Kansas Softball: Spring Practice Update

Jan. 26, 2012

Click above for interview with freshman Maddie Stein

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Only 16 days remain before the Kansas softball team opens the season, and the Jayhawks received another solid week of prep time at Arrocha Ballpark.

The mild January weather allowed the Jayhawks to utilize their home field all week, helping the team prepare for opening day at a much quicker rate – specifically on defense.

“We’re getting more comfortable in live situations on defense because we’re able to work through them every day,” head coach Megan Smith said. “That is obviously a plus.”

Aside from the defensive work, Smith cited the offense as a major area of strength this week. This comes as little surprise for a lineup that returns all but one of its heavy hitters from the record-breaking 60-home run squad a year ago, but power isn’t the only focus of the 2012 lineup.

“Offensively, I’m seeing a lot of good things,” Smith said. “We’ve got players stepping up to move runners and stepping up to score runners. I’m seeing a good variety. We’re bunting well, our hitters are hitting and our slappers look good. That is providing a good balance in our offense. They’re all producing right now at practice, which we’re very pleased with.”

Freshman Maddie Stein sticks out to Smith as one of the many notable Jayhawks that took big strides this week. The Oklahoma City native has worked out at first base, in right field and at catcher since arriving, and now looks stronger at each position as the season nears. Above all, however, are her offensive strengths.

“Maddie looks great at the plate,” Smith said. “She’s producing, moving runners and looks really good all-around up there.”

The addition of solid hitters comes at a good time as Smith and her staff are currently selecting a leadoff batter after two-year starter Alex Jones went down with a torn ACL. Although the thought is omnipresent, Smith will use much of the remaining two weeks of preseason to make her decision regarding the lineup card.

“We’ve been thinking about our lineup since Alex went down in the fall. She’s been our leadoff hitter for two years,” Smith said. “We’ve had some people step up when put in that position before in seasons past, so now we’re really trying to hammer out who that’s going to be. We’re watching to see who’s stepping up. We haven’t decided yet, but it’s certainly something we think about everyday when we’re out there.”

In the circle, Smith said she is happy with the staff’s progress as a whole, with a couple of pitchers still needing to throw their bullpen session for the week. Freshman Alicia Pille is the pitching highlight of the week.

“Alicia Pille looked really good throwing live this week,” Smith said. “Her demeanor looks exactly how we need it to look, she looks very confident.”

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