to be successful.
The overall attitude of the team is the best it has been in my tenure, said Bown. This years team is very focused and determined.
NKU will be very strong on the mound with sophomore pitcher Emily Breitholle, who earned both All-Region and All-GLVC honors last season. Breitholle set an NKU record for wins (20) last season, and she also posted a school-record 1.31 earned run average. Breitholle had 103 strikeouts a year ago and limited opposing hitters to a .198 batting average
Sophomore pitcher Kyla Chaney will again join Breitholle in the rotation. She set a school record for fewest walks in a season (12) and finished 10-4 with a 1.71 ERA in 2002.
Bown also has more pitching options than shes had in the past. We have two very good freshmen to compliment two very good sophomores, she said.
The freshmen pitchers who could contribute are Krystal Lewallen and Sarah Newland. Lewallen tossed 23 no-hitters and 52 shutouts during her prep career at South Oldham High School.
The Norse offense features sophomore first baseman Angie Lindeman, who was first team All-GLVC and GLVC Freshman of the Year in 2002. Lindeman, who hit a team-leading .426, set team records for hits (66), runs batted in (39) and slugging percentage (.626) a year ago.
Lindeman also joined Breitholle as an All-Region selection last season. Bown said those two sophomores will have to continue their outstanding play for NKU to win the GLVC title this season.
Theyve set high standards to repeat, but with their work ethic and confidence in their abilities, as well as their teammates, theyll have continued success, Bown said.
NKU returns two other infield starters in shortstop Crystal Wilson and second baseman Amanda Davidson. Wilson, a four-year starter, hit .261 last year and also scored 19 runs. Davidson, another four-year starter, had her best year with the Norse by hitting .311 and collecting 10 doubles.
Wilson and Davidson also provide NKU with solid defense, and their experience and leadership are keys in 2003.
Sophomore Jesse Thomas, a good defensive infielder, adds speed to the team. She was used as both a defensive replacement and pinch-runner for the Norse a year ago.
NKU has also added a talented recruiting class for 2003. They each contributed to our success in the fall in their respective areas, and we expect continued production and improvement, Bown said of her freshmen.
The Norse add Heather Cotner and Rachele Vogelpohl to a strong group of infielders. Those two, along with Thomas, are battling for the starting position at third base.
One of NKUs strengths will be at catcher, where the Norse feature experience and talent. Senior Kristin Koors - who started 47 of 49 games last year - and senior Molly Fachman both return.
Koors finished with seven doubles and 18 RBI last season. Sophomore Megan Owens also had a solid year and could push for playing time. Owens, along with Koors, could also see time at designated hitter.
The Norse also add freshman Machelle Van Cleve, who could see time behind the plate in 2003.
Sophomore Stephanie Leimbach will patrol center field for the Norse in 2003. Leimbach had an impressive freshman year by hitting .325 and scoring a team-leading 35 runs.
Leimbach also led the Norse with eight stolen bases. NKU possesses good team speed, and Bown expects to use it a great deal in 2003.
We hope to capitalize in terms of stolen bases, said Bown. We want to put pressure on our opponents defense.
Senior Shaunta Mitchell could vie for a starting position in the outfield. She played in 44 games as a junior and hit .284. Sophomore Allison Goodrich adds depth to the outfield.
Two freshmen - Heather Brosnan from Louisville Male High School, and Kara Lorenz from Ursuline Academy in Cincinnati - could both vie for a starting position in the outfield.
This team wants to win, and they believe they can, said Bown. They have worked very hard since August and expect to reach the Elite Eight.
As they embark on their 19th year in fast pitch softball, the Norse feel that this could be the year when they finally hoist the GLVC championship trophy.
With a roster loaded with talent and experience, NKU also expects to be one of the nations top teams.