The primary task for the 2011 Ferris State University softball team will be to take care of unfinished business as the Bulldogs seek to win their fourth Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Championship title and make the program's eighth NCAA Division II Tournament appearance.
Ferris State is certainly capable of achieving those two team goals as the Bulldogs return six starters and 12 letterwinners from last season's squad which posted a 26-16 overall record and a third-place tying 17-9 GLIAC mark. FSU had hoped to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tourney by winning the 2010 GLIAC Tournament, but wet weather conditions forced the cancellation of the conference's post-season tournament. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs concluded the 2010 campaign by winning nine of their last 12 contests.
The expectations for 2011 are high as this group has their sights set on contributing to the Bulldog softball program's winning tradition.
"Despite being inside the last seven weeks, this team has stayed motivated and practiced very well," said Ferris State head coach Keri Becker, who begins her 14th season at FSU this spring. "I am impressed with the level of competitiveness displayed each day. While it's easy to be motivated for a trip to Florida, they speak only about the business of winning early and often.
"Making the (Ferris State) lineup will prove to be difficult as almost every position gives me two great options. The games in Florida will be very important in helping the coaching staff figure out the best winning combination," added Becker, the program's all-time winningest coach.
The Bulldogs welcome back 65.9% (190-288) of their hitting production from last season along with 62.6% (92-147) of the squad's run-scoring output.
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 1/2
Ferris State will have to replace two starters from last season's squad in Kayle Stevenson and Rhea Flores. The lone holdover from 2010 is sophomore Dana Bowler, who could be a force in the circle this spring. Bowler pitched well in her initial campaign a season ago and should benefit significantly with a year's experience at the collegiate level under her belt. Bowler fanned a team-high 118 batters last season to rank 129th nationally while her 7.4 strikeouts per seven innings was 44th best in the nation. A starter in 18 of her 20 appearances, Bowler finished up the 2010 campaign with an 8-10 record to go with two saves and a 2.46 earned run average in 111.0 innings of work. The right-handed hurler also turned in 13 complete-game performances and chalked up four shutouts. Amy Dunleavy, a two-time prep all-state selection, is penciled in the starting rotation and could be one of the conference's top freshman throwers. Emily Carlson, a transfer from Albion (Mich.) College, will contend for action on the slab this season as a sophomore. Freshman Cara DeLange will redshirt this season but is yet another arm who figures in the team's long-range plans.
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 2/0
Senior Rachel Mueller returns as the starting backstop following a breakthrough season a year ago in which she established personal career season highs in virtually every statistical category. Mueller batted for a .281 average while registering a team-high 21 RBIs and finishing fifth on the squad with 32 base hits to go with a .404 slugging percentage, which included eight doubles and two home runs. Backing Mueller up will be sophomore Liz Hamming, who hit .462 with six RBIs in 13 plate appearances and turned in a .769 slugging percentage in 12 contests. This past summer, she belted two homers in helping lead her Central District 9 team to the 2010 Big League Softball World Series title.
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 5/1
The Bulldogs return a veteran infield as three of the four starters return from a season ago. Junior third baseman Makenzi Peterson and senior shortstop Lynsay Weaver will hold down the left side of the Ferris State infield. Peterson received All-GLIAC Honorable Mention laurels for 2010 while Weaver was a honorable mention all-league selection in 2008. Peterson is coming off her best season as she led the Bulldogs with a .343 hitting average as a starter in 35 of 37 contests. She also drove in a team second-most 20 runs to go with a squad third-most tying 36 base hits, which featured a team-leading nine doubles. Peterson's eight multiple-hit games tied for a team high as did the infielder's five multi-RBI game performances. A three-year starter, Weaver paced the 2010 Ferris State squad with seven sacrifices while producing a career single-season best .934 fielding percentage.
Junior Chelsea Morris is the incumbent at first base and as a 40-game starter a season ago, put up career season highs in all offensive categories. Morris contributed a seventh-most 15 RBIs and a team sixth-best 30 base hits for a .263 average at the plate while turning in a .991 fielding percentage with only two errors in 226 chances. Backing up Morris is sophomore Lindsey Pettit, who hit for a .286 average in 10 games. Second base is up for grabs as sophomore Lainee Clay along with Bianca Vasovski are vying for the starting assignment. Junior Allison Webber is expected to challenge Peterson for playing time at the "hot corner" but could receive playing time at second base as might Makenzi Peterson.
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 3/1
The starting outfield for the Crimson and Gold features fundamentally-sound fielders who can cover a lot of territory. Junior Morgan Kramerich will occupy the starting center field spot this spring after earning the starting nod in left field for all 42 outings last season. In 2010, Kramerich ranked as Ferris State's third most efficient hitter with a .293 mark and registered 36 base hits to tie for third-place team honors. The slap-hitter also was a productive performer on the basepaths with 20 runs scored and swiping a team-leading 11 bases in 13 attempts. Colleen Roney, a 31-game starter a year ago, is slated to start in right field for her senior year. Roney had 20 hits, 19 runs scored and batted a .233 average while tallying five stolen bases. Junior Stephanie Dusendang gained playing time in right field last season with six appearances and will move over to left field in a regular position player capacity. A trio of freshmen, Alex Wittman, Bianca Vasovski, and Brittney Buti add depth to this group.
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 1/1
This position is up for grabs following the graduation of Rhea Flores, who spent the last three seasons as the Bulldogs' primary designated player. Ferris State is fortunate to have a number of options as Lindsey Pettit, Liz Hamming, Allison Webber, and Amy Dunleavy among others could fill this role.