Kentucky trip begins 2014 slate

Kentucky trip begins 2014 slate

Doubleheaders against Centre College and Spaulding University of Kentucky Saturday and Sunday, March 1 and 2, open Manchester University's 2014 campaign.

Game specifics: MU faces Centre at 2 p.m. and Spaulding at 4 p.m. Saturday and the same schedule at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday … All games are set for Centre College Softball Field in Danville, Ky. … Live statistics for all games and live video for Sunday's game against Centre can be accessed at www.muspartans.com, the Internet home of Manchester University athletics.

Spartan Shorts: Coach Tracy Cromer is pleased with progress, as the team continues preparation for the season opener. "Everyone is working hard and has been making the most of being inside so far," she said. "I see our strength going into the season as our experience, as we have seven individuals who saw a lot of playing time last spring. We just need to be consistent." … Early position capsules for the Spartans include junior Shannon Stephan (Granger, Ind.), a returning second team all-conference selection in center field, sophomore Ashley Stahl (Wheatland, Ind.) and freshman Emilee Liston (Cicero, Ind.) in left field and sophomore Kailee Niezgodski (South Bend, Ind.), a returning first team all-HCAC selection, and freshmen Megan Stouder (Bremen, Ind.) and Taylor Spangle (Leesburg, Ind.) in right field for the outfield – "We'll have to replace some multiple-year starters in the outfield, but I like the speed and the offensive potential of this group," Cromer said; senior Kylie Planck (Valparaiso, Ind.), a returning second team all-HCAC selection, at third base, junior Emily Willmann (Montpelier, Ind.) at shortstop, senior Janikka Tillotson (Brownsburg, Ind.) at first base and a battle between senior Alicia Cleveland (LaGrange, Ind.), sophomore Jessica Chorak (Hammond, Ind.) and freshmen Chloe Hensley (South Bend, Ind.) and Seanna Redman (Logansport, Ind.) at second base (infield) – I think our left side of the infield is one of the strongest in the conference and maybe even the region, while we are still searching for the top combination on the right side; Niezgodski, sophomore MacKenzie Williams (Fort Wayne, Ind.), a returning second team all-HCAC selection, and senior Kirby Glancy (Hartford City, Ind.) vie for the catcher and designated player slots – "We've got some good experience here to handle what will be a young pitching staff," Cromer said. "That's something we'll need to lean on early."; and at pitcher, junior Ashlea Nash (Gas City, Ind.) returns after going 10-10 with a 4.55 earned run average and 45 strikeouts last spring, Cromer also pointed to Tillotson, who did some pitching as a freshman, and Williams as options on the mound. "Ashlea is looking strong at practice, and I believe is set to have a breakout year," Cromer said. "We'll need to keep an eye on innings with her. Tillotson and Williams have improved a lot since the start of practice, and I am excited about the combination of pitchers we are entering the season with. They will all complement each other nicely. The biggest key will be keeping the ball in the strike zone. We tried to be too fine last year at times." … "I think, from one to nine in the batting order, we have a lot of potential to be very strong. We have a good mix of power and speed on the team," Cromer said. "I see the biggest intangible being our health. The longer we can maintain the line-up, the better it will be for us."

Next Week: Manchester University is scheduled for a doubleheader at Hope College of Michigan March 8.