Softball rallies under new coach in 2017
There’s a growing buzz of anticipation for the 2017 softball season with less than a month to prepare for the opener against Wright State University.
The Cougars enter their first season under new head coach Kristin Vesely, taking over for Kyla Holas, who resigned after 16 years. The Cougars look to improve from their 27-29 2016 season with games against national champion Oklahoma University and other tough competition.
The Cougars return 12 of 20 players from last season. Four of the returners finished in the team’s top five batting averages: Maya Thomas with .400, Elise LeBeouf with .298, Courtney Kingler with .298 and Brooke Vannoy with .267.
This year’s team features three sophomores who were selected to the American Athletic Conference All-Rookie team.
Sophomore Savannah Heebner returns after a spectacular season in 2016. Last April, Heebner went 5-1, and allowed only 15 runs. She led the Cougar staff with 55 strikeouts, good for No. 13 in the AAC. Heebner was unanimously named first team all-AAC.
Sophomore Maya Thomas returns as the Cougars’ leading batter. Last season, Thomas led the team in batting average and hits. In 2016, she finished third in the AAC and led all freshmen with a .400 batting average. Thomas was named second team All-AAC, and was also selected for the 2016 AAC Honor roll.
Sophomore Elise Lebeouf also returns after an impressive season. Lebeouf led all AAC freshmen with 35 RBI’s in 2016 while slamming in six homeruns. LeBeouf’s academic success earned her a spot on the AAC 2016 honor roll alongside Thomas.
The 2017 schedule features hard-hitting conference play along with some tough non-conference opponents. The Cougars welcome national champion Oklahoma on Feb. 18. The Cougars also face off against in-state rivals Baylor University and the University of Texas.
The Cougars finished 2016 ranked No. 89.
Junior Sarah Barker will make her first appearance in a Cougar uniform this year after transferring from the University of North Texas. Barker played in 36 games as a freshman for the Mean Green, finishing with a .246 batting average.
Vesely is excited to begin her first season as head coach of the Cougars.
“This is a huge accomplishment in my life and fulfills one of my biggest goals that I have aspired to reach ever since falling in love with the game at an early age,” said Vesely. “This achievement means so much to me in the fact of having the ability to establish a new tradition and a new history to an already great program.”