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Softball team looks forward to getting on the dirt

With a solid core of returning veterans and a large number of new players, the Lady Cougar softball team is looking forward to the new season.

The Cougars have added nine freshmen and three transfer students to their roster for the 2016 season. Returning are 10 upperclassmen, including four seniors: pitcher Lauren Arndt, third baseman Hayley Gray, catcher Konnor Byers and centerfielder Hannah Shaffer.

Coach Jeana Howald said she is counting on this group for big things. “Our seniors are hard workers with

pride in the program on and off the field,” she said. “When they come together, they’re a really strong group.”

Eager to put their hard work onto the field, the Cougars left Feb. 28 for a 12-day trip to Florida. They played 15 games, returning home with a 7-8 record.

The spring trip is a great early season test “to see how strong we can be,” Howald said. “It’s hard to really get a gauge in the gym.”

However, the spring trip is about more than getting some playing time on the dirt. Howald said the real importance is in getting to know each other and building on each player’s strengths during spring training.

Team members said the trip provides a great bonding experience both on and off the field.

“I felt like this was a really beneficial trip for our team,” junior pitcher Courtney Rengert said. “As the week progressed, we were able to learn more about each other on a deeper level off of the field and that really began to show on the field.”

Byers agreed and said she thought the team made great strides during the trip.

“We ended strong,” Byers said. “That is what is most important to me. We started a little rocky, but our Florida trip is designed for us to get time on the field and improve our skills together, [and] we accomplished that.”

Shaffer leads the team with a .353 batting average and junior Megan Beidelman follows close behind at .340 and leads the team in RBIs with 21. Sophomore pitcher Anna Boue’ commands the mound with 41 total strikeouts in her 10 game appearances.

The Cougars lost both games at home on Wednesday against Marian University.

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