The Lady Bison softball team is currently sitting in at No. 3 in the preseason Great American Conference (GAC) rankings. Harding finished the season last year in 6th place, following a 1-0 loss to Southern Arkansas University (SAU) in the 2018 GAC tournament. The team ended the 2018 campaign 32-26 and 22-22 in conference play.
The Lady Bisons lost only one senior from last year’s squad, infielder Madi Trump. Head Softball Coach Phil Berry is excited about incorporating the new team members with the returning players.
“Every season is kind of its own season,” Berry said. “This team is much different from last year’s team. They have their own identity and personality.”
The Lady Bisons return all of their starting pitchers from last season, including sophomore Emma Dwyer. In her freshman season, Dwyer went 11-11, recording five saves and keeping a 3.31 ERA in 36 appearances, 15 of them starts. In her 110 innings, Dwyer recorded 65 strikeouts while only surrendering 33 free passes. She is looking forward to developing her role on the team with the new pitchers on staff.
“I’m excited to have a bigger pitching staff,” Dwyer said. “Last year, we only had three of us, and it’s going to be fun to have a bunch of different people with different qualities coming together as a staff,” Dwyer said.
Harding also returns the three-time All-GAC selection, outfielder Peyton Mills, for her senior season. Mills is a career .373 hitter with 27 home runs, 145 RBI and 74 stolen bases in 180 games. Mills says the preseason ranking is just a number, but she thinks it is motivation for the team to strive for and/or surpass once the season starts.
Mills is one of only two seniors listed on Harding’s roster, but said she is looking forward to her senior year with this young group.
“I’m really excited about this team,” Mills said. “I think that we have a lot of young talent. And I think that our work ethic and dedication will really get us far this year.”
Harding will open their season on the road after getting an invite to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Florida. Berry said it is important to get his young roster exposed to good talent early, saying it will help prepare them for the conference season. The Lady Bisons start the conference season on Feb. 22 at home against SAU, who opens the season ranked No. 2 in the central region.
“I think playing in the tournament in Florida is going to give us a good opportunity to see some really good players and pitchers,” Dwyer said. “It will set us up to come out strong against SAU the first weekend in conference play.”