Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

January 25, 2013

Navarro softball preview: Lady Bulldogs ready for their moment

Goal is to be playing their best heading into regional tournament

Corsicana — The Navarro Lady Bulldogs’ softball team will begin the season ranked No. 15 in the nation. They’ll host the Region XIV Tournament for the first time in four years.

The Lady Bulldogs return two top sophomore pitchers and the best base stealer in junior college softball.

So naturally with that much top-tier talent, and a slew of promising freshmen on campus, Lady Bulldogs coach Jessica Karenke is sweating the details. On paper, this could be her most talented team since the 2005 regional champions.

That’s why Navarro opened practice Thursday working on its bunt defense.

“We want to do the little things right,” Karenke said. “We have so much talent when you look at the big picture. The small things will get us to where we need to be.”

Navarro’s goal is to be playing its best softball when it hosts the regional tournament in early May. The two teams that play in the regional final will advance to the national tournament in St. George, Utah.

That’s where the Lady Bulldogs want to be, seeing other programs at Navarro win national titles (football, baseball, cheerleading) and advancing to the national tournament (men’s basketball 3 of the last 4 years).

“It looks like we’re due,” sophomore outfielder Jessica Marshburn said. “We’ve been waiting for our moment.”

Marshburn, from Van, will ignite Navarro’s offense. She had 89 stolen bases in 95 attempts last year to lead all of college softball. She won the Golden Shoe Award, Navarro’s second player to do that (Erica Wolver of Corsicana did it in 2010).

Marshburn said her personal goal is to top her total from last season. “My goal is 100,” she said.

Marshburn combines great speed with being a very good baserunner.

“She’s just a good basestealer,” Karenke said. “She knows how to time it. We’re fast as a team.”

Navarro is deep on the mound. Sophomores Kaycee Spears and Brianna Bryant combined for a 19-14 record last season with 160 strikeouts. Spears had a 2.19 ERA. Bryant had a 2.14 ERA.

Bryant can bring it. Spears started the 2012 season trying to overpower opposing hitters, but settled in on how to use her speed and movement.

“I learned how to adapt with what I have with speed and movement,” Spears said.

Bryant said the sophomores are focused on showing the freshmen how to play the right way.

The little things will have them ready for the regional tournament, when they’ll have homefield advantage on their side against No. 2 Blinn and the other top teams in the state.

“We can’t wait to get teams on our own field,” Bryant said. “On our dirt. In front of our families and our fans. We’re looking forward to the support.”

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