Softball season begins for the ‘Cats with five games against five different teams in three days Louisiana Tech University.
The Wildcats will play two games Friday against Missouri State University and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Saturday, the team will play another double-header against Louisiana Tech and the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
On Sunday, the Wildcats will wrap up the Lady Techster Invitational tournament with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff before coming back to Abilene.
The Wildcats are coming off a less-than-par season in which the team finished 21-28. The silver lining is that the team was .500 during conference play with a record of 10-10.
Entering their second year as members of the Southland Conference, the Wildcats will be able to use that first year of experience as a weapon in their 2015 campaign.
“We’ve been working really hard to get ready for this year,” said Taylor Brown, sophomore outfielder from North Richland Hills. “We have two new pitchers who we expect a lot out of this year. Along with that, we’ve all raised our level of expectations for this year, and we want it to reflect in our success.”
Head coach Bobby Reeves, who is entering his fifth season at the helm for ACU softball, and staff brought in transfer Julia Montoya from Alvin Community College to help fill the void left by Hannah Null, sophomore pitcher from Highland Village.
Reeves announced in a press conference that Null would miss most, if not all, of the upcoming season due to an undisclosed upper-right leg injury that will require surgery.
In her first season as a Wildcat, Null shined as the ace of the team. Her 2.84 earned run average was top among the conference, and she was fourth in the Southland in strikeouts (150). She recorded ACU’s first no-hitter since 2000 and set the ACU softball record for strikeouts in a game with 17.
“Losing Hannah can be viewed two different ways,” Reeves said. “We can either say we’re in trouble and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can look at it as giving us a chance to grow and come together and get better. It also gives Emily Seidel a chance to shine and do what we know she can do. But I know this: this team will compete and grow and get better.”
Montoya helped carry ACC to the Region 14 Tournament in 2013. In high school, Montoya was a four-year letterwinner at Jack C. Hays High School in Manchaca and was selected to the Austin area all-star game in 2012.
“With Julia and Emily, they have really big shoes to fill,” Brown said. “But they both have a high level of determination and desire to get better everyday and play their best.”
Offensively, the Wildcats were number one in the conference in batting average (.311) and were third in hits (315). Over the season, the Wildcats averaged just under five runs per contest (4.9) but gave up an average of 5.4 runs. ACU’s 4.40 ERA ranked eighth in the field of 12 conference teams and will be something the team hopes to improve this year.
“Defensively, we have to be better,” Brown said. “I think because it was a transition year, a lot of us didn’t know what to expect as far as level of play. But now everyone knows, and everyone is committed to winning.”
The Wildcats’ first games will be against Missouri State University at 9:30 a.m. and then Southern Illinois University Edwardsville at 11:45 a.m. Friday.