The Harding softball team, led by 11 upperclassmen, has high expectations for the 2016 season in its third year as an intercollegiate program. Head coach Phil Berry will rely on a loaded junior class as the Lady Bisons search for their first Great American Conference (GAC) title.
“That original class that came in are juniors now and they have some experience under their belt,” Berry said. “They are doing a great job providing leadership so we expect to build on the progress of the last two years.”
According to Berry, the team has focused on improving its play on the mound after losing its top two pitchers last year.
“We know that the area we’re going to have to pay the most attention to is our pitching staff,” Berry said. “We’re definitely younger and more inexperienced in the circle.”
Berry said he believes the Lady Bisons’ strength will be their offense, which averaged over 5 runs a game last season and hit 36 home runs.
Senior infielder Kinsey Beck, who finished last season with a .346 batting average and 21 runs scored, said they plan on taking it one game at a time.
“I think we’re going to do really well this year,” Beck said. “Our main focus is taking it day by day because we can’t go 10-0 until we’re 1-0.”
The preseason poll landed the Lady Bisons 6th in the GAC, which had three teams in the postseason a year ago, but Berry and Beck both foresee a higher finish.
“We obviously want to win the conference, but we want to start with game one,” Beck said. “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
Berry believes the unity of the team will ultimately spell the difference between victory and defeat for the Lady Bisons.
“We know it’s a very strong conference, and every weekend we go play a conference series it is a battle,” Berry said. “But I like the team chemistry that we’re building and I like the effort and energy that comes to practice every day.”
As the Lady Bisons look toward their first game on Saturday, Jan. 30, against Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee, Berry said that, most importantly, he wants his team to enjoy the opportunity to play.
“It’s been a tremendous opportunity for the university, for myself personally, and for the players to help restore (the program),” Berry said. “We’re just looking forward to getting out on the field and making the university proud.”