2013 Season Outlook: Infielders

Jan. 30, 2013

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – While the Jayhawks prepare for their season opener on Feb. 8, KUAthletics.com continues to preview the Kansas softball team, focusing on the dynamic crew of infielders.

In her fourth year as head coach, Megan Smith calls this set of players one of the most talented infields she has worked with – and for good reason. The Jayhawks are bringing an unprecedented amount of depth to their infield in 2013, starting with the shortstop position and the addition of Haltom City, Texas native, Chaley Brickey.

Ranked No. 22 on the ESPN Softball 2012 Recruiting Class, Brickey graduated from Haltom High School a year early, but didn’t show any signs of youth as she hit .643 with 40 RBIs, while striking out just once in her final campaign with the Buffalos. In her first season, Brickey is slated to start at shortstop for the Jayhawks – a position previously filled by three-year starter and team captain, senior Mariah Montgomery.

Proving the added-depth theory, Montgomery worked out with the right side of the infield during the fall. Montgomery ranked in the top-10 in the Big 12 with 45 RBIs in 2012 and led the team with eight home runs, numbers that Smith has no plans for removing from the lineup. Still able to play shortstop when needed, Montgomery will likely take her talents to first base or second base where she will create more depth. Sophomore Maddie Stein, an All-Big 12 Second Team selection in 2012, made the most of her starts at first base last season, and has potential to reprise that role as well as catch in 2013.

Like Brickey, freshman Alex Hugo also has all the makings of becoming an immediate impact player. Smith refers to the Olathe, Kan., native as the team’s best all-around athlete, which makes her a candidate not just for the infield, but at catcher and in the outfield, too. In her senior year at Olathe South, Hugo batted .500 with 10 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 39 RBIs.

Sophomore Chanin Naudin and junior Ashley Newman will provide familiar consistency as they return at third and second base, respectively. Naudin earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors after finding her groove in Big 12 play. Facing conference-only foes, Naudin lead the team with 15 RBIs and tied Stein for the lead with three home runs. A force on the base paths, Newman was a perfect 21-for-21 on stolen bases and committed only two errors all season at second base in 2012.

Also in the mix are freshmen Kylee Kennedy (Topeka, Kan.) and Reilly Lamb (Bloomington, Ill.). Kennedy comes in as an All-State First Team honoree from Shawnee Heights, while Lamb hit .471 and led her team at Normal Community High School with 27 RBIs in her senior season.

HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On the overall look of the infield:
“The infield looks really good. This is one of the most talented infields I’ve ever worked with. We’re a good mix of experience, leadership and just pure talent. It’s been really fun to work with them throughout the fall and it’s going to be exciting to see them in action this spring.”

On the talent Chaley Brickey brings to the team:
“She is an exciting player. I think what’s so great about Chaley is that she absolutely loves the game of softball and loves the University of Kansas. You see that when she’s out there and it’s just so much fun to watch her. She is ridiculously talented and is so strong defensively. Mariah Montgomery did an excellent job for us at shortstop for the last three years and Chaley has come in and is now owning that position. It’s fun to see that she’s ready for that challenge. Mia (Montgomery) has been helping her and has moved across the infield and is still a huge part of what we’re doing. Chaley is a special player.”

On Mariah Montgomery being a selfless captain and team player:
“Mia’s always been like that, she’s always willing to move and play wherever we need her to. At this level, you have to be selfless and you have to be here for the good of the team. We tell the players all the time that they’re playing for Kansas, not for themselves. What’s best for Kansas is what we’re going to do. She takes that to heart. I’m sure she’d probably rather be playing shortstop, but she’s taking the work at first base and second base and is doing really well with it. She’s helping the younger players, especially Chaley, and has been a true leader for us. She puts the team first and always has.”

On the potential of Alex Hugo:
“We talk about Chaley Brickey a lot, but you have to talk about Alex Hugo, too. She’s phenomenal. She is bar none our best all-around athlete. She can play anywhere on the field. Wherever you put her, she is phenomenal. What a great person to have on our team. You can put her anywhere and she looks like a million bucks. People are going to love watching her play.”

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.