Sarah Mueller
Ferris State junior pitcher Sarah Mueller goes through her windup during Saturday's game against St. Xavier at the Rebel Spring Games at the Osceola County Softball Complex. (Photo/Sandy Gholston)

Ferris ends on a high note with two wins – now looks ahead

By Sandy Gholston

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Ferris State had the look of a team hungry to finish its annual spring softball trip on a high note and that showed Saturday at the Rebel Spring Games in Kissimmee, Fla.

A strong finish was important for the team. A 4-2 start turned nightmarish as the Bulldogs fell to three games below .500 at just 5-8 entering their final day of the trip to central Florida. Adversity – as is so often the case – is a true test of character for a team as Ferris discovered on Saturday. It was decision-making time for the Bulldogs who had to decide on what note they wanted their Florida trip to end with games against St. Xavier and New Haven left.

Ferris answered the loud call, however, and played some of its best ball of the week as the team secured wins of 8-4, against St. Xavier, and 8-0, against New Haven to end the trip just an eyelash below the .500 mark at 7-8.

Perhaps, most importantly of all, head coach Keri Becker’s team now has a point of reference to figure out where they want their season to go from here.

Here is an early evaluation of the Bulldogs:

INFIELD: Ferris has a veteran presence on its infield with Amanda Jager, an experienced junior, playing first base; Amanda Harrington, a sophomore, solidifying the team up the middle from second base; McKenzie West, a junior, who returns at shortstop with starting experience; Katie Kraai, a senior, who has become a cornerstone at third over the years; and Krystle Bailey, who has been a rock-solid presence behind the plate as the starting catcher. Becker also has used redshirt freshman Rachel Mueller, at first base, and freshman Lynsay Weaver, at shortstop, to mix things up during portions of the trip.

OUTFIELD: This was the area where the Bulldogs knew they were going to be a little youthful with a lack of experience. Juniors Sarah Mueller and Holly Bruntjens are pitchers who have had some time in the outfield in the past. Another pitcher, Kayle Stevenson, also has been inserted into the outfield, mostly in right, this spring so far. Becker also has mixed true freshmen like Weaver, Colleen Roney, Brooke Lewis as well as redshirt freshman Rachel Wade – among others – in the outfield. There is some potential out there on the grass, for the Bulldogs, but gaining confidence and experience will be a big key for Ferris.

PITCHERS: Ferris has a deep roster of pitchers and all saw action during the week in the circle for Becker. Mueller, Stevenson, Bruntjens, Rhea Flores and Jager all had opportunities to prove themselves as Ferris continues its evaluation for the upcoming Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule that begins not long after the return to Michigan. Like the rest of the squad, the pitchers had their highs and lows, but when they were on their game they were awful tough. On Ferris’ final day, which featured games against St. Xavier and New Haven, the Bulldogs enjoyed strong pitching efforts from Mueller and Bruntjens as the offense also came through for a pair of wins.

OFFENSE: Ferris, at times, blinded opponents with flashes of offensive brilliance as it used the long ball, at times, and used the short game, at other times, to find success with run production. One of the early bright spots was the production of the lower half of the order which showed some potential to put a lot of runs on the scoreboard as Bruntjens, Weaver and Roney had their bright spots delivering hits and driving in runs. Jager has been off to a hot start swinging the bat and working her way on base via the walk or as a result of being hit by pitches. Bailey, hitting in the No. 3 spot, had a big final day as she batted 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI against St. Xavier and then 1-for-2 with a run scored and a run driven in against New Haven.

DEFENSE: This is an area of concern for the team, but when the focus was present the Bulldogs were solid behind their pitching staff. When the defense and pitching clicked together, with a little bit of scoring, Ferris proved tough to handle. Over the course of the week, Ferris started to cut down on some of the errors that had plagued them at times.

ANALYSIS: The team is not in its ideal position, with a record of 7-8, but they do now have a point of reference from which to look ahead. Ferris must continue to cut down on errors (mental and physical errors), find ways to string hits together a little better and stay mentally tough and together from start to finish. The pieces are in place – as proven by the team’s preseason No. 25 national ranking and how high the Bulldogs were picked to finish in the GLIAC.

Now, it’s time to just do it.

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