Jayhawks Report for First Day of Practice
Jan. 11, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Head coach Megan Smith welcomed the Kansas softball team back Arrocha Ballpark for an outdoors version of the team’s first practice of the spring, Wednesday afternoon.
The Jayhawk pitchers and catchers reported Monday before being joined by their teammates on Tuesday for meetings and a team dinner, bringing everyone back together after the semester break. With less than a month remaining until the season opener, the Jayhawks took advantage of the weather and spent their first practice of the year outside on their home field. Wednesday marked the team’s first practice as KU prepares for the opening weekend at the Southeastern Lion Classic, Feb. 10-12.
“You always want a break and when the break comes, you’re ready to get right back at it,” Smith said of the time off for the holidays. “We’re really excited about getting started. We had a really productive fall and saw a lot of improvement out of everyone. We’re ready to amp it up and get ready for the season.”
According to Smith, this week before classes begin on Jan. 17, the Jayhawks will be subject to a tough week of training in order to prepare for them for the grind of 54 upcoming regular-season games. The Jayhawks’ mentality when they return in the spring, however, differs from their arrival on campus prior to the start of the school year.
“In the fall, they come in really hungry and wanting to work hard so we push them really hard,” Smith said. “When they come back January, they see the season. They know that it’s coming quickly. They’re more energized and more intense about what we’re doing.”
Kansas returns 12 players to the roster for the 2012 season, including eight that played significant starting roles. Liz Kocon returns for her senior season after belting 14 homeruns last year, tying her for second-most in program history. Junior outfielder Maggie Hull comes back after an All-Big 12 Second Team season that saw her lead the team with a .346 average and 49 RBI.
Additionally, Smith and her coaching staff bring in seven newcomers, comprised of six freshmen and a junior transfer. Among them are ESPN RISE High School All-American catcher Lexi Bryant, All-District Defensive Player of the Year Chanin Naudin and two-time Conference Pitcher of the Year Alicia Pille. Also heavily-honored, Cassen Salamone, Maddie Stein and Emily Stokes join the team as freshmen, while junior Morgan Druhan will debut in the circle for the Jayhawks this spring after two years at South Alabama.
Although the crew of newcomers have yet to pull on a Kansas uniform in an official game, they helped KU to a flawless 6-0 record in the fall while gathering invaluable experience.
“We tell them in their fall meetings at the end of the fall, that when they come back, they are not freshmen anymore,” Smith said. “Our upperclassmen do a good job of making them feel like their not freshman, too, but we tell them to use the fall as their freshman year. Now they’re ready to go. We’re going to rely on our freshmen to come in and play, so we need them to be ready.”
Kansas will open the 2012 season at the Southeastern Lion Classic in Hammond, La., Feb. 10-12.