Kansas Softball: Spring Practice Update

Jan. 19, 2012

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Deep in preparation mode for the season opener on Feb. 10, the Kansas softball team took full advantage of the opportunity to practice outside at Arrocha Ballpark during the second week of workouts since reporting back to campus.

“We’re really excited to be out as many days as we have been,” head coach Megan Smith said. “Obviously, it’s important to get that experience on the field before we hit the road next month. Right now, we go out as often as we can and work as hard as we can at every opportunity. We take advantage of that.”

This week’s focus revolved heavily around reviewing fundamentals and high-pressure situations, both defensively and at the plate. Smith also has the team working on short game and team defensive situations.

The Jayhawks returned from a productive preseason training camp at the Wichita Mustangs Softball Academy indoor training facility, Jan. 13-15. Complete with an indoor field, as well as an extra infield, batting cages and a bullpen, the facility allowed the Jayhawks the extra room to work intensely on all facets of the game in a controlled climate. Upon returning to Lawrence on Sunday, the Jayhawks were able to follow up a strong weekend of camp with an outdoor practice on their home field to kickoff week two.

Since reporting for spring practice, Smith and her coaching staff have kept a consistent goal of putting the team in game-like situations at every practice to add increased mental toughness to the team’s skill set.

“We’re making a constant effort to put them into more pressure situations in practice,” Smith said. “We’re going to benefit a lot from that when the season starts. It’s not just getting reps with no consequence, it’s putting them in game situations in practice and seeing how they perform. We’re doing a lot of that now in hopes that it will help us this spring.”

In the circle, five pitchers will comprise the pitching staff this season, including three newcomers in freshmen Alicia Pille, Emily Stokes and junior-transfer Morgan Druhan. They join senior Ashley Spencer and sophomore Kristin Martinez and after the first two weeks, are making the progress Smith wants to see.

“Our freshmen pitchers look really good as well as our transfer, Morgan Druhan (Jr., South Alabama),” Smith said. “Emily Stokes, one of our freshmen, came back looking even stronger than she did in the fall, which is good. Ashley Spencer has done extremely well in our live situations. We still have some work to do pitching-wise, but we feel good about the depth that we have. They are all different and they complement each other very well.”

After a successful fall, Smith felt as if her team finished ahead of where it had in past seasons. As the second week of practice nears completion, the third-year head coach remains true to that initial thought while also finding ways to pinpoint new areas for improvement.

“On defense specifically, we’re strong, and have been able to put them into specific situations on defense quicker than we normally do,” Smith said. “Offensively, we have a progression that we like to go through as we start getting them back and ready for the season. We feel like we’re in a good place. We have a lot of experience on the field and a lot of players who gained a lot of experience in the fall. I’m comfortable with where we are right now.”

Kansas will open the 2012 season against Tennessee-Martin in game one of the Southeastern Lion Classic in Hammond, La., Feb. 10-12.