Jayhawks Report for Softball Preseason Camp

LAWRENCE, Kan. – With a little less than a month away from the first pitch of the 2014 season, the Kansas softball team is back on campus and started practice on Sunday in preparation for the upcoming season. 
The pitchers and catchers reported on Friday for workouts and the rest of the team joined on Sunday for a fitness test and team meeting. 
“The pitchers and catchers have done a great job the last two days,” said head coach Megan Smith. “Everyone came back in shape and the fitness test went really well. We’re excited to have the whole group back and get started. We’ll have a team meeting tonight to outline our goals for the next week. We’re ready for the season to start and we’re excited to begin playing.”  
The Jayhawks will spend Monday focusing on fundamentals and shaking off the dust before getting into the grind of preseason camp.
Kansas softball is coming off one of its best seasons in recent years and will look to carry that momentum over to 2014. Last year, KU led the nation with a batting average of .345, which also set a new Kansas and Big 12 record. The Jayhawks’ 34-16 (.680) record in 2013 marked the team’s best winning percentage since the 1992 season when KU went to 45-10 (.818) and advanced to the Women’s College World Series.
“It seems like it was just two weeks ago it was the beginning of last season and I can’t believe we are back here again,” said sophomore pitcher Kelsey Kessler. “It is really exciting that camp is starting and that the entire team is back. We’re really looking forward to the season.”
Smith, who is entering her fifth season at the helm of the Jayhawk softball program, fields a roster that features 10 veterans and seven rookies. Kansas is led by fifth-year senior outfielder Alex Jones and senior infielder Ashley Newman.
During 2013, Jones was one of seven Kansas players to hit over .300 on the season after hitting .324 on the season. She was also 7-2 in the circle with 1.94 ERA. Newman hit .331 last season with three doubles and 15 RBI. Newman was second on the team with nine stolen bases and only two behind Jones, who led the team with a total of 11 stolen bases.
“I was talking to some of the seniors the other day and it feels weird to be driving back to Lawrence for the last time before preseason camp,” said Jones. “Camp is draining and it’s a grind because we are practicing several times a day, but I am ready to go. I am here for a fifth year for a reason, so I am excited to go out and play my last season.”
Also returning to the diamond in 2014 for KU are 2013 All-Big 12 Second Team selections Kessler and sophomore Chaley Brickey, 2013 National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Region honoree junior Maddie Stein and 2012 All-Big 12 selection Chanin Naudin.
In her first season with KU, Kessler started 17 games and had a 12-6 record on the year with a 2.19 ERA. She ended her first season in Crimson and Blue with four-straight wins, including a victory over No. 1 Oklahoma. Brickey posted Kansas’ third-best batting average during conference play by hitting .318 against Big 12 competition. She had 12 doubles, four home runs and 24 RBIs in her freshman campaign.  Stein, an All-Big 12 selection as a freshman, led the Jayhawks with 49 RBIs, while hitting .337 with 10 doubles. Naudin started every game at third base last season hitting .301 and was one of five Jayhawks to drive in more than 30 RBIs. She drilled seven home runs and seven doubles in 2013.
“I am most excited about the potential of this team,” Jones said. “There are some really special girls on this team and we have a lot of talent. A goal since I came here has been to get to regionals and I really think that we can do that with this team.”
Adding to their strong group of returners, Kansas welcomes six freshmen (Lily Behrmann, Utility, Overland Park, Kan.; Taylor Dodson, Infield, Grove, Okla.; Taylor McElhaney, Infield, Talala, Okla.; Harli Ridling, Catcher, Sentinel, Okla.; Katelyn Schumacher, Outfield, Hays, Kan.; Sophia Templin, Pitcher, De Soto, Kan.) and a transfer (Beth Wilson, P, Canton, Ill.).
The Jayhawks kick off the 2014 season against Central Florida in the first of five games at the Central Florida Tournament, Feb. 7-9.
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