Softball returns with valuable familiar faces

Truman State University softball travels to Huntsville, Alabama, to begin season play on Friday, Feb. 9, playing six games in three days.

Opening weekend begins with no lack of competition for the Bulldogs as Truman will face six opponents outside of the Midwest Region including No. 11 Lee University. Head coach Erin Brown said this will be a great tournament for the team to see high quality opponents they typically do not play during the season. She said the competition will be challenging so the team needs to be prepared.

Take a walk outside, and it’s evident that outdoor sports can face adversity because of the cold Kirksville weather that hangs around at the start of spring sports season. Sophomore infielder Alyssa Rivera said although the players have been outside only a handful of times before beginning their season, they are already more than prepared for the season to begin.

“We work around not being able to go outside much before our first couple sets of games by making sure we get as much work done inside as we can,” Rivera said.

Rivera said this means the team sometimes has to lift at 7 a.m., hit inside at 8 a.m. and practice defense as a group in the large gym after classes.

Brown said preparation began at the end of last season but the way the team approached this offseason has been different than before. During offseason, the team split into mini teams and could earn points for various tasks like lifting, studying together, conditioning and even a lip sync battle.

“It allowed them to really practice team building but also to always be competing,” Brown said. “We would really try to compete with the end in mind in the offseason, so we really stay focused on why we are doing what we’re doing.”

Rivera said they also approached this preseason with a new motto of “We over Me.” This reminds the team members to focus on playing for one another and not for oneself. She said this motto has helped her push herself harder to avoid letting the team down.

This season, the team has three newcomers, which is fewer than often seen previous years. With so many returners, Brown said it has been easier to dive into live play. The team doesn’t have to describe playing styles and build the basics before being able to practice.

Senior utility player Kadie Orenstein said the high number of returners has been a huge advantage to the team. She said this has helped the team develop chemistry early. Teammates know what everyone does well and how to give each other support.

Amongst returners poised to make big contributions for the Bulldogs is junior outfielder Christa Reisinger, who was noted as a preseason All-American for the second season in a row. Brown said despite earning these accolades, Reisinger is very humble and sometimes even harder on herself than others might be.

“She sets a tone for our team with the way she plays,” Brown said. “We’re excited for her, and there’s some things we’ve talked about on other teams’ approaches when it comes to her, so we are preparing her for that during preseason.”

Reisinger racked up several versions of first team All-American awards as a sophomore last season and was named the GLVC Softball Player of the Year — Truman’s first since 2008. Reisinger won the Div. II batting title with an average of .509, and set new school single season records with 63 games played, 216 at-bats, 75 runs scored, 110 hits and 152 total bases.

In addition to talented veteran leaders, Brown said the newcomers will add some depth to the team and the returners will pick up right where they left off. She looks forward to the entire team improving as a unit this season.

“The young players know what to expect now, and so I’m hopeful they will grasp the mental side of the game a little better now that they have been through a couple seasons,” Brown said. “I’m hopeful the older girls, and especially the seniors, will keep improving individually, and they will feel good about the hard work they’ve put through all four years and that it’s paid off.”

The Bulldogs face off against Ohio Dominican University at 2 p.m. and Lee at 4 p.m. Feb. 9 in Huntsville at the Charger Chillout 2.0 tournament. They will face five more teams during the three-day event.