2014 Missouri State Softball Season Preview: Offense
Feb. 6, 2014
As the Missouri State softball team prepares for Saturday's regular season opener at Georgia Tech, we take a look at this year's team in a four-part season preview. Today's focus is the offense.
Last season, Missouri State put up some of the best offensive numbers in school history. The team batting average of .284, the 396 hits, 227 runs scored and 28 home runs all were top-5 single season stats. This year, the Bears look to replace four starting seniors from last year's lineup.
This season's Missouri State squad returns five starting bats from the 2013 lineup in Stacia Boeckstiegel, Heather Duckworth, Ashley Brentz, Kerri Cunningham and Mary Stephens. Each hit better than .290 in 2013 and are the top hitters among retruning regulars.
Boeckstiegel hit .320 and hit four home runs, the most by any returning Bear. She drove in 17 runs and picked up her first career stolen base in 2013. She also tied the single season school record by being hit by a pitch 10 times a season ago.
Preseason All-MVC pick Stephens had a great freshman season with a .309 average, 47 hits and 25 RBI, the most hits and most RBI among returners. She came through in the clutch as well with a team high 19 hits with runners in scoring position. Stephens enters 2014 with a team-best six game hitting streak in tact.
Brentz is a back-to-back recipient of first-team All-MVC accolades, the first Bear in a decade to repeat on the first team. She hit .295 with 19 runs scored, four doubles and 17 walks.
Fellow all-conference selection Duckworth, a second-team selection, tops all returners with seven doubles, 25 runs scored and 18 walks last year. She hit .292 and drove in 23 runs in 48 starts in 2013.
Senior centerfielder Cunningham will likely take over the role of leadoff hitter. Her speed contributed to her team-high nine sacrifice bunts last season. She stole 10 bases in 2013, second on the team and the most among returners.
Other returning hitters include catcher Braxton Coil whose .360 average was the highest on the team in 2013. She also came through with seven sacrifice bunts and hit a home run in her only pinch hit appearance of the season.
Ali Trickey hit .353 and had a team-best four pinch hits. Rebecca McPherson, a starting candidate in left had 11 RBI and was 3-for-4 in stolen bases. Bethany Sullinger will move from third to first and made an impact in her first career start by laying down a successful squeeze bunt and drilling a two-run home run, her first career hit, in a win over Toledo.
Pitcher Chelsea Jones will return to the batting order after shouldering a large workload in the circle in 2013. As a freshman, she hit .248 with 13 RBI and a pair of home runs. In limited at-bats last season, she drove in four runs in just six plate appearances.
Ciara Flau, Suzanne Allen, Erin Duewel along with freshmen Allie Alvstad, Elena Gambill, Madison Jones and Olivia Roark will push for playing time. Alvstad and Gambill have power while Jones and Roark are lefty slappers.
The Bears begin the season on Saturday at Georgia Tech, the second-consecutive year to start the season in Atlanta, Ga.