The Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's fastpitch softball team will enter the 1999 season with eight experienced players returning from last year's squad that posted a 20-16 overall record and finished third at the National Christian College Athletic Association national tournament. In addition, head coach Jeana Howald has added eight quality new players to round out the Lady Cougars' roster.
"I am excited to get this season under way," said Howald, who is entering her tenth season with an overall record of 215-134 at MVNC. "We have a good group of players who love the game and are eager to learn. Our returning players have lots of experience, and our new players are very talented and ready to step in and contribute."
Leading the way for MVNC will be senior infielders Lori Sours and Corri Tillett. Sours was a Mid-Ohio Conference Honorable Mention selection at first base last season after batting .265 with 10 doubles and 18 runs batted in, while Tillett was an MOC Second Team selection as a sophomore and committed just 10 errors at third base last year.
"Lori (Sours) and Corri (Tillett) are both excellent leaders on this team," Howald said. "They lead on and off the field by their actions. Lori is a dangerous power hitter and run producer, and Corri excelled defensively at third base last season."
Rounding out the infield will be junior Jody Eichelberger, an MOC Second Team selection last season at second base, and sophomore transfer Shelly Claxon at shortstop, an MOC Second Team pick and the MOC Freshman of the Year last season at Shawnee State University. Freshman Stephanie Keller, a Second Team All-Ohioan, will also see action in the infield.
"Shelly (Claxon) is one of the most fundamentally sound players on this year's team," said Howald. "She had a great season last year, and we are expecting big things from her again this year. Jody (Eichelberger) is one of our most consistent players who finds ways to get the job done."
Coach Howald should have one of her best pitching rotations in several years with Tara Hines and Natalie Wallace returning after outstanding freshmen seasons. Hines posted a 13-7 record with a 2.25 earned run average, while Wallace had a deceiving 7-8 record and a 2.25 ERA. Hines was an Honorable Mention All-MOC selection, while Wallace was named to the MOC Second Team. Also joining this season's rotation is freshman Amanda Schumm, who was a two-time All-Ohioan at Parkway High School.
"I feel like the pitching staff that we have this year will give us an opportunity to win every time we take the field," Howald said. "Tara (Hines) and Natalie (Wallace) have plenty of experience and did well as freshmen a year ago. Amanda (Schumm) had an outstanding high school career and is ready to test her abilities at the next level. It is nice to have three quality pitchers to add depth to our team."
Sophomore Angie Svagerko will shoulder the load of catching this talented group of pitchers. As a freshman, Svagerko played in 31 games and committed just two errors.
"Angie (Svagerko) saw lots of action last year and that should prove to be valuable experience," said Howald. "She has worked hard to improve, and she definitely loves to play the game. Her hustle and intensity are contagious to the rest of the team."
The Lady Cougars will have plenty of depth in the outfield as junior Mandi Halley, sophomores Amy Leach, Amy Blankenship, Sarah Johnson, and Heather Stuart, and freshmen Drew Paulo and Kim Westcott all compete for playing time.
"We will probably try several different lineups in the outfield to start the season while we try to find the combination that works best," Howald said. "The competition for playing time should help to make us better as a team."
Besides competing in the rugged American Mideast Conference, MVNC will face Kenyon College and Denison University in non-conference action after returning from the team's annual spring trip to Orlando, Florida, where the Lady Cougars will play 12 games in 10 days.
"The spring trip really sets the stage for how our season is going to go," said Howald. "The team needs to be ready to come out and play when the first pitch is thrown down south. We will play several very good teams, but we are capable of competing with each and every team we meet."
"Once we return from our spring trip, we will jump right into our highly-competitive conference schedule," Howald added. "I am looking forward to seeing how the team reacts to the challenge of a new season."
*American Mideast Conference Games
+Orlando Rebel Games (Orlando, FL)
%NCCAA National Tournament
$American Mideast Conference Tournament
|March 19||+ vs. McKendree (IL)||Away||10:00 a.m.|
|March 19||+ vs. Springfield (MA)||Away||1:30 p.m.|
|March 20||+ vs. Denison||Away||9:00 a.m.|
|March 20||+ vs. Wilmington (DE)||Away||12:30 p.m.|
|March 22||+ vs. Wilmington (DE)||Away||1:30 p.m.|
|March 22||+ vs. Columbia (MO)||Away||5:00 p.m.|
|March 23||+ vs. Iowa Wesleyan||Away||10:00 a.m.|
|March 23||+ vs. Ramapo (NJ)||Away||11:45 a.m.|
|March 25||+ vs. Columbia (MO)||Away||10:00 a.m.|
|March 25||+ vs. Coe (IA)||Away||11:45 a.m.|
|March 26||+ vs. Chicago (IL)||Away||2:15 p.m.|
|March 26||+ vs. Iowa Wesleyan||Away||4:00 p.m.|
|March 30||* GENEVA (PA)||Home||3:00 p.m.|
|March 30||* GENEVA (PA)||Home||TBA|
|March 31||KENYON||Home||3:00 p.m.|
|April 1||* CEDARVILLE||Home||3:00 p.m.|
|April 1||* CEDARVILLE||Home||TBA|
|April 2||* NOTRE DAME||Home||1:00 p.m.|
|April 2||* NOTRE DAME||Home||TBA|
|April 6||* at Walsh||Away||3:00 p.m.|
|April 6||* at Walsh||Away||TBA|
|April 8||* at Tiffin||Away||3:00 p.m.|
|April 8||* at Tiffin||Away||TBA|
|April 10||* MALONE||Home||1:00 p.m.|
|April 10||* MALONE||Home||TBA|
|April 13||* at Rio Grande||Away||3:00 p.m.|
|April 13||* at Rio Grande||Away||TBA|
|April 14||at Denison||Away||3:30 p.m.|
|April 14||at Denison||Away||TBA|
|April 17||* at St. Vincent (PA)||Away||1:00 p.m.|
|April 17||* at St. Vincent (PA)||Away||TBA|
|April 20||* URBANA||Home||3:00 p.m.|
|April 23-24||NCCAA DISTRICT TOURNAMENT||Home||TBA|
|April 27||* SHAWNEE STATE||Home||3:00 p.m.|
|April 27||* SHAWNEE STATE||Home||TBA|
|April 29-May 1||% at NCCAA National Tournament||Away||TBA|
|May 3||* at Ohio Dominican||Away||3:00 p.m.|
|May 3||* at Ohio Dominican||Away||TBA|
|May 6-7||$ at AMC Tournament||Away||TBA|