The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

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EIU softball prepares for 2024 season

Head+coach%2C+Tara+Archibald%2C+speaks+to+her+team+between+innings+during+the+softball+programs+first+ever+NCAA+Regional+appearance+at+Sharon+J.+Drysdale+Field+on+the+Northwestern+University+campus+on+May+19+in+Evanston%2C+Il.+The+Panthers+lost+2-0+to+the+Wildcats.
Han Byer
Head coach, Tara Archibald, speaks to her team between innings during the softball program’s first ever NCAA Regional appearance at Sharon J. Drysdale Field on the Northwestern University campus on May 19 in Evanston, Il. The Panthers lost 2-0 to the Wildcats.

Eastern’s softball team is preparing to defend its title as Ohio Valley Conference champions.

Last season, the Panthers went 34-21 overall and 16-6 in conference play. This record led them to the regionals of the NCAA Tournament.

As Eastern looks to continue through the NCAA Tournament, there are some new players on the team.

The Panthers have several transfers and freshmen coming in, so they are looking to see what this team is made of.

“I think we’re just excited to see this team get out on the field and figure out who we are as a team,” head softball coach Tara Archibald said. “Although we returned a lot of pieces, it’s also a very new team so [we’re] just excited to get out and compete and see what we’ve got.”

With a lot of new players, the team is adapting.

“I think the preparation right now is finding our identity as a team offensively and defensively and working to become the best version of ourselves.” Archibald said. “Right now, it’s just getting to know each other really well, building good team chemistry and getting ready to compete.”

Eastern has many players returning that clinched their spot in the NCAA Tournament last season.

One of those returning players was 2023’s Ohio Valley Conference female athlete of the year, Olivia Price.

Price, the senior pitcher, appeared in 31 games with a 1.85 ERA last season.

“We have a lot of great returners,” Archibald said. “Obviously, Olivia Price returning to the mound; She had an incredible season last year. She will lead us in the circle. Rachel Kaufman, who had an incredible year last year. Bri Gonzalez, Kendall Grover, a lot of strong returners [are] coming back.”

Grover was named OVC freshman of the year last season, and she was also on the OVC first team as part of the infield.

“It’s a big honor, but I just have to focus on what I want to do this season and how I can bring myself to compete with this team and for this team. I’m going to try and do everything I can,” Grover said.

Graduate student pitcher and designated player Rachel Kaufman, one of the most dynamic players on the Panthers last year, looks to continue to grow and become even more versatile this season. Last season, she had 30 appearances and a 2.17 ERA.

“I’ve been practicing a little bit of different positions, so mainly focusing on getting better at first base and pitching,” Kaufman said.

Eastern’s first game is on Friday, Feb. 9 against University of Texas at Arlington in Youngsville, Louisiana, in the Mardi Gras Mambo.

The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Central Standard Time.

 

Patrick Schmitz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Patrick Schmitz, Sports Reporter
Patrick Schmitz is a freshman sports media relations major. This is his first year at The News. 
Han Byer, Photographer
Han Byer is a senior sociology major and she can be reached at 581-2912 or at [email protected].

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