Hawks enter season with high expectations
The Dickinson State softball team has yet to step on the field and expectations are already sky high. Coming off the most successful season in the program's short history, the Blue Hawks enter the year ranked fifth in the NAIA poll. They return a...
The Dickinson State softball team has yet to step on the field and expectations are already sky high.
Coming off the most successful season in the program's short history, the Blue Hawks enter the year ranked fifth in the NAIA poll. They return all but one player from last season's team that reached the final six at the national tournament and brought in what coach Guy Fridley thinks could be one of the team's most talented recruiting classes ever.
So maybe the high expectations -- which include the possibility of a run at a national championship -- aren't such a stretch.
"I can't explain it," said sophomore pitcher Sara Jane Webster, an All-American last season. "I kind of feel like this could be it. You just get that feeling."
Webster and senior pitcher/infielder Nikki Marcoux, also a returning All-American, lead an experienced team that returns seven all-Dakota Athletic Conference performers and a pitching staff that Fridley believes could be one of the best in the nation.
"That's where the game starts," Fridley said.
Webster, Marcoux and senior Mehgan Shaw will all get their turn at the belt this season.
Webster was phenomenal as a freshman, compiling a 25-5 record with a 1.40 earned-run average while striking out a school-record 249 batters. Shaw is a three-time all-conference selection and two-time DAC pitcher of the year.
Marcoux was a starting pitcher at Jamestown College before transferring to DSU last season. She expects to see spot time throughout the season to give the Blue Hawks an much-needed third arm when they get to postseason.
Shaw said the three-woman pitching staff is just another weapon in DSU's already loaded arsenal.
"We've got our pitching and I think we've really got a good defense behind us too," Shaw said. "Our hitting is amazing. It's probably the best we've ever had."
Marcoux, who moves from first to second base when she's in the infield, is at the heart of DSU's lineup along with third baseman Jody Lantz and first baseman Kelly Jahn.
Webster, left fielder Amanda Mickey and right fielder Ashley Neufeld will make up the bottom of DSU's order. Both Mickey and Neufeld were all-DAC selections last season.
Speedy freshman center fielder Vanessa Adame is locked in at the leadoff spot while senior catcher Amanda Perrott and junior shortstop Danielle Crawford will fill the Nos. 2 and 6 holes, respectively.
After that, the Blue Hawks have a variety of options off the bench with seniors Jenna Eger and Jamie McIntyre, who each have tons of experience, freshman Erika Arvizo and junior transfers Kyrstin Gemar and Nathalie Martinez all figure to see time in pinch-hitting or spot roles.
"We've had a lot of good hitting teams, but one through nine -- I would even say 1 through 12 -- we can bring kids off the bench and we're not going to drop off at all," Fridley said.
The winners of three consecutive DAC championships, the Blue Hawks are shooting for their fourth conference title and third straight trip to the national tournament, which isn't just a goal anymore. It's an expectation.
"We're going to go into games now expecting to be the higher level team," Marcoux said.
Dickinson State Blue Hawks softball
Opening day lineup
1. Vanessa Adame, CF
2. Amanda Parrott, C
3. Nikki Marcoux, 2B
4. Jody Lantz, 3B
5. Kelly Jahn, 1B
6. Danielle Crawford, SS
7. Sara Jane Webster, P
8. Amanda Mickey, LF
9. Ashley Neufeld, RF
Coach: Guy Fridley (seventh season)
Recaping last season: DSU is coming off a 39-10 season in which it made the Elite Eight of the NAIA national tournament and finished among in the final six teams.
Honors: Sara Jane Webster and Nikki Marcoux were each named NAIA All-Americans last season while seven returning Blue Hawks earned all-Dakota Athletic Conference.