Starting a season ranked fourth in the country brings lots of pressure, but the Lady Cardinals are ready for it.
SVSU finished last year’s season with a 42-18 record, one of the best in school history. They traveled all the way into the semi-finals of the Division 2 softball championships, the furthest the team has ever made it in that tournament, before losing by a single run to the University of California-San Diego.
Freshman outfielder Chelsea Adcock thinks that the demands that come with being a highly ranked team is what will motivate them to be even better than last year.
“Our team is ranked fourth in the nation right now, and we are working really hard to live up to that,” she said.
First-year head coach Tim Rousse, who led the team to the playoffs as interim head coach last season, likes his team’s chances even though they lost some key players from last year’s team.
“We are missing 5 starters from last year’s team, including the best pitcher in the country,” he said, referring to Jade Fulton, an All-American who graduated last year. “But I love our depth. We have talent.”
Being motivated by preseason rankings will not lead to success by itself, however. Adcock said that the team is up for the challenge and that its off season regimen will be beneficial once the season begins.
“We have been working out,” she said. “We’ve been doing a lot of hitting which will help out when the season comes immensely.”
Toughness and working hard against good competition is what coach Rousse believes gives his team the best chance to win.
“Our offseason was rigorous,” he said. “We played three MAC Schools and Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. We showed that we can play with anyone, as evidenced by a 3-2 loss to MSU when we out hit them, out pitched them, and I felt outplayed them but ended up falling in the ninth.”
According to Rousse, the key to being even better next season comes down to one thing.
“Pitching, pitching, pitching. It all starts and ends in the circle,” he said. “We can hit, we are good defenders, but the only thing we have not seen around here in a while is someone other than Jade Fulton in the circle.
“I can tell you Alexa [Gehrls] is eager to get her shot. She is a gamer and ultra competitive.”
Gehrls posted a 19-10 record last season, pitching 93 innings with an earned run average of 2.32.
The season will officially begin March 3 when the Cardinals will open up in Florida for the Rebel Spring Games. They will be playing Fayetteville State at 9 a.m.
“I love this team. We are young and very excited,” Rousse said.