A new coaching staff and a bevy of young talent will join an experienced group of veterans for the 2011 softball season.
Mark Brayfield is the team’s new head coach and assistants Meghan Roman and John Barger are both new to the team as well. The Lady Blues are welcoming nine freshmen to the team, but the cupboard isn’t bare for Brayfield and his staff.
Senior switch-hitting infielder Sydni Szafranski returns to the team this spring after earning all-Midwest Conference South Division honors a year ago. Szafranski hit a stellar .369 with a team-high 26 runs scored. She also tallied 17 RBIs and broke the school record for stolen bases in a career with 10 thefts in 2010.
Also returning is senior Chelsea Boente, who split time between the infield and the pitching mound last year. At the plate, Boente hit .376 with 10 runs scored and 16 RBIs. On the mound, she had the staff’s lowest ERA and earned a pair of pitching wins.
Junior infielder/pitcher Erin Rutledge also returns. Rutledge’s 2010 batting average of .406 was the highest among all returning players and her five pitching wins led the team. Sophomore outfielder Amanda Straka is back in the fold as well after hitting .313 with 22 runs scored and 10 RBIs last spring.
The Lady Blues will open the season with an eight-day trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Brayfield has beefed up the team’s non-conference schedule to prepare his players for conference play. Brayfield has had success throughout his 30 years in softball, and he hopes to continue that winning streak at Illinois College.