2017 Kansas Softball Season Outlook: Junior Class
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Just days away from the start of the 2017 season, Kansas softball will preview each class in a four-part series. The third installment of the 2017 season outlook includes Kansas’ junior class.
Now in its third year in the Kansas softball program, the junior class joins the upperclassmen rankings and brings a wealth of experience to head coach Megan Smith’s 2017 roster.
“Our junior class brings a lot of experience, some here and a couple at other schools,” said Smith. “I feel confident in the junior class because they’ve been through it and know what it takes to be successful, whether it was here or at other schools. We’re going to look to our junior class to be big time leaders for us this year.”
Heading into the fall of 2016, Smith fielded a roster that featured six juniors. During the offseason, Smith rounded out the class with a pair of transfers, making the junior class her largest group, along with the freshman corps, this season with eight members.
A 2016 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Region Third Team selection, Andie Formby led KU’s pitching staff last spring with a 16-7 record in the circle in 33 appearances and 25 starts. She posted the fifth-lowest ERA in the Big 12 (2.26) and the fourth-most strikeouts (113).
“Andie was great for us in the circle last year,” Smith said. “She was a new addition to the team and made an immediate impact on our pitching staff. Unfortunately, Andie will sit out this season and utilize her redshirt year. We will miss her presence in the circle and can’t wait until she’s back throwing in 2018.”
Another 2016 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Region Third Team selection, Erin McGinley begins her third season in the Jayhawks’ outfield. As a sophomore, she appeared in 48 games and made 45 starts. McGinley registered a .320 clip at the plate, good for the third-best batting average on KU’s roster in 2016. She totaled 48 hits, including eight extra-base hits, 25 runs scored and 19 RBIs.2017 junior class
“Erin is in a different role this year and has to lead our offense,” Smith said. “We are confident in her in terms of her abilities in the outfield. She has a great arm and great range, and she spent time in centerfield last year. Her moving to centerfield isn’t a huge adjustment because we’ve had her out there a lot and she’s done extremely well in centerfield. The biggest difference for her is stepping into the leadership role, which she hasn’t had to do (previously). That’s a big adjustment for anyone, but I think that she is ready for that and she has the natural ability to lead. Last year, she had a good year offensively, but we’d like for her to take it a step further this year and make more of an impact on the offensive side.”
At Stephen F. Austin, Annie Mehringer started 47 games and appeared in all 51 games as a sophomore. She batted .268 on the season with 38 hits, including nine doubles and six home runs. Mehringer registered 29 RBIs and 14 walks, while recording an on-base percentage of .329 and a slugging percentage of .458.
“Annie is new – really new,” Smith said of her mid-year transfer. “We’ve been impressed with how she has fit in and jumped out there. It seems like she’s always been out there and a part of the team, which is hard to do in two or three weeks’ time. She is someone that fits our values; she is hard working and very coachable.”
The second transfer to join Kansas this year is Sarah Miller, a pitcher from Binghamton. A second-team all-conference selection by the America East, Miller tied for second in the conference with 15 wins and ranked sixth with a 3.32 ERA. During league play, she went 7-1 with a 2.89 ERA.
“Sarah made a huge impact in the fall in terms of how she is as a person and how she approaches things,” said Smith. “Her teammates look to her as being a great teammate and really exemplifying family. In the circle, she has a lot of experience and is going to bring that to the team. We are excited to see what she can do here.”
In 2016, Amanda Organ appeared in 10 games and made three starts at third base for the Jayhawks. She recorded two hits and a run scored in 10 at-bats, while registering a .200 slugging percentage and a .200 on-base percentage.
“Amanda has been a role player for us the last two years – a pinch runner and last year found herself starting in a few games,” Smith said. “Amanda is a very steady and reliable player. We know she knows what she is doing and she knows where to be. Her biggest strength for us that we’ve seen through the last two years, including this year, is that offensively she puts the ball in play. I’m not sure what role she’s going to be in (this year), but she’s a hard worker and has great speed on the bases.”
After having to sit out the 2015 season, Harli Ridling reentered KU’s lineup last season, starting 49 of Kansas’ 51 games behind the plate. She batted .270 with 37 hits, 24 runs scored and 43 RBIs, good for second-most runs batted in on the squad. Ridling hit the second-most long balls on the roster with nine and led the team with two grand slams.
“Harli runs our defense, she runs our pitching staff and we are very confident in her ability to do both,” said Smith. “We are a different defense out there with her (behind the plate). We have great catchers on our staff, but Harli’s ability to be vocal and lead our defense is what makes her unique as a catcher. She’s tough and aggressive, and we love that about her behind the plate. Offensively, we are looking for her to be our leader, we lost a lot of power and we know that. Not to put too much pressure on her, but we know that she is capable of doing it and we’re looking for her to step up big time for us offensively.”
Last season, Jessie Roane started 50 of 51 games for Kansas. She appeared in 45 games at third base, three behind the plate and two as the designated player. Roane recorded a .229 batting average with 30 hits and 17 runs scored. She finished the season fourth in doubles with seven and third in home runs, also with seven, while tallying 24 RBIs, good for fourth-most on the squad.
“Jessie is great behind the plate, she’s a good third baseman and can play first base, so it’s hard to pin her down to one position,” Smith said. “She’s great at all three of those and she will see time in several places. She has great experience and has a lot of poise as a player. We need our junior hitters to lead us and that’s what we are looking for – Jessie is a part of that. We need for her to be confident in the (batter’s) box and hit to the potential that she has because she has great power potential and is a great gap hitter. She should produce a ton of RBIs for us and we’re going to be looking for her to do that.”
In her first two seasons with the Jayhawks, Mikayla Warren was used primarily as a role player and made a number appearances as a pinch runner. In her career, Warren has tallied 11 runs scored and two stolen bases. As a freshman, Warren recorded a sacrifice hit against Stony Brook (2/27/15).
“We’ve moved Mikayla to the outfield full time because of her speed,” said Smith. “She looks more natural in the outfield using her speed. This fall she got some opportunities in games (in the outfield) and did extremely well. She’s got great speed and can steal bases. It’s one of those things that she’s been a role player too – a pinch runner – and there might be more for this season. Her biggest strength is her speed and she’s going to use that to help our team be successful.”
In the final installment of the 2017 class previews, the senior class enters the spotlight. In 2017, KU returns six starters and 13 letterwinners from last season, while welcoming nine newcomers, including a pair of transfers. Among those returning is All-Big 12 Freshman Team member Alexis Reid, who posted a victory in the circle over nationally-ranked Oklahoma on the road last spring.
Kansas softball opens its 2017 campaign in Florida at the Stetson Tournament, Feb. 10-12. The Jayhawks will play a total of five games during the first weekend of the year against Akron, Savannah State and Stetson.
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