Jan. 31, 2008
Whenever Lady Bisons softball coach Kristin Peck wants to provide some extra motivation for her team this season, she only has to mention the number 7.
That is where the Lady Bisons were picked to finish this season in the Atlantic Sun Conference in a preseason vote of the coaches. The lack of respect was a little bewildering to Peck who returns seven starters from a team that qualified for the A-Sun Tournament last season.
Making it even more difficult to understand is that the Lady Bisons return four players who ranked in the top 25 in the conference in hitting, three in the top 10. The Lady Bisons led the conference in hitting with a .304 average, the only team to bat .300 or higher.
And it isn't all about offense for the Lady Bisons. They were also third in the conference in fielding percentage last season.
"I was really surprised to see that," Peck said. "We would have much preferred to have been picked higher and I think we deserved it. Our players will look at this as a challenge.
"Last year we were picked second to last and we finished fifth in the regular season. It's going to be a challenge for us this season to finish higher."
The three returning Lady Bisons in the top 10 in hitting were senior first baseman Heather Collins, sophomore shortstop Abby Keese and sophomore outfielder Lauren Dortwegt. Collins was fourth with a .373 average followed by Keese in sixth with a .363 average and Dortwegt in ninth with a .354 average,
"Hitting was easily our strength last year," Peck said. "Hitting wise I think we are going to pick it up right where we left off. All of the players who were freshmen last year have a year under their belts.
"We have told them they are no longer going to be a surprise anymore. Everybody out there has seen them hit. They are going to know how to pitch to them. There are going to be notes on each of them. They have to elevate their game to the next level."
Collins was named as a preseason All-Conference team member. Last season Collins became the first Lady Bisons player to earn a spot on the A-Sun All-Conference First Team.
Collins also finished 2007 in the top four in the conference in home runs (14), RBI (53), slugging percentage (.669), and on-base percentage (.443).
Keese, Dortwegt and infielder Kellie Sirus were all named to the A-Sun All-Freshman Team. Dortwegt was also a second team All-Conference selection.
"We have a group of players that seem to be up for any challenge," Peck said. "They are competitive. They want to win. We will definitely use this ranking as a tool to help get us ready.
"We spent a lot of the fall and a lot of the preseason improving little-by-little every day. If we can improve every day whether it is in our middle game, our hitting, our defense or our pitching it is going to pay dividends in the end."
The poll, the complete preseason All-Conference Team and the conference press release are in the PDF at the top of the page.