The Eastern Kentucky University softball team is off to a 7-2 start in the 2020 campaign and are looking to continue the strong start with a young team this season.
The Colonels are off to their best start since the 2016 season.
The softball team started the season with wins over the University of Dayton, 14-6, Wright State University, 10-0, and Mercer University, 5-4 in the Mercer Invitational from Feb. 7 to 9.
The Colonels did fall in their first game of the season against the University of Tulsa, 5-2, but bounced back with three straight wins.
“We played some pretty good teams and I’m happy about what we did,” said Jane Worthington, EKU softball head coach. “We scored a lot of runs and if this is an indication of what we’re looking to expect for the rest of the year, then we should be in pretty good shape.”
Worthington is in her 28th season as the head coach at EKU.
“I’m not the same coach that I was 28 years ago,” she said. “The game has changed a lot, I’ve changed a lot. I’ve learned to mellow out just a little bit,
not sure if my players would agree with that, but the game has changed a ton. It went from only having a handful of runs to win a ball game to now you’re going to have to score a lot to win.”
This season the softball team has many new players. The infield has seen the biggest change from last season after losing three infield players.
“We did lose quite a bit, we lost almost our whole infield... somebody will step up and they have been,” Worthington said.
Worthington said her team has been putting in the work over the off season and has seen the younger players improve. “We’ve been practicing a lot in the fall and during the winter,” Worthington said. “Yes, they’re young but they are very good players. They are going to continue to improve and they are going to be a big part of our program.”
The softball team had another road trip from Feb. 14 to 16 to play in the Winthrop Invitational in Rock Hill, S.C.
After a strong first weekend of the season, Worthington and the Colonels were ready for the competition.
“We’re just trying to get everyone out there and get experience,” Worthington said.
On Friday, Feb. 14, the Colonels defeated Winthrop, 6-1. The Colonels hit three home runs and scored the first six runs of the game to cruise to the win over Winthrop.
In game two of the day, the Colonels fell to UNC Greensboro, 8-3.
On Saturday, Feb. 15, EKU swept the competition winning both games against Towson, 7-2 and Boston, 3-2.
Carly Robinson went 2-for-3 with one home run and two RBIs against Towson. Mollie Paulick also chipped in a 2-for-3 hitting performance against Towson with one home run, one double and one RBI.
In the 3-2 win over Boston, the Colonels only managed two hits, but it was two home runs by Ariyana Miranda and Bella Gonzalez.
EKU rounded out the Winthrop Invitational with a win over Georgetown University, 8-3. Zoe Mihalicz went 3-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs. Sammi Miller went 2-for 3 with one double and a walk against Georgetown.
EKU is preparing for the University of North Carolina Wilmington Tournament which will be hosted in Wilmington, N.C. from Friday, Feb. 21 to Sunday, Feb. 23.
The Colonels will face George Washington University at 10 a.m. on Friday and the University of North Carolina Wilmington at 12:30 p.m.
EKU will also play two games on Saturday against George Washington at 3 p.m. and Brown University at 5:30 p.m.
The softball team will wrap up the UNCW Tournament on Sunday at 10 a.m. against Brown University.
All of EKU’s pitchers are back and Worthington is happy to have that leadership in the circle this season.
“They all got a few innings last year and we’re going to need every one of them,” Worthington said.
The Colonel softball team will be back at home on March 6 to start the EKU Invitational against the University of Illinois - Chicago. First pitch is set for 2:30 p.m. at Gertrude Hood Field.
“This team works hard and they are really fun to watch,” Worthington said. “Come watch us play because I know you won’t be disappointed.”
The Ohio Valley Conference slate will begin on March 21 against Belmont at home. Worthington was excited for OVC play and is expecting tough conference opponents.
“There’s not a team in the conference this season that is not good,” she said.
EKU was predicted to finish third in the conference in the preseason poll.
“That’s probably fair,” Worthington said. “Southeast Missouri has almost everybody coming back and Jacksonville is always a power house. It doesn’t matter to me honestly if we’re picked first or 12th, we’re always going to try to push for first place.”