By Jordan Rinard, Senior Staff Writer
After being knocked out of the Mid-American Conference Tournament following a 22-28 (9-11 MAC) 2014 campaign, the Miami University softball team looks to take the next step as a program in 2015. The RedHawks return five starters, including an All-MAC Second-Team honoree in junior outfielder Taylor Shuey.
Miami has several holes to fill following the departures of catcher Kayla Ledbetter, first baseman Allie Larrabee, second baseman and First Team All-MAC Kristy Arbour, as well as pitchers Paige Myers and Second Team All-MAC member Jenna Modic.
"We lost a big class that had big contributions, but we're not going to skip a beat," head coach Clarisa Crowell said. "I'm proud of our upperclassmen stepping up and taking leadership roles. Our team chemistry is important, and we've been doing a good job of working together and believing in each other."
However, the 'Hawks are a team with a plethora of experience, as they have six seniors and four juniors on the roster. That includes Shuey, who had team-highs with a .323 batting average and a .394 on-base percentage last season. Also returning is senior outfielder Bree Lipscomb, who tied for first in the MAC with 19 doubles, and ninth with 38 RBIs and a .581 slugging percentage.
"We've been working a lot on our execution," Lipscomb said. "We've been working on things like bunting, our execution defensively and all of the little things that we need to do. We're expecting a really good season because we have great team chemistry and we're able to play for each other."
A tandem of seniors in the infield also had considerable production last season as infielder/pitcher Remy Edwards had a .242 hitting percentage, while shortstop Kylie McChesney batted .228 with 12 RBIs.
Pitching appears to be a mixed bag for the Red and White, as there are only three returning pitchers on the roster. Junior Amber Logemann had a strong 2014 season posting a 3.30 ERA and four complete games. She was eighth in the conference with 126 strikeouts. Senior Megan Mattera saw action in 19 games as a reliever, but never started. Sophomore Kelsey Fredericks saw her only action in two starts early in 2014.
A new addition to the staff this year is Edwards, who previously pitched in high school.
"We're expecting good things from our pitching staff," Crowell said. "Remy hasn't pitched in four years, but she's been great for us. She brings a lot of energy and is just a fiesty kid. Amber's going to pitch a lot of innings, but she's coming back from mono over winter break. She's been a hard worker and is natural fit, so we're not worried. Then we have Kelsey and Megan, who probably has the toughest job of coming in and being the closer."
The team was in the middle of the pack in the MAC statistically, as it was fifth in both batting and fielding with a .273 batting average and a .961 fielding percentage. The 'Hawks finished seventh in pitching with a 3.35 ERA. In 2014, Miami created 131 runs while its opponents created 137 runs (created runs: (hits+walks)(total bases)/at bats+walks). The 'Hawks also had an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of .704 while opponents had .729, both of which are considered below average for the statistic.
"It's a long season," Crowell said. "We have to focus on winning the daily challenge and focusing on the process. We're focusing on next weekend in Chicago, where we'll play some good teams. We have to work on winning those games and winning the games we're supposed to win, as well as take care of what we need to take care of."
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The RedHawks open their season in Rosemont, Illinios for the Total Control Sports Invitational. Miami takes on Samford University and Syracuse University Feb. 6, North Dakota University and the University of Illinois at Chicago Feb. 7 and conclude with Loyola University Feb. 8.