Start of WSC softball season right around the corner

WSC picked sixth in coaches poll, but team has high hopes for season

Shawn Henley, Staff Writer

Spring is on the horizon at Wayne State College, which means softball season is right around the corner.
WSC softball was picked to finish sixth in the 2017 NSIC Preseason Softball Coaches Poll with 143 points. The poll was released Feb. 2, by the league office in Burnsville, Minn.
Sophomore Emily Chandler and junior transfer Nataliah Hopkins are listed as Wildcats to Watch in the NSIC this season.
The top five picks in the poll were Minnesota State with 225 points, followed by Minnesota Duluth (194), Winona State (191), Augustana (187) and Sioux Falls in fifth with 163 points
The Wildcats have two returning first-team all-NSIC players, first baseman Melanie Alyea and designated hitter/shortstop Abbie Hix.
“We’re really looking for Melanie to keep going the way she’s been going, especially offensively,” Head Coach Shelli Manson said. “Emily hit really well as a freshman and there will definitely be pressure on her this season.”
Hix made 41 starts (26 at designated hitter and 15 at shortstop) her freshman season.
A graduate of Wayne High School, Hix had a .331 batting average (39 for 118) with five home runs and 20 RBI’s last season. Alyea had a .344 batting average and led the team in putouts with 328.

Chandler hit .444 with 11 home runs and set WSC single-season records in RBI’s (53) and total bases (111).
She was named WSC female freshman athlete of the year at last season’s year-end awards banquet.
“As coaches, we always want to be above .500,” Manson said. “As a team, we want to win conference, then go to regionals, super regionals and so forth.”
The Wildcats graduated seven seniors, most notably Northern Sun Conference player of the year Lexie Loos.
Loos was also voted to the first team all-NSIC, set a new school record in runs scored with 58 and led the team in hits (92), batting average, on-base percentage (.505) and stolen bases (18 for 20).
“We only have one returning pitcher (Riley Vanderveen) and the other two (Hopkins and Allison Niemeier) are new,” Assistant Coach Krissi Oliver said. “We’ve made sure that all of their pitches have the right movement and being able to hit their spots.”
Hopkins is a junior college transfer from Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, and will likely be the starter for the Wildcats this season.
“All three pitchers do good in keeping batters off balance,” Oliver said. “As long as they can command the zone and throw their game, they’ll be fine.”
The Wildcats began last season 5-15 before they managed to win 20 out of the next 25 games before the NSIC Tournament.
The last two outings at the tournament against Augustana (10-2) and Sioux Falls (11-1) ended the season for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats finished the 2016 season with a record of 27-26 overall, the 10th straight winning season for the Wildcats. WSC was fifth in the Northern Sun Conference with a 21-9 league mark.
“Our main goal this season is discipline,” Manson said. “Being disciplined in everything we do.”
The Wildcats open the 2017 season in Bentonville, Ark., on Feb. 17 in the 8-State Classic against East Central (Okla.).