2012 Kansas Softball Season Preview: Catchers
Feb. 3, 2012
Leah Daiber, Sr.
Brittany Hile (2011: .315 BA, 13 HR, 8 2B, 36 RBIs, .637 SLG)
Lexi Bryant, Fr. (2011: ESPN RISE All-American | Orland Park, Ill. | Carl Sandburg HS)
Maddie Stein, Fr. (2011: .509 BA, 21 2B, .750 SLG | El Reno HS | Oklahoma City, Okla.)
LAWRENCE, Kan. – In the second of a four-part Kansas softball season preview, catching is the highlight as the Jayhawks welcome a high school All-American and a multi-talented freshmen duo to comprise the three-member 2012 catching crew.
Behind the plate marks one of the most challenging voids the Jayhawks will fill this season after the departure of four-year starting catcher Brittany Hile. The Olathe, Kan., native was drafted 15th overall in the National Pro Fastpitch league following her graduation last May.
This spring, Hile has turned her skill toward grooming the next Jayhawk catcher as the team’s volunteer assistant coach. She will guide freshmen Lexi Bryant and Maddie Stein as well as senior Leah Daiber this season.
For the first time since arriving at Kansas, head coach Megan Smith shoulders the responsibility of replacing the catcher that she pegged as the best arm she’s ever seen – let alone coach – in Hile. Freshman Lexi Bryant is the top candidate heading into the spring. Bryant was named an ESPN RISE High School All-American following an All-Area Woman Athlete of the Year senior season at Carl Sandburg HS in Orland Park, Ill. During her junior campaign, Bryant was awarded with Illinois Athlete of the Year honors after batting an impressive .504 average with 16 home runs.
Bryant strengthens her status as the primary candidate for the starting role as Smith is already pleased with her ability to receive the ball and handle the pitching staff.
Aside from Bryant, Stein and Daiber will also be at Smith’s disposal. Stein is rapidly improving behind the plate, according to Smith, but is even more recognizable for her ability at the plate. As a senior at El Reno High School in Oklahoma City, Okla., Stein drilled 21 doubles and finished the season with a .509 batting average. Meanwhile, Daiber has the best knowledge of the pitching staff after three years as the Jayhawks’ experienced bullpen catcher.
Kansas officially opens the 2012 season against Tennessee-Martin on Friday, Feb. 10 at 12:30 pm CT. The matchup marks the first of five games the Jayhawks will play at the Southeastern Lion Classic in Hammond, La., Feb. 10-12.
Head Coach Megan Smith
On replacing four-year starting catcher Brittany Hile:
“Catching is obviously an important position and we had one of the best for my first two years in Brittany Hile. She caught almost all of our innings and developed into a professional softball player. We brought in a freshman All-American (Lexi Bryant) to step in and learn from Brittany.”
On Lexi Bryant’s skill set:
“Lexi is a superb receiver – our pitchers love throwing to her. She’s a very good communicator, she calms our pitchers down and has a great demeanor with them. Brittany (Hile) has really been working with Lexi on strengthening her throws and release. We’re excited to see how she develops. It’s a tough position to jump into as a freshman and take charge of, but she has the work ethic to do it.”
On Maddie Stein’s progress as a catcher:
“Maddie Stein not only has a great bat, but is one of those players who will work tirelessly to figure it out on the field, too. She’s done a lot of work on her own already so she can certainly see time behind the plate.”