2016 Softball Season Outlook: Catchers
Returners: Redshirt sophomore Harli Ridling, Sophomore Jessie Roane
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Just days away from the start of the 2016 season, Kansas softball will preview each position in a four-part series. The first installment of the 2016 season outlook includes Kansas’ catchers.
Head coach Megan Smith will utilize a pair of experienced veterans to tackle the duties behind the plate for the 2016 season. Redshirt sophomore Harli Ridling will return to action after sitting out last season due to an arm injury. Joining Ridling behind the dish is sophomore Jessie Roane, who will split time between catching and playing in Kansas’ infield.
“One of the strongest parts of our team is our catching,” Smith said. “I think getting Harli back, who caught all of her freshman year and did a great job, and having Jessie, who caught all last year and did a great job behind the plate, we have two legit Big 12 caliber catchers, which is exciting. I think either one that is back there will do a really good job.”
Last season, Roane, a Big 12 All-Freshman Team selection, started all 55 games during her rookie season. She recorded a .325 clip at the plate, good for the fifth-best batting average on the squad, while registering 23 runs scored, 50 hits and 22 RBIs.
“Jessie was an infielder who caught last year and was thrown into the starting catcher role because Harli got injured,” said Smith. “I think she had a lot of growing pains last year. She had a rough go for the fall and during non-conference, but I think she really grew into being a great catcher throughout her freshman season.”
Roane concluded the 2015 campaign third on the team in doubles with 12, which is tied for the second-most by a Kansas freshman. Additionally, she tallied three home runs and 21 walks. The Rio Rancho, New Mexico native finished the season with a .982 fielding percentage after committing only six errors behind the plate.
“Jessie became more confident and assertive,” said Smith. “She’s very calm and athletic back there, she takes her athleticism to the position and I think that’s what makes her so good behind the plate. She has developed and matured quite a bit, while continuing to grow into a leader.”
Ridling started all 57 contests during the 2014 season before sitting out in 2015 after suffering a season-ending arm injury during the fall. In 2014, Ridling led the team in hit-by-pitches (35) and had the second-best on-base percentage (.416).
“Harli brings more of a voice and is very assertive,” said Smith. “She is very vocal with her teammates in an inspiring and positive manner, she can do both. What we see from Harli is a great ability to communicate with pitchers and to really get pitchers locked in. She can get a pitcher in a focused and attack mindset, which not many people do, so having her back as been really big.”
The Sentinel, Oklahoma native registered 35 RBIs while batting .264 in 2014. Ridling was second on the team with eight home runs, third-most by a KU freshman. She compiled a .996 fielding percentage committing only two errors in 456 catches.
“Anytime you sit and watch, you value the time you can play even more because you’ve had it taken away for a while,” Smith said. “I think that she’s chomping at the bit to come back and play.”
KU welcomes eight newcomers to the squad for 2016 while returning 16 letterwinners and seven starters who helped the Jayhawks to their second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance last season. Among those returning to the diamond in Crimson and Blue are All-Big 12 First Team selection Chaley Brickey and Big 12 co-Freshman of the Year Daniella Chavez.
Kansas softball opens its 2016 campaign in Florida at the Jacksonville Invitational Feb. 12-14, hosted by Jacksonville University. The Jayhawks will play a total of five games during the first weekend of the year against North Carolina State, Jacksonville, Coastal Carolina and North Carolina-Greensboro.
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