Racer softball team set for fall season tune-up games

Nicole Ely/The News
Senior pitcher J.J. Francis pitches during a practice before their first fall game on Sept. 13Nicole Ely/The News Senior pitcher J.J. Francis pitches during a practice before their first fall game on Sept. 13

Story by Blake Bernier, Staff writer

Nicole Ely/The News Senior pitcher J.J. Francis pitches during a practice before their first fall game on Sept. 13

Nicole Ely/The News
Senior pitcher J.J. Francis pitches during a practice before their first fall game on Sept. 13

It’s a new year for the Murray State softball team and even with past successes, the team is focusing on the season ahead.

Last season ended with the Racers falling just short of an OVC championship when they lost in the finals to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville 2-1. The loss marked the end of a record setting season for the team as new school records were set in total wins (38), conference wins (20), and several individual school records were achieved.

“We broke a lot of records and stuff like that, which is always huge to hang our hats on,” said Head Coach Kara Amundson. “But I think if you asked any one of them that got those records if they would take the record or winning the OVC championship they would pick the OVC championship.”

This year the Racers have three holes to fill, left by graduating seniors CheyAnne Gaskey, Mo Ramsey and Alexa Becker. Ramsey and Becker started every game last season at center field and short stop, respectively, while Gaskey collected a team high 20 wins as starting pitcher and finished her career with the most wins and strikeouts in school history.

Coach Amundson said that a large part of her job is to recruit and fill the holes left by graduating players so the team can enter the next season just as strong.

“I think we’ve got the puzzle pieces in place to fill those voids as best we can,” Amundson said.

This fall the Racers will play nine games, including an alumnae game, with each giving Amundson a chance to see what her freshmen recruits are capable of in a game setting.

“Obviously we’ve seen them play before getting here but it’s a good opportunity to see what they can do at the next level,” Amundson said. “The game is a little faster when you get to college and there are usually a little more nerves than when you’re playing your senior year of high school ball.”

One returner for the Racers is last year’s OVC player of the year, Jessica Twaddle, who hit for a team high .426 batting average and had 54 runs batted in (RBIs). Despite these accomplishments, Twaddle said she would rather the team do well over individual awards any day.

This mentality of putting the team first stems from the way Amundson coaches her team.

“We’re a team, it’s not just one person for themselves and I think that’s something that this program has embodied over the past few years,” said senior second baseman Shelby Miller.

Miller returns to the team with several career records within reach but said she’s not focused on those. Instead she is focused on the team preparing for the fall games so that it can improve and get ready for its regular season in the spring.

“I think the biggest thing we are looking to get from these fall games is just better,” Miller said. “We are using the fall games to better ourselves as a team and better ourselves as individuals.”

The Racers’ first fall game is at 2 p.m. on Sept. 13 against Lindenwood in Carbondale, Illinois. They will follow that up with a second game at 4 p.m. against Southern Illinois.