Fall Workouts Off to an Impressive Start

Aug. 27, 2012

LAWRENCE, Kan. – During the summer break, the Kansas softball team put in the work needed to please head coach Megan Smith as the team’s fall workouts got underway last week.

“We had the mile test on Friday morning and I was extremely impressed,” Smith said. “You can tell our girls worked extremely hard this summer. You can tell that they worked out and came back ready. That’s a great starting point for us.”

Entering her fourth season, Smith is thrilled to report that the focus on building athleticism within the team is paying off. The fitness test the players compete in upon arriving on campus went better that it has in the past, with everyone finishing beyond expectations.

“Weight room-wise and conditioning-wise, they are in great shape,” Smith said. “The on-field work starts now, but we definitely have the most athletic group that we’ve had since I’ve been here. That’s what we’ve been working toward, also, is increasing our athleticism and we’ve done that.”

Following the fitness test, the team held its showcase on Friday evening. Coaches are not permitted to coach, but film can be taken for the staff’s review. Smith, again, was happy with what she saw.

Six starters return from the 2012 squad that posted its second-straight 30-win season last spring. Even with a strong returning core, including Academic All-American and Big 12 regular season batting leader, Maggie Hull, the Jayhawks still bring in eight newcomers.

Chaley Brickey (Weatherford, Texas), Alex Hugo (Olathe, Kan.), Kylee Kennedy (Topeka, Kan.) and Kelsey Kessler (Blue Springs, Mo.) signed during the team’s early signing period. Smith mentioned already being intrigued with what she’s seen out of Brickey and Hugo in the infield and outfield, respectively.

“I was again very impressed. Some of our newcomers already look very strong and, of course, they’re excited to be out there. Overall, I was very happy with the showcase and I’m excited to get started with this fall.”

Junior-transfer Taylor Hatfield made her decision to play her final two seasons at Kansas after successful freshman and sophomore campaigns at Cowley College (Arkansas City, Kan.). The newcomer total moved to eight this summer when transfers Nikki Bruce (Overland Park, Kan./Eastern Kentucky) and Lindsay Horwitz (Gurnee, Ill./Heidelberg Univ.) and freshman Reilly Lamb (Bloomington, Ill.) joined the team.

Aside from the eight newcomers, Kansas will also be getting two-year starter Alex Jones back from a redshirt season in 2012. The outfielder/pitcher is fully recovered from an ACL injury she suffered last fall and looks ready to compete for a starting spot.

“One of the highlights was seeing her back out there in full speed,” Smith said. “She’s hungry, she’s so ready to get after it. It’s always been fun to watch her, but after a year of not seeing her, now I’m even more excited to watch her come back.”

Now with eight newcomers, 10 returning letterwinners, six starters and Jones, the Jayhawks will have the depth the coaching staff has been striving to achieve. At any one position, Smith can work with at least two options for viable starters, bringing an even greater focus on the goal of upping the competitive mindset of this year’s team.

“It’s nice to have depth. That’s something we haven’t had a whole lot of here,” Smith said. “It’s good to have options and have the situation where players are competing in practice to win spots. We’re trying to be more competitive with what we’re doing in practice and make everything about winning. We’re all about winning that drill, winning your position and winning the games, ultimately. We’ve upgraded the competitiveness and are pushing everyone, everyday to do whatever they can to get better.”

The Jayhawks will maintain their weight room schedule in the mornings and practice on an individual basis until team practice begins on Sept. 17. Kansas opens its fall slate against Independence Community College on Sept. 25.