Women’s Softball Set to Open 2009 Campaign
Monday, March 16, 2009
By Derek Neice
Coming into this season with a strong returning lineup from her squad last year, second-year Calvin softball coach Emily Bustrum is ready to take her team to the next level in 2009. The Knights come into this season with a large amount of returning offensive firepower and pitching, and having lost only three starters from last year, the Knights already have the form of a veteran team. Key freshman additions to the starting lineup look to give this team an additional spark, which should prove Calvin a vastly talented team in the years to come both offensively and defensively.
Coach Bustrum has high hopes for this season, and with a year of collegiate coaching experience in this program under her belt from last year, she has developed a stronger sense of confidence in her own abilities to coach this team to their full potential. Having developed a strong relationship with returning players from last year and possessing self-assurance about the abilities of the incoming freshman, Bustrum is poised to lead this team to a successful season.
“We lost three starters last year, but have gained some great potential freshmen,” says Bustrum, “and I have the knowledge now of where those infielders and outfielders need to go… We’ve worked a lot in the off-season on our offensive skills; Defense was our strategy and strongpoint last year, but I feel we have equal ground both defensively as well as offensively, and hope to use what I learned last year and put it into focus this year.”
Bustrum is also joined by two assistant coaches, one being her own father Jim Elliot, who helped coach last season, and a newcomer in Barb Eddy, who played college ball with Bustrum at Cornerstone University.
After a slow start, last year’s Lady Knights finished the season with a strong 8-9 record over their last 17 games to push their overall record to 12-23, putting them in seventh place in the MIAA standings with a 5-11 conference record.
In getting this season started, the Knights will be traveling west to Arizona for their annual Spring Break hiatus in Tucson, which will include a stretch of eleven games against a variety of schools.
“We get a real mix,” says Bustrum of the opponents they will face in Arizona, “we get to see some fire-ballers on the mound as well as some power hitters, so we’ll see how our offense holds up as well as our defense.”
This week-long trip to the desert should prove quite valuable to the Knights in terms of getting to see where they stack up in this initial stage of the season, as well as building team-chemistry, something that every team needs in order to be successful. And the weather in Arizona will certainly be a welcome change of pace to that of the Michigan cold.
“Spring Break allows us to start on the right foot for our season outdoors,” Bustrum says, “We’ve been blessed this spring so far to be able to get outside a few days before spring break, which is the first time in about four years, so we hope to build on that. We are just looking to become unified and get our jobs done on and off the field.”
The Knights return starting pitcher from last year, senior Kristin Folkerts (Grand Rapids, MI), which should prove Calvin to be strong from the mound. Acquiring a 9-18 record in 27 starts and 190.2 innings pitched last season, Folkerts was the team leader in every primary pitching category. Along with her nine wins, Folkerts recorded 94 strikeouts and ended the season with a 3.16 earned run average and a .297 opposing batting average.
Junior pitcher (and utility player) Amanda Johnson (Grand Rapids, MI) also returns to the mound this year behind Folkerts. Johnson started in eight of the ten games she appeared in as pitcher, recording three wins and a 4.13 earned run average in the 40.2 innings she pitched.
The Knights will also have a newcomer in Claire Dewitt (Grand Rapids, MI) who will get some time in on the mound along with her two veteran teammates.
“The pitching staff this year is shaping up nicely… I look to see a low ERA for each of our individual pitchers [this season].”
On the offensive side, Calvin also returns the core of their hitting lineup with senior shortstop Brittany Moriarity (Muskegon, MI), junior catcher Whisper Miller (Hersey, MI), and senior third baseman Loren Scarbrough (Antioch, Ill.) all coming back. Miller and Moriarity will resume their positions from last year while Scarbrough will be moving to play first base.
Last season, Loren Scarbrough had a team-leading 18 runs batted while maintaining a .245 batting average, and Brittany Moriarity batted .273 along with 14 runs batted in. The pair also led the team in total bases with 41 and 37 respectively.
“They are very smart and intelligent players,” Bustrum says of Scarbrough and Moriarity, “They know when they need to pick up their teammates; they know when they need to pick themselves up. I look for them to stay solid, stay healthy, and just to be leaders on and off of the field for us.”
Whisper Miller (Hersey, MI.) was the key to the Calvin offense a year ago, leading the team in a majority of hitting categories, including batting average [.282], walks , and stolen bases . She looks again to be the focus of the Knight offensive attack here in 2009.
“Having a lefty start the offensive attack is key, said Bustrum, referring to leadoff hitter Whisper Miller, “If we can get her on, we can look to move her with some small ball, and then bring up our big power hitters and hit her home… We need to get her on and move her with her speed she’s got and be able to put those runs across.”
While maintaining an experienced infield, the Knights will also start a couple of newcomers in Marie Prins (Hudsonville, MI) and Kim Vanden Akker (Grand Rapids, MI), who will start at third and second base respectively. Vanden Akker joins her older sister Jennifer, a senior who will start this year in right field.
Sophomores Mallissa VanRooyen (Beamsville, ON.) and Jaqueline Kirkman (Oregon, OH.) will fill up the other two starting spots in the top nine with VanRooyen playing in left field and Kirkman in center field.
Looking to encounter fierce competition again in the MIAA, including strong opponents such as Hope, Saint Mary’s, and Trine, the Knights will not have an easy road to a championship. But they do have the talent to engineer a great season and will be looking to prove themselves when they come into conference play.
Says Bustrum, “We gotta’ get our bats on fire.”
The Knights will opening up their season against Saint Mary’s (MN) down in Arizona on March 21.