Team Defends MAC Title

Jimmy Fisher, Reporter

The end of the winter season marks a shift toward spring sports and fans are keeping their eyes on the defending MAC champion softball team.

The Cougars began preparations to defend their title after coming off a 28-17 record from 2012.

Head coach Jen Probst was very pleased with her team’s effort in keeping  in shape during the off-season. She said the players’ preparation showed almost immediately as they started their organized team activities a few weeks ago.

“What I’m really happy with is that we came back stronger and in shape,” said Probst. “The kids took their winter workouts really seriously, and you can tell that they didn’t just go staging over winter break. They actually worked here at school and at home so it was nice to see them comeback and ready to go.”

Most coaches would come up with different workout routines and schemes to help their players get better and improve more and more throughout the season, but Probst feels that last season’s workout routines worked well so she said there will not be much change, if any.

There was a small change in coaching staff that she feels will prove helpful to her and the players. Probst welcomes a full-time assistant and graduate student Nicole Yost.

“She’s really great working with the girls,” Probst said. “By having her we can now do smaller group work, hitting wise during the week, and that was something that was really hard for me to do during the day when it was just me and my other assistants being part-time. I think if anything we’ll see if that will give us an edge this year by giving us more one on one time with the girls and really fine tuning their swings.”

Softball will return all but one starter from last season having lost Jillian Castaldi to graduation. Probst feels that players with field experience can be a significant advantage.

“I think that we have a lot of young kids who have had a lot of success,” said Probst. “We have solid seniors. They are not only really good ball players but really great leaders, all four of them, so they’re going to significantly help us but they set a great example with our younger kids last year. And I think having this whole group, we have a lot of older kids and a lot of younger kids, they’re picking up where they left off.”

Seniors outfielder Jennifer Cory and pitcher and outfielder Caitlin Cromley have played key roles in the success of the team and hope to keep the momentum going.

Cromley said it was tough losing Castaldi but feels the seniors this year are primed to lead the team to big things.

“She was a great role model and leader for our team,” said Cromley. “But I feel the four seniors we have this season have really stepped up to the plate, no pun intended.”

Cromley has played a key role for the softball team in  pitching. Last season she pitched roughly 150 innings, and 200 innings in a previous season. Cromley admits that at the end of the season her arm feels fatigued,but she keeps fighting and works to keep throwing the pitches.

“I think it does wear you out,” said Cromley. “But also you wanna keep pushing forward and do what’s best for the team.”

Cromley said she’s performed workouts with stretch bands to keep her shoulders nimble.

When Cromley surrenders the mound to fellow teammate junior Jess Armilay she takes the outfield alongside Cory.

Cory will take over as the leader to make sure the other girls know their assignments with Castaldi and younger players stepping into the outfield roles.

“I’ll be in center field so that will be a tough task for me to lead the outfield with sophomores and freshman out there,” said Cory. “So in the off-season I had to get even stronger to be the head of the outfield.”

The softball season officially kicks off when the team departs for Florida on March 2 where just last season they finished 3-7.

“The thing is when we go down there I try to pick the absolute hardest schedule we possibly could play,” said Probst. “We play a lot of top 25 in the nation teams, we play teams that have made it to the Elite Eight and have played for national titles. We’ve play teams that have All-Americans on them so I pick the hardest schedule I possibly can because I know that win or lose when we come back, there’s nothing that’s going to be as difficult as those 10 games we play down there.”

Cory agrees the teams in Florida are  tough but knows they have to strive against them so they can be more competitive when they return home.

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