By Will Menser, Staff Writer
The Asbury softball season, despite several scrimmage games this past fall, officially begins Feb. 15 against the Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs. After a disappointing end to the season last year with back-to-back losses to Cincinnati Christian, the Eagles wound up with an 11-25 record. This season, the team is looking to have a fresh start with new coach Angie Dean.
Coach Dean has come to coach the Eagles after coaching the University of the Cumberlands Patriots for 19 years, where she posted a career record of 347-429-1. Dean also has experience as a college softball player herself, playing for the Cumberlands when she attended. Most notably she led the Patriots in her last season to win the Mid-South Conference Championship and get a bid in the NAIA National Tournament.
In September, when Coach Dean joined the Asbury softball team to begin conditioning and training, she commented that she felt “very excited, very honored to be here. Cumberlands is all I’ve known, you know, 22 years there; but honestly these girls are working hard, they are hungry to win, they’re hungry to be coached, so it has just been a pleasure so far.” With a new coach, the softball team’s chances are certainly looking up for this season, especially after only losing three players since last season and adding an abundance of freshmen. Not all the freshmen will play this year, but having young talent preparing for the future is vital for any college sport.
One freshman in particular, Macey Fix, discussed the process of the training and prep for this upcoming season. “We had a fall season where we scrimmaged teams and got lots of practice in. Over the winter we started lifting and running and really getting in physical shape for our season. We are still working out a lot, but as games get closer we are starting to work on skills more, like batting and fielding.” An early start and scrimmages certainly can go a long way in preparing this less experienced team for the season.
It has been a long time since the Eagles have had a winning season – seven years to be exact. In the 2011 season they won the River States Conference tournament and were invited to play in the NAIA National Championship Pool Play Tournament. The coach at the time, Larry McCullough, won coach of the year alongside Todd Buckingham of IU Southeast, and five Asbury players were named to the All-Conference team. That level of success has yet to be repeated.
This season may not hold that level of success either, but with a new coach and a roster loaded with young talent, the future is bright for Asbury softball. “This is the first season with our new coach, so adjusting to her coaching style and getting used to everyone [is our first goal],” Fix said. “Second, we want a winning season. Especially for the seniors, going through coach after coach they deserve a winning season and with that, we [want to] participate in conference at the end of the year.” The goals of the team are certainly attainable this season, but it won’t be an easy road for the Eagles.
As of now, Asbury is ranked ninth out of ten teams in the RSC preseason rankings and will have a tough conference schedule this year, especially with many of the team’s winnable games coming early in the season when they are just coming together. If the Eagles are able to finish in the top eight in the conference, they will be invited to the conference tournament where they will have a shot at the championship and a bid to the NAIA tournament. The first game will be a double header in Athens, Tennessee, but the home opener will be a double header on Feb. 24 against Indiana Wesleyan University.
Photo by Mark Duffel