Pittsburg State Softball brings again a extra skilled group – Joplin Globe
The anticipation is rising.
But there are only two days left.
After nearly a year without an official game, the Pittsburg state softball team hits the field on Sunday as it opens the 2021 campaign with four games at the University of Central Oklahoma Festival.
"I'm a coach who loves to practice as a player but now I'm just ready to play and I know the girls are too," said PSU head coach Ashley Balazs. "It's disappointing that we weren't allowed to play in Tyler, Texas last weekend, but we got some home doubleheaders that we wouldn't have had." We'll still play all the games. We're just looking forward to getting started and showing off all of our hard work. "
The Gorillas played 28 games last spring before their season ended early due to COVID-19. PSU went 11-17 and 2-2 in the MIAA game in 2020.
With more than 10 returnees from last season, the 2021 version of the gorillas is expected to be more experienced. The returning group consists of eight position players and two pitchers.
"We have a lot of talent and the nice thing now is that we have returnees … We have a lot of children who were playing Division II softball at the time," said Balazs. “When I started my career here, there weren't many kids who had time for Division II. A JUCO transfer began. A newcomer was playing. We have kids who understand what the MIAA is about and how fast Division II is. I think we're a team that can come out and beat anyone. "
PSU returns five of its top hitters, who were among the team leaders on average, led by Joplin-Produkt and first baseman Makenzie Goswick (.370) and second baseman Kaity Kukowski (.313). Goswick had team bests last spring in hits (34), doubles (11), RBI (18) and total bases (51), while Kukowski was not far behind with 26 hits, seven doubles and 46 total bases.
"(They will) definitely bring RBIs," said Balazs. "That's what these kids do. We don't need them to steal bases. We don't need them to set the table. We need people on the bases in front of them and they just come up and hit a double, hit a ball through that Infield. Both of them are very capable of double digit home runs like Kaity has already done. "
Catcher Madison Szymanski, outfielder Kylee Bohle and infielder Makayla Lamphier also return.
In the circle, senior Kaylee Burnett returns after setting a 5–7 record last season, which was accompanied by an ERA of 4.26 in 19 games (12 starts). Senior Madison Morris is the other returning hurler for the Gorillas.
"We hope Kaylee starts where she left off," said Balazs. “She played some good games and three shutouts last year and only gave up a few goals here and there. She really closed teams. We have gained insight into this problem here in practice. Hopefully she can come out on game day and give us a solid five or six innings. "
As for newcomers, the South Dakota state junior transfer Taylor Compton prepared in Riverton is one to watch out for, Balazs said. She'll likely get the opening day for PSU.
"She has experience in Division I," said Balazs. "She didn't throw a ton last year, but she had a lot of experience in her first year. We are very excited to see what she can bring our pitching staff."
Balazs also sees newbies Paxtyn Hayes and Kori Stonestreet and Audrey Miller having an immediate impact in their sophomore year.
"We added some pretty good bats in Paxtyn, a Linke and Audrey," said Balazs. "Audrey is probably our most consistent batsman. She has an insane amount of power. I'm looking forward to adding these two bats to the line-up. On the defensive, Kori is certainly our best defensive kid. I think when we have someone like Morris in the circle she's a groundball kid and this consistent game at Shortstop will be enormous for us. "
At the UCO Festival, PSU will open the game against Chadron State College on Sunday at 10 a.m. in Bethany, Oklahoma, on the Southern Nazarene campus. The gorillas meet Southern Nazarene at 12:30 p.m. and conclude the tournament on Monday.
"We have a lot of depth," said Balazs. "It's definitely the sportiest team I've ever had. Since I've been here for four years, we did a lot of hard work from the first to the second year that really pays off."