With ten freshmen and only one senior on the roster and the
likelihood of five fresh faces in the starting lineup, HU softball coach Jim Rubbelke is sure of just one thing
about the 2012 season: there will be
some serious mixing and matching of personnel in the early going.
The Pipers open 2012 this weekend with a pair of
doubleheaders at the Augsburg Dome. They will face Luther on March 2 at 2:00
p.m. and Wis-Lacrosse on March 3 at noon.
“There’s no way to find out what works until we actually get
on the field for a few games,” said the fifth-year head coach. “We have some very good people returning but
we will definitely need some of the new players to step up and take a role. Our
goal is to get back to the playoffs.” In 2011, the Pipers went on a late-season tear, winning
their last six conference games to qualify for the MIAC tournament with a 14-8
league mark (21-19 overall). To repeat that feat, they will have to do so with
perhaps as many as five freshmen in the lineup.
Fortunately, there are some familiar faces, too. Bethany Hine, a junior, was named to
the All-MIAC team last year after finishing fifth in the league in batting last
year with a .417 average. Hine also ranked second in triples and fourth in runs
scored and tied for the team lead in stolen bases with 12. “She’s our
table-setter,” Rubbelke said. Hine will anchor the outfield in center field. Laura Randall, a junior who swatted .350
last year, hit four home runs and also stole a dozen bases, is also back. Fresh
off a hockey season, Randall’s position in the field is still to be determined.
“It will probably depend on how some of the new players do,” Rubbelke said.
“Laura can play several different positions.”
Jackie Brigl (also coming off a hockey season) and Lauren Turitto both hit .300 plus and started 30 or more games last year. Brigl caught last
year but is currently slated to play on the infield. Turitto may split time
between right field and first base.
But that leaves several positions to be decided. Katie
Koren, a freshman from Tartan, will get a look at catcher in the early
going. Another freshman who may make an immediate impact is Jenna Dushaw, an all-stater last year
on a state tournament team at St. Paul Johnson.
Elaina Hamann, who played at
St. Anthony Village, is also expected to compete for a fly chaser spot.
The biggest loss from the 2011 team might have been Kelsey Tacheny,
who threw 17 complete games in going 15-9 on the mound. A pair of sophomore right-handers – Brianna Vela and Lauren Clauston – saw action in 15 and 12 games respectively and is
expected to shoulder the majority of the pitching duties. In 2011, Vela
exhibited excellent control, walking just five batter sin 49.1 innings while
Clauston recorded 27 strikeouts in 48.2 innings. Both are expected to see action today and tomorrow.
“Our goal is to have an established lineup by the time the
conference season begins (March 28 at St. Thomas),” Rubbelke said. “This will be different than any team we have
had here,” he said. “I will be learning from them and, hopefully, they will be
learning from me.”
The learning curve is a little steeper, thanks to a tough
non-conference schedule that includes a week’s worth of doubleheaders against
good competition in California. Rubbelke said he will be vigilantly watching to
see who can adjust the quickest to college ball. “The key is to stay sharp
mentally. You can make seven errors in a game and win. But you can’t make seven
in an inning and do so. We need to limit our mistakes,” he said. “Fortunately,
our returning players are good leaders who understand that.”
A livestats link for this weekend's game can be found here.