Fall Ball Underway for Kansas Softball with Start of Practice
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Morning cloud cover and lower temperatures greeted Kansas softball, providing the ideal setting at Rock Chalk Park as the Jayhawks gathered for the first team practice of the season.
After several weeks of individual workouts, KU softball was eager to hit the diamond with the full roster and begin preparations for the 2015 Fall Ball slate. Starting Oct. 1, the Jayhawks will host eight games, including the Jayhawk Fall Tournament before wrapping up Fall Ball with the Kansas Softball World Series.
“The first day of team practice is always really exciting because we get to see everyone together and all the newcomers meshing with our upperclassmen,” said head coach Megan Smith. “There’s also the feeling of excitement the first time I get to talk to the student-athletes. I felt like the entire team was focused and dialed in. We were on the same page and ready to work hard.”Head coach Megan Smith gives directions at the
fall practice of the season.
Entering her seventh season at the helm of the Kansas softball program, Smith welcomes nine newcomers to Lawrence, including two transfers. Among the rookies are four local products that prepped in Kansas or Missouri.
Individual preseason workouts have introduced the rookies to the Jayhawk standard of conditioning. Now, in the first week of practice, the team can turn its focus to softball and working together as a unit. It also allows the team to work with KU’s new hitting coach, T.J. Hubbard, who gave a lecture on hitting techniques toward the beginning of practice.
“It’s been fun to see the players get to know Coach Hubbard and learn what his expectations are,” Smith said. “Today was the first time we had the whole team together listening to him and going through the hitting stations. It’s always exciting when there is someone new, who has fresh ideas and has great energy.”
Smith began the day with a quick team meeting on the field, where she outlined guidelines and expectations for the Jayhawks for practice and the upcoming season. For many of the Jayhawks, it was the first time being on the field with the entire squad.
“Our theme for this fall is pay the price and understanding the investment we have to make now to succeed in the spring,” said Smith. “That was a theme today, to make sure they work today and that’ll pay off in the spring. I think they showed that by working really hard.”
After hitting practice concluded, the Jayhawks divided up into their respective position groups and worked on team defense. The infielders and outfielders each went through a series of drills and focused on the fundamentals.
“I think the first team practice went really well,” said senior shortstop Chaley Brickey. “It was exciting to finally see everyone perform and come together. It was so loud out there and lots of energy. Everyone was having a blast.”
This season, Smith returns 16 letterwinners from 2015, including seven starters that led the Jayhawks to another successful campaign full of record-breaking performances and their second-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. Among the returners are Brickey, a three-time all-conference selection, and 2015 Co-Big 12 Freshman of the Year Daniella Chavez, each of who have etched their names into KU’s record book.
“Our upperclassmen understand that they have a role in shaping our young players and helping them get acclimated to our system, the speed of the game and what’s required to play here,” Smith said. “Today, I really saw it by giving directions and feedback to the new players. I was really pleased to see all that because usually you don’t see it earlier on. To see that on day one is really special.”
Also returning this season is volunteer coach Matt Windle. He rejoins the Kansas softball program after a year hiatus working with the athletic department at Baker University. Windle enters his second season with the Jayhawks and will primarily work with the KU catchers.
“We’re excited to have Matt Windle back,” said Smith. “Having him back has been awesome. He understands how we do things and knows how to push the players. He knows what expectations we have. He is also able to give a lot of attention to Harli (Ridling), who is coming back from an injury. Jessie (Roane), when she catches, is going to be invaluable.”
The Jayhawks open the 2015 Fall Ball line up on Thursday, Oct. 1 against Baker. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m., at Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park.
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