GGC Softball advanced to the NAIA World Series for the first time in program history last season, fully expecting to win it. When they were eliminated by Oklahoma City University, one chapter in GGC Softball history ended; however, another will begin when the Grizzlies take the field opening day, Wednesday February 4th for a doubleheader beginning at 4pm.
Last year’s #1 ranked team broke new ground when they advanced to the World Series for the first time, but also shattered offensive records led by All-American and the nation’s leading base stealer Niki Cook.
With Cook graduating after last season but most of the team’s core intact, Head Coach Kat Ihlenburg decided that preparation for this upcoming season would be different.
“This spring to prepare we have done a lot more live pitching so that our hitters get to see as many live pitches as possible, with a real emphasis on quality at bats. We are trying to help the team and the offense understand moving runners and executing with two outs, one out, how to get those runs across,” said Ihlenburg.
Senior infielder Tori Robinson, who started 49 games at shortstop last season adding seven home runs, agreed that there was definitely a change this fall and spring leading up to games, with less emphasis on repetition and more focus on situations.
“Almost everything we do now is situational, whether it be on offense or defense. Coach Kat feels that there are certain situations that if we execute well, will be crucial to our success so we have been focusing on those,” said Robinson.
Sophomore pitcher and infielder Piper Wagner adds to a returning core who has noticed a difference this offseason. Wagner played a key role in the team’s success as a true freshman pitcher last season, putting up a 19-1 record and breaking the school record for ERA, allowing only 1.24 runs per game.
“Another thing Coach has changed this year is the way we think about each week. Now we have to make goals for each week, or even each day. These goals have to be specific, tangible, and are turned in and kept track of to see how we plan to succeed and get better every day at practice,” said Wagner.
The goals are not just individual though.
“One team goal we have is for everyone to make one less error than they did last year. We also want to do better than we did last year, whether that be one game better or a few, we just want to go further than we did last season,” senior first-baseman Elyssa Melton said.
What They’re Saying
“I know it’s the cliché of sports, but the comradery will carry us through adversity. There are specific games in 2018 that we can look at and say, ‘that was why we were so good.’ We will really need that again this season.” Kat Ihlenburg
“I really love softball, but on a serious note I’m looking forward to playing Lindsey Wilson. They are a really good ball team and the games against them last year were cancelled due to weather. I’m really looking forward to playing Warner University too because they put us out of the opening round two years ago and I felt like we were a better team than they were.” Elyssa Melton