Feb 28th, 2013 @ 12:10 pm | Author: Viking Sports Admin
After a 2012 season that posted 26 wins, the second highest in program history, the Valley City State University Softball team is reloading for another productive season in the spring of 2013.

The Vikings lost five starters and their top two pitchers off of the 2012 club but return a core of experience and bring in a talented freshman class and a junior college transfer to help replace the cleats left by the previous year's senior class. 'It's an interesting mix,' said head coach Chad Slyter. 'We lost six players to graduation, yet return eleven letter winners and eight of those players contributed a lot last season. So we are not necessarily young in that regard, maybe just a little inexperienced.'

Slyter believes that the roles the returning players had last year will help lay a foundation for success this season. 'When you look at the way some of the returning players contributed last year, they played a big part in the season and the hope is that those successes will help build confidence and they will step in this year to more full time roles,' added Slyter.

The senior class is led by shortstop Adrianna Boychuk, who touts the highest returning batting average from last season. Boychuk hit for a .381 batting average while starting all but two games last season for VCSU. She also was tied for the team lead in runs scored with 25 on the season.

First baseman Hilary Kulczewski finished the season tied in RBI's with 30 on the year. Kulczewski was on pace to shatter the single season RBI record but was hampered by a hand injury the latter half of the season that affected both her RBI production and batting average. The Vikings look for her to return to form and be a big part of the offense this spring.

Finally, outfielder Hayley Bevan was not only her consistent self, hitting for a .304 average, but she also made a switch from right to center field and blossomed defensively. That consistency and strong defensive play will be vital to the Vikings success this spring.

The junior class is loaded with players that contributed last spring and will fill more permanent roles this season. Three players split time with position play in the field and the designated player position in the lineup. Caitlin Giesbrecht and Courtney Shadlock will look to fill the second base spot and both hit for strong averages at .356 and .333 respectively. Liz Hall also broke through offensively for the Vikings in the last half of last season, mostly in the DP spot. Hall hit for a .364 average and was more clutch than anything, delivering many timely hits for the Vikings. Hall will push for innings at third base along with Brittany Lehner who will join the softball team after the Viking Women's Basketball season is complete.

Stephanie Lahey also made big strides last year offensively and defensively and will look for innings at first base and the designated player position in the lineup.

Joining this year's junior class is transfer Samantha Nalley. Nalley comes to Valley City State from Porterville Junior College (CA) where she threw a majority of the innings on the pitching staff last season, where she was a First Team All Central Valley Conference selection. Her two years of college experience and pitching in a highly competitive California Junior College League will serve her well in a Viking uniform.

Two sophomores started a combined 67 games last season as freshman and will look to make a significant jump this season. Shayna Taffinder started 37 games for the Vikings as a freshman and .280, scored 22 runs and led the team in stolen bases with 17 in 23 attempts. Her speed and experience from last season will be looked to provide an offensive spark near the top of the lineup. Savannah McMillin started 30 games as a freshman, mostly in the outfield. She will split time between there and anchoring the catching position this season. McMillin finished just under .300 last year at .297 and will look to provide a more consistent and run producing role this season. Mackenzie Hamre rounds out the sophomore class and after settling in primarily in a base running role as a freshman, scoring seven runs for the Vikings in 2012, Hamre will push for innings in the outfield this season after a great fall season.

The talented freshman group will be expected to contribute right away for the Vikings to be successful. Club team battery mates from Las Vegas, NV, Torri Fenton and Taylor Schroeder will get innings in the circle and behind the plate. Fenton will be counted on right away as a freshman to provide solid innings in the circle and compliments Nalley' s pitching style to give the Vikings a well-rounded pitching staff. Schroeder will also provide punch in the offensive lineup carrying a big bat. Katarina Boychuk brings a tremendous amount of speed with her both offensively and defensively that will be utilized in a number of ways on both sides of the ball. Kaitlyn Langdon also has a good amount of speed that will be utilized offensively as well. Cejay Hilhorst is solid defensively and has a very strong arm that will be used defensively and swings a good bat for contact. Amy Agnew is working hard to come back from a knee injury at the end of her high school year last spring and will look to contribute at the mid-point to later in the season.

"I think once this team finds out who they are, creates their own identity, the talent is there to do some really good things this spring,' commented Slyter. 'The offensive has more speed than in the past and looks to have some pop in it and should be able to score some runs. If we play solid defensively and keep our pitching staff healthy, another good season is in store for VCSU Softball.'

The Vikings open the season at the St Cloud State University Dome Invitational on March 1st when they will play NCAA Division II Bemidji State University and host St. Cloud State at 6 and 8 pm. They will then follow that up with Minot State University on March 2nd at 6:00 pm before finishing the three day event playing A.I.I. opponent Dickinson State on March 3rd at 10:00 am.

To end the season the Vikings will host and receive an automatic bid to the Association for Independent Institutions Conference Tournament on May 3-5. The winner of that five team tournament will receive an automatic bid to the NAIA National Softball Tournament.

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