2012 Kansas Softball Season Preview: Catchers
Feb. 3, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. - In the second of a four-part Kansas softball season preview, catching is the highlight as the Jayhawks welcome a high school All-American and a multi-talented freshmen duo to comprise the three-member 2012 catching crew.
Behind the plate marks one of the most challenging voids the Jayhawks will fill this season after the departure of four-year starting catcher Brittany Hile. The Olathe, Kan., native was drafted 15th overall in the National Pro Fastpitch league following her graduation last May.
This spring, Hile has turned her skill toward grooming the next Jayhawk catcher as the team's volunteer assistant coach. She will guide freshmen Lexi Bryant and Maddie Stein as well as senior Leah Daiber this season.
For the first time since arriving at Kansas, head coach Megan Smith shoulders the responsibility of replacing the catcher that she pegged as the best arm she's ever seen - let alone coach - in Hile. Freshman Lexi Bryant is the top candidate heading into the spring. Bryant was named an ESPN RISE High School All-American following an All-Area Woman Athlete of the Year senior season at Carl Sandburg HS in Orland Park, Ill. During her junior campaign, Bryant was awarded with Illinois Athlete of the Year honors after batting an impressive .504 average with 16 home runs.
Bryant strengthens her status as the primary candidate for the starting role as Smith is already pleased with her ability to receive the ball and handle the pitching staff.
Aside from Bryant, Stein and Daiber will also be at Smith's disposal. Stein is rapidly improving behind the plate, according to Smith, but is even more recognizable for her ability at the plate. As a senior at El Reno High School in Oklahoma City, Okla., Stein drilled 21 doubles and finished the season with a .509 batting average. Meanwhile, Daiber has the best knowledge of the pitching staff after three years as the Jayhawks' experienced bullpen catcher.
Kansas officially opens the 2012 season against Tennessee-Martin on Friday, Feb. 10 at 12:30 pm CT. The matchup marks the first of five games the Jayhawks will play at the Southeastern Lion Classic in Hammond, La., Feb. 10-12.
Head Coach Megan Smith
On Lexi Bryant's skill set:
On Maddie Stein's progress as a catcher: