Softball team ready for fall season


Jason Howell

Senior infielder Bailey O’Dell throws the ball to first against Tennessee-Martin on April 12 at Williams Field. O’Dell had two at bats and one pick off during the game. The Panthers won the weekend series against the Skyhawks.

Sean Hastings, Staff Reporter

The Eastern softball team begins its fall season this weekend at Williams Field, hosting Olney Central College and Parkland College in a pair of double-headers on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

The Panthers begin the fall without their top two pitchers, as Stephanie Maday and Hanna Mennenga finished their senior years last season.

Maday finished the 2014 season with a 1.88 ERA with a 17-9 record. Mennenga finished the season with a 1.90 ERA and a 20-5 record.

Eastern has four incoming freshmen pitchers, Taylor Miokovic, Tori Johnson, Michelle Rogers and Jessica Wierman. They also have two more returning pitchers, in Hannah Rachor and Amber Toenves, who will have to fill in for the loss of Maday and Mennenga.

Rachor and Toenves did not see much action last year, so it will be new for them just like the freshmen, but will have chances to pitch this year.

Although Eastern does not begin its regular season until February 2015, coach Angie Nicholson said the point of the fall season is to give everyone experience and get extra practice to be ready for the start of the season.

These fall games are all about learning and putting players in different positions to see how they can handle college softball, Nicholson said.

Playing in games will give the freshmen and other players that did not play as much last season a chance to show off their skills that are often hard to show off in practice because it is a different environment.

Nicholson, who is in her second year as the Panthers’ coach, said she is happy with how things have been going so far.

For the team’s first practice, the Panthers had to run a timed team mile. The whole team had to finish in eight minutes for it to count.

“I knew in the first eight minutes that we had a very special team,” Nicholson said. “We had the younger players pushing the upperclassmen to make sure they finished.”

Nicholson has emphasized good condition and team speed since her arrival last year. She said the effort shown in the first practice by the entire team was a nice thing to watch.

“It gives me the chills,” she said. “It was the most beautiful thing to watch as a coach.”

Eastern’s first opponent is Olney Central College, with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday at Williams Field. The second game begins at about 6 p.m.

After a day off Saturday, the Panthers play their second double-header of the weekend, starting at noon Sunday against Parkland College, with the second game starting at 2 p.m.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]