Published in the February 22, 2017 issue of The Bells
The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s softball team is off to a hot start in the 2017 season. In the first three weeks of the season, the Cru is 9-2 and looking strong. The team is very excited and hopeful about getting off on the right foot.
“We’ve played really well and the two games that we’ve lost are games that we very easily could have won. We’re 8-2 and we could very well be 10-0,” Head Coach Larry Henning said.
But the team also understands that it is a long season and are very determined to sustain this success over the course of the season.
“It’s early and we’re still trying to find the right mix, but it’s been fun,” said Henning.
It comes as no surprise that senior third baseman Leah Brown has played a significant role in the team’s early success. She is coming off of a terrific 2016 season in which she earned NFCA first team All-American honors. She was astounding at the plate, boasting a .437 batting average, 11 HR and 26 RBI. She also led the American Southwest Conference in slugging percentage and ranked second in batting average and home runs.
With a player of this caliber, opposing teams will often come up with a game plan to keep her from beating them. But Brown thinks that it would be a futile effort on the part of the opposition.
“With the lineup that we have, it really doesn’t make any difference,” she said.
She seems to have picked up right where she left off a season ago, already with 17 RBI in just the first 11 games.
During her time at UMHB, Brown and the Cru have not finished higher than fourth in the ASC standings.
But she believes the team is ready to turn it around.
“We’re looking like a much better team and it’s all coming together,” Brown said.
She is also hopeful for a conference championship run in her last season as a Crusader. When asked if she thought that this team has what it takes to contend for a championship, she simply replied “definitely.”
Another bright spot of the first stretch of the season is junior pitcher Karen Tennis. Tennis earned second team All-ASC honors last season staring 22 of the Crusader’s 41 games and going 10-13 with a 3.28 ERA. So far this season, she has started five games and is 3-1 with a 2.66 ERA.
The Cru will be entering possibly the toughest stretch of their season beginning on Feb. 24, in which they will face three NFCA top 10 teams in a span of three weeks.
First, they will face-off against the No. 8 East Texas Baptist University Tigers at Dee Dillon Field for a three game series. Then, they will travel to Tyler to do battle with the No. 3 UT-Tyler Patriots in another three-game set.
They will then close out this tough stretch with a double header at home against the No. 5 Texas Lutheran Bulldogs.
“I’m pretty confident. This team is doing really well, we have a lot of confidence in each other and we’re really close as a team,” Tennis said. “I think if we just keep up what we’re doing, we have really good potential.”
The team appears ready and eager to prove themselves over the next few weeks.