Monday, February 19, 2018

Bloomsburg University - Softball Ready for Exciting 2018 Campaign

BLOOMSBURG, Pa. - A few days from the start of the season, Bloomsburg University softball is ready to go.

In 2017, Bloomsburg finished with a record of 31-20 including a 16-4 mark in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). The Huskies were one of three league teams besides eventual league-champion West Chester (48-13, 13-3 PSAC) and Kutztown (31-17, 13-3 PSAC) to win at least 30 games last season. 
Bloomsburg battled its way through the PSAC tournament, reaching the title game before falling to West Chester 6-0. Moving on to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional tournament, the Huskies dropped their first two games to Kutztown (2-1) and Charleston (5-3). Bloomsburg boasted four All-PSAC selections in Taylor Parker (Dewart, Pa./Warrior Run)Mallory Tomaschik (Catawissa, Pa./Southern Columbia)Emily Mayhew (Perkasie, Pa./Pennridge) and Taylor Winkelman(Springfield, Pa/Springfield). Parker was tabbed the division's Athlete of the Year, while Tomaschik was named Pitcher of the year in the Central. Mayhew and Winkelman were both selected all-conference in the outfield.

Moving forward into this season, eighth-year head coach Susan Kocher wants to continue that success.

"Our goals and expectations never change," said Kocher. "We always want to play well enough to make the post-season, which would first be the conference tournament and then ultimately moving on to the NCAA regionals."

Kocher is just 20 wins away from 250 for her career, while the Huskies have advanced to the NCAA tournament in six of Kocher's seven seasons. Bloomsburg has also finished at least nine games above .500 in 38 straight seasons.

"We do not always care how we get there, it is great to win the conference championship," said Kocher. "Our goal is to make sure we move on to the NCAA tournament."

BU was picked to win the PSAC Central division for the third straight season, having sat atop the PSAC preseason Coaches' Poll in their respective division for the last four years.

"It's wonderful to be picked to win or ranked, but that really does not matter," said Kocher. "We try to get our kids to understand that we still have to get ready, play and perform to be in the right position to move on."

The Huskies return a core of upper-classmen this season with six seniors, five juniors and three sophomores. Kocher spoke about their leadership and their willingness to buy in and do the work.

"We have a strong senior class who has gotten playing experience since they appeared on campus," said Kocher. "They are truly a veteran senior squad and there is a sense of calm around them as to understanding how everything works and what it takes to get to the conference tournament."
Kocher also spoke of her incoming freshmen and how they will have some adjusting to do, but also felt comfortable with that adjustment period because of the veterans around them.

"We have three pitchers in the freshman class, and we need them to step up and adjust to the college game to the best of their ability," said Kocher. "There is a lot of talent in this freshman class."

Kocher also expanded on mix of youth and veterans, and how at certain positions it can be a good thing for the club.

"With the veteran returners on defense and offense, that is a great time to have a young pitching corps," said Kocher. "The pitching end is really the biggest role we need to get out of them."

Continuing on team chemistry and needing everyone to work together, Kocher expressed that her upper-classmen have helped the incoming freshmen with the aforementioned adjustments.

"An additional side of that returning group is that they have been very receptive to the new kids coming and understanding that they are an important part of the team and trying to make that transition for them easy," said Kocher.

Kocher eventually circled back to pitching, after losing both Taylor Parker (Dewart, Pa./Warrior Run) and Mallory Tomaschik(Catawissa, Pa./Southern Columbia) to graduation a year ago. Parker was tabbed the division's Athlete of the Year, while Tomaschik was named Pitcher of the year in the Central division. The Huskies do return some arms from last season in Alyssa Davies (Mountain Top, Pa./Crestwood) and Erin Smith(Tunkhannock, Pa./Tunkhannock Area), who combined logged 43.1 innings in the circle last season. Davies totaled a 2-2 record in 15 appearances with a 3.44 earned run average, while Smith appeared in three games to pitch.

"As one group leaves, the next group is ready," said Kocher. "We've been fortunate to have kids that when the time comes, they are ready to go."

Kocher went on to reflect on the expectations that she sets for her team and her players as individuals.

"We never want anything to fall on one person," said Kocher. "We expect all of our returners to lead in their own way."

She did mention how she holds the maturity and experience of upper classmen in high regard.

"Returners have been drilling for two or three years," said Kocher. "They've been in game situations, tight situations, post-season, you name it. We've dealt with injury too and we expect them to say okay, let's lead now."

The Huskies begin their 2018 schedule this weekend (Feb. 24-25) at the Coker College Spring Tournament in Hartsville, S.C. They will play Lees-McRae and Shepherd on day one, before battling Atlantic region power Charleston and Fairmont State on day two. BU will begin the month of March at the regional crossover tournament hosted by West Virginia Wesleyan, playing Wheeling Jesuit and Chowan on Mar. 10 before taking on Concord and West Liberty on Mar. 11. The Huskies will head south to Clermont, Fla. for Spring Break from Mar. 13-17. They will play Southern New Hampshire and Rollins on Mar. 13, before taking on Post and Slippery Rock on Mar. 14. Mar. 16 will feature games against pre-season No. 19 Wayne State (National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll) and Sioux Falls (S.D.). The Huskies will conclude tournament play with games against Northwood and Purdue University-Northwest.

Bloomsburg begins conference play on Mar. 24 welcoming East Stroudsburg for a twinbill, before playing two at Goldey-Beacom on Mar. 27. March concludes with conference double-headers at home against Mansfield (Mar. 30) and at Pitt-Johnstown (Mar. 31). April opens with a doubleheader at regionally-ranked Shepherd on Apr. 3, before back-to-back PSAC double-headers at Lock Haven (Apr. 6) and at home against Clarion (Apr. 7). BU will host Jefferson for a non-league double-header on Apr. 9, before wrapping up the three straight home series by welcoming IUP on Apr. 13. The Huskies will travel to Mansfield for two on Apr. 14, before hosting Millersville on Apr. 17. The schedule in the PSAC flips for the next few series, as the Huskies will host Lock Haven and Pitt-Johnstown on back-to-back days (Apr. 20-21) before playing at IUP and Clarion on two straight days (Apr. 27-28). The PSAC tournament is set to begin May 2.

"We often open up our season against someone who has already played 10 games, and that can be a bit overwhelming if you let it get to you," said Kocher. "After drilling all winter in the gym, we want to come out of the gym and play well on dirt wearing metal spikes."

Kocher then touched on the depth of the conference and specifically the Central division.

"Our division is very strong," said Kocher. "Getting our kids to understand that every game is important and that there are no slouches is really what we try to stress."

The opening game against Lees-McRae is slated for 10:00 a.m., while first pitch for the Shepherd game is set for 3:00 p.m. at Byerly Park in Hartsville, S.C.

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