Softball Reports for Preseason Camp
Jan. 15, 2013
LAWRENCE, Kan. - A full day of practices, hitting sessions, and pitcher and catcher training awaited the Kansas softball team as the Jayhawks reported for their first day of team practices, Tuesday morning.
Led by fourth-year head coach Megan Smith, the pitchers and catchers reported on Saturday, and the rest of the team joined them on Sunday to complete the running test and have a team dinner before camp got underway. Kansas opens the season in less than a month against North Carolina State to kick off the Florida International Tournament, Feb. 8-10.
"I love that we had a break and got a little time off, but every day we were off, I thought about this day and getting started," Smith said. "It's awesome that we have a week without classes so they really can just focus on softball and getting better. It's always fun to see them back and this is a big team bonding thing, too. Since they're with each other 24/7 during this week, you see them grow as a team."
On Tuesday, the Jayhawks started in on two-a-day practices as well as mental training and specialized sessions for hitters, pitchers and catchers. Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, the team will undergo intense conditioning workouts before getting into the second half of camp, making preseason camp a grueling but productive week.
"The girls are ready," Smith said. "They worked extremely hard in the first practice and the pitchers and catchers came back early and looked really, really good. They did a lot of work over the break, which makes our jobs easier now."
Kansas has nearly everyone back from a lineup that hit .288 as a unit in 2012, the second-best team average in program history. Among them is senior outfielder Maggie Hull, who led the Big 12 in the regular season with a .409 batting average, breaking KU's all-time season mark. Her work earned her All-Big 12 First Team honors, NFCA All-District First Team accolades as well as Third Team Academic All-America. The awards don't motivate Hull, however, her focus is locked on one thing.
"Regionals," Hull said. "The goal is to go to Regionals. When it comes down to it, I'm not going to be watching my batting average. All that matters is watching the NCAA Selection Show and seeing our name on the screen. That will make it a good senior year."
The Jayhawks will use a mix of veteran know-how and rookie talent to make a case for their first NCAA Regional bid since 2006. Aside from Hull, All-Big 12 honorees Chanin Naudin and Maddie Stein return after impressive freshman seasons that saw both hit over .300 in Big 12 play. Senior infielder Mariah Montgomery is in need of 33 RBIs to break KU's all-time record after racking up a team-best 45 RBIs last season to rank eighth in the league.
After an ACL tear robbed her of her junior season, pitcher/outfielder Alex Jones is back and better than ever according to Smith. Jones started all 106 games of her freshman and sophomore seasons before going down in 2012, and now is expected to pick up where she left off as a redshirt junior.
Freshmen Alex Hugo and Chaley Brickey will lead a talented incoming crew that includes seven newcomers. An Olathe, Kan., native, Hugo hit .500 with 39 RBIs in her senior season and was named the 2012 Sunflower League Player of the Year. Brickey, who was ranked No. 22 on the ESPN Softball 2012 Recruiting Class, graduated Haltom High School (Haltom City, Texas) a year early. She cranked out a .643 batting average and 40 RBIs in her final high school campaign, giving increased validity to the impact of this season's freshman class.
With only 24 days from the start of preseason camp to opening day, Smith and her Jayhawks welcome the demanding week ahead.
"We work on fundamentals this week and then we move right into the mental side of the game," Smith explained. "In the fall, it's all about reps and getting people on the same page in terms of the way we do things. Now it's about getting people mentally ready for games: count hitting, situational hitting, live defenses and working together. We amp it up quite a bit (this week) in terms of intensity and in the mental part of the game since that's our focus in January."
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