2012 Kansas Softball Season Preview: Infielders
Feb. 7, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. - In the final segment of the Kansas softball season preview, the infield is the highlight as the Jayhawks welcome back three starters from last year's squad as well as a pair of dynamic newcomers ready to make immediate impact during the 2012 season.
Junior Mariah Montgomery and sophomore Ashley Newman manned the middle infield last season, making all 53 starts interchangeably at second and shortstop. At present, Montgomery has settled into short and Newman at second base. Senior Marissa Ingle marks another everyday starter ready to return to the infield in 2012, although this time potentially in a different role. Meanwhile, freshmen duo Chanin Naudin and Maddie Stein bring in offensive power that will likely crack the starting lineup right away. In the field, Stein has taken a lot of looks from first base this spring and Naudin brings two-time high school All-Conference Defensive Player of the Year accolades at third base.
Although the Jayhawks return their starting second baseman, third baseman and shortstop from a year ago, the infield has potential to go with a different look in 2012. Kendra Cullum and Laura Vickers split time at first base last season, but neither return for the 2012 season - giving head coach Megan Smith room to move players. Stein continues to make a case for the first baseman spot after making all of her appearances at first during the fall season, while Ingle has also spent time working out at first.
Montgomery and Newman switched from second base to shortstop, respectively, for the final nine games of the 2011 season. The duo combined for nearly 200 putouts and assists, while being the primary force behind 12 double plays last year. The team regards Newman as the defensive "rock" on the field, while Montgomery is viewed as the infield leader who will take charge when needed.
Kansas will have the benefit of depth at the hot corner. Ingle started 47 games at third base in 2011 and will be joined in 2012 by Naudin, who was selected by VYPE Magazine as the North Texas/Collin County Softball MVP for 2011. During her senior season at Princeton High School in Las Flores, Calif., Naudin posted a .538 batting average with 30 RBIs. Smith describes the All-District Defensive Player of the Year (Princeton HS) as an "absolutely dynamic player" whose presence will immediately be felt both on the field and in the lineup.
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 incoming freshmen infielders Maddie Stein and Chanin Naudin: