2013 Season Outlook: Catchers

Jan. 29, 2013

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – With the 2013 Kansas softball season less than two weeks away, KUAthletics.com is breaking down each position one-by-one, the second installment analyzes a young, but talented, core of catchers.

After the departure of last year’s starting catcher, head coach Megan Smith and her staff spent much of the fall looking for a pair of players to take over the catching position. Ideally, she would like to carry two full-time catchers but, like all position-player spots, Smith is still in decision-making mode.

Sophomore team captain Maddie Stein brings back the most experience in that role as she worked with the Jayhawk catchers last year. Stein was second on the team with a .371 batting average, giving her the eighth-highest batting average in a season for the Jayhawks. Stein played primarily at first base in 2012, but made one start at catcher and came to KU with a catching background.

Like Stein, freshman Alex Hugo can also play numerous positions, with one of her strengths coming at catcher. A true utility player, she was the starting catcher at Olathe South High School (Olathe, Kan.), but was primarily an infielder on her club teams. Due to her extreme athleticism, Smith describes Hugo as the best all-around athlete on the team and feels confident Hugo can play wherever needed.

On the newcomer front, the Jayhawks will welcome a pair of transfers in redshirt junior Nikki Bruce and junior Taylor Hatfield. Bruce hails from Overland Park, Kan., but comes to Lawrence from Eastern Kentucky. Hatfield was an all-conference selection at Cowley College, located in her hometown of Arkansas City, Kan.

HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On the challenges of finding the right fit at catcher between the coaching/pitching staffs:
“Obviously, it’s very important to have a strong catcher behind the plate. A good catcher makes the entire team better, not just the pitchers. We’re going to have some new people back there. It’s going to be exciting to see how they respond to that challenge.”

On who she sees as the possible starter:
“Maddie Stein had a year of working out as a catcher with us last year. She didn’t see much game time behind the plate, but has caught before and is up for the challenge. She works extremely hard and is ready to do it. Alex Hugo is a freshman that can catch, is very talented overall as a softball player and looks really strong behind the plate. She has caught before. We also have a transfer in Nikki Bruce, who is very solid defensively. Taylor Hatfield is a junior college transfer that battled some injuries this fall but we’re hoping to have her in the lineup this spring.”

On if the goal is to find a go-to starting catcher:
“We’d like to find two that we’ll rely on. It’s tough to have only one catcher. They need a break here and there, so we’re hoping to figure out the two that will get the job done and use them accordingly.”

The Kansas softball media day is schedule for Friday, Feb. 1 in the softball locker room. Interviews will begin at 1:30 p.m. Kansas opens the season against North Carolina State in the first of five games at the Florida Atlantic Invitational, Feb. 8-10.

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