Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

January 26, 2012

Navarro Softball: Navarro Lady Bulldogs prepare to start season

Corsicana — Navarro softball has hit a bit of slow down in recent seasons, going six years without a NJCAA national tournament appearance.

Speeding things up a little bit could help them get back to nationals quicker.

Bulldogs coach Jessica Karenke continues to adjust her roster for the speed game that college softball has become in the last few years. The Bulldogs again will try to steal bases in bundles, and the outfield may be the fastest in 14 seasons of Navarro softball.

“It will help our pitchers relax,” Navarro coach Jessica Karenke said. “Our outfield defense is scary fast.”

Navarro will try to take that next step after finishing as runnerups to Blinn at the Region XIV Tournament last season. Navarro, which last made it to the NJCAA Tournament in 2005, will begin the season Saturday at home with a 1 p.m. doubleheader against Temple.

It’s not as if this hasn’t been a very successful program. Navarro went 47-11 in 2011, and Karenke’s teams have gone 92-18 over the last two seasons. The Bulldogs are looking for one more important win to get out of regionals.

“As a coach your No. 1 goal every year is to finish the way you want to,” Karenke said. “We’re healthy. The goal is to stay on the same page and stayed focused.”

The Bulldogs enter the season with five healthy pitchers. Redshirt sophomore Ashley Anz from West is back after playing in only seven games last season because of a knee injury. Freshman Brianna Bryant out of Mount Enterprise is a power pitcher. Freshman Kaycee Spears out of Orange has good speed on her fastball and also a lot of movement.

“She’s really been impressive,” Bulldogs catcher Caitlyn Fowler said. “All of our pitchers are doing really well. I have a lot of confidence in them.”                                  

Freshmen Tanya Carlson, Katie Day (Mexia) and Devon Duncan will also factor into the pitching. Karenke likes to use her entire staff as opposed to going with one ace.

“It helps the defense,” Karenke said. “You never know if that one pitcher is going to get hurt.”

The Bulldogs’ outfield can fly and will be there to back up the pitchers. Freshman Jessica Marshburn will play left field while sophomore Lindsay Zabojnik will be in right. Speedy freshman Daniele Nash will play center field. Utility McKayla Mayfield will get playing time in the outfield and look for strong-armed freshman Maci Grubbs to get some playing time.

Speed is the key on offense, but the Bulldogs do have some power. Sophomore transfer Abby Moore, an infielder who came from Arkansas Tech, has plenty of pop in her bat. Sophomore third baseman Valerie Ramirez also can swing it.

Zabojnik stole 30 bases last season mostly as a pinch runner.

“We have a lot of fast people,” Ramirez said. “I wish I was one of them.”

Karenke said Thursday that her sophomore group has willingly taken on a strong leadership role. That could be the formula to getting out of regionals.

“The sophomores have really gotten the freshmen into the game,” Ramirez said. “We have made them feel importantly. We really have to work at it. We have to focus on what’s important.”

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