By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
Softball team co-captain Katie Bryan opened a newspaper a couple weeks ago to discover that, according to a preseason poll, she and her Wildcat teammates were picked to finish sixth place in the Lone Star Conference South Division.
Curious, the sophomore second baseman turned to a teammate. “How many teams are in our division?” she asked.
Bryan’s frustrated reaction to the low pick is one shared by the rest of the team, but it’s all old news to seventh-year head coach Carol Tabor.
“Preseason polls don’t mean anything,” Tabor said. “The three years we’ve finished first in the South, we were picked last in the preseason.”
This year’s low pick most likely comes as a result of the Wildcats’ last-place league finish in the 2002 season, when they compiled a 12-23 overall record and a 4-10 LSC South mark.
“We could have done a lot better than we did last year, but we thought we had a pretty good finish,” Bryan said.
With a new-look roster that includes four transfers, four freshmen and no seniors, ACU hopes to rely on chemistry and hard work to rise above and beyond last year’s finish.
“The strong point of this team is unity,” junior third baseman J.D. Williams said. “Everybody’s best friends right now.
“We have a lot more discipline this year,” she continued. “There’s been a lot of hustle in practice; you can tell everyone’s excited about the season.”
And with a balance of solid pitching and hitting, perhaps they should be.
Tabor said one of the main pitchers for the team would be junior college transfer Christina Yorkey. The junior righthander comes from the successful West Valley Community College, a team that won the California Community College title last season. Also leading on the mound are freshmen Shauna Bragg and Heather Cochran, who will most likely sit a few games with a pinky finger injury.
The offensive side of the Wildcats is equally potent. In junior shortstop Robin Woodall, Williams and Bryan, the Wildcats return three of the top five hitters from last season. Woodall finished with a .397 batting average and 18 RBI, Williams hit .356 with 15 RBI and Bryan batted .302 with a team-high 28 RBI in 2002.
“We have a lot of variety hitting-wise,” Yorkey said. “We have players who can slap-hit and players who can hit for power, and some who can do both. We should be successful on offense; on defense it’s still hard to tell.”
Because the Cats lost several players to graduation last season, some leftover and new players have had to move around the field to fill in the holes.
“We’ve switched around a lot of positions,” Bryan said. “A lot of us can play several positions.”
ACU will take its versatility to Las Vegas this weekend for the Las Vegas Classic, a 16-team tournament in which the Wildcats will play five games, beginning 10 a.m. Thursday against Southern Colorado.
“We want to come back 5-0, obviously,” Tabor said. “We’re just really eager to see how we perform.”
Of course, some are more eager than others.
“I packed for it last week,” Bryan said. “We’ve been practicing since the fall and we’re ready to start playing some ball games.”
Tabor said that though the team needs to be patient as it grows this season, it needs to keep one thought in mind.
“Most people say seeing is believing,” she said, “but we want to believe in ourselves and then see what happens.”