By: Kaleb Center, CSC Sports Information Director
CHADRON, Neb. -- February 18, 2021 -- The Chadron State College softball team's season may have been abbreviated last year, but the squad returns fully intact in 2021, with a few additions, ready to return better than ever.
The road for the Eagles begins in Oklahoma next week, when it takes them to the Oklahoma City area for four non-conference matchups with Midwestern opponents at the Edmond Regional Festival, hosted by Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma Christian, and Southern Nazarene on three different fields.
The Eagles' debut was delayed by a couple of days, due to the winter storm engulfing the South Central U.S., but the hosts are hopeful they can salvage the weekend by moving games to Sunday and Monday, when warmer weather is in the forecast.
CSC is led by a quartet of fifth-year players. Three of those – senior Angelica Maples, junior Allie Mason, and senior Ellie Owens – have received starts and playing time since joining the team as freshmen in 2017. The fourth, senior Bailey Rominger, has been a three-year starter since transferring to Chadron State prior to the 2019 season.
Beyond those four veterans, the team is young. As many as five spots in the batting order are expected to be filled by freshmen, either true freshmen or "Covid" freshmen who played in 2020 but received an extra year of eligibility due to the season's abrupt ending.
"One of our goals for the season," said CSC Head Softball Coach Kaley Ness, "is just to develop our young players. On our roster, 9 of the 21 players are freshmen, so we've got a lot of room to grow. Our expectation is just to get consistency out of them against each opponent we face, no matter how competitive, and get those younger players playing at a higher level by the end of the year."
Two juniors and a sophomore should receive the bulk of the innings pitched, at least early on in the season. Leading them is Tia Kohl, a junior transfer from Barton Community College, where she was a conference Co-MVP as a sophomore. Kohl pitched for the Eagles in 2020 and returns for another junior year. The others are Peyton Propp, a sophomore who started 12 games in 2019, and Gabby Russell, a junior with 11 career starts.
New to the pitching staff is sophomore transfer Caitlin Lotspeich, who pitched at Feather River College in California, where she went 9-6 with a 3.18 earned runs average as a freshman in 2019.
Freshman DeAnna Barrera, last season's ERA leader, will be working to return to academic eligibility this season.
Leading off the batting order once again will be sophomore shortshop Bailey Marvel. The speedy infielder le the Eagles last year with a .351 season batting average. She led the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in defensive assists and at .980, had the second-highest fielding position in the league, among starters at her position, last season. Her 22 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts, also led the team.
The infield is anchored by Mason at first base. Along with Marvel, Coach Ness says the pair is vital to the confidence of the team's pitchers.
"Allie brings our pitchers the greatest sense of calm and encouragement," said Ness.
At 6-1, Mason has the range to stretch out for almost any defensive throw. In 2018 she was second on the team with 40 base hits. She received a hardship waiver in 2019 to return as a junior in 2020.
The other two infielders, second baseman Addison Spears, and third baseman Sloane Quijas, are both "Covid" freshmen. Spears led the team with 21 runs batted in, in 2020, while Quijas was second with 13 runs scored.
Two more third basemen on the team are junior Alyx Gragg and freshman Jessie Henchenski.
Another second-year freshman will start behind the plate. Mackenzi Kroll began her career last season as a catcher, before finding a spot in right field due to her offense. She hit .328 for the year, with the team's second-best slugging percentage.
Potential backups at the catcher position are Rominger and freshman Samantha Conradie.
The outfielders are freshman Paige Propp, the senior Owens, and junior Ali Conder, also a Feather River College transfer.
Owens returns for her second senior season, and she has started in center field for the bulk of all five seasons.
Angelica Maples, another senior, will work to recover from offseason surgery, and she may return to the lineup at some point. Maples has been one of the Eagles' top power hitters.
Freshman designated player Micah Stouffer, a local product, is expected to begin the season in the four-hole in the batting order, but Coach Ness said the Eagles may turn to the pitcher, Russell, to fill the role, depending on the situation and who has the hotter bat.
"I tell our team all the time," said Ness, "each win this year is going to be a team win. It's always the case that one swing can change a game, but there are a lot of moments that led up to that one. Also, several different players are going to have to be the game-changers at different times."
CSC is set to line up for the first time in 2021 on Sunday at 9 a.m. MT, 10 a.m. CT, versus Pittsburg State at the Southern Nazarene campus in Bethany, Oklahoma.