OAKLAND CITY — Expect Oakland City University softball women to rise from last year’s 7-21 record in the season they’ll open Saturday by hosting Mishawaka-based Bethel in a noon doubleheader.
“This definitely is the deepest team I’ve ever had. Hitting, infielders, outfielders, pitchers, catchers — we’re deep everywhere,” said Coach Patti Buchta, starting her 28th season in a career that includes 12 trips to the National Christian College Athletic Association World Series.
“Our seniors played in the World Series two years ago. And while we’ll rely a lot on freshmen, those ladies have a lot of talent.”
Don’t be surprised if freshman Erica Will, from Evansville North, quickly becomes the Lady Oaks’ top pitcher.
“Erica throws hard. Her fastball hits 60 miles per hour and she has other pitches,” said Buchta, whose 1997 Lady Oaks were World Series runnersup.
“Valerie Davis, who did most of our pitching last year, has always wanted to pitch in relief. She’ll again make some starts, but she will make a lot of appearances in relief. She also can play first base, as can Will.”
Former Wood Memorial ace Kenzie Tooley, sophomore righthander who transferred to OCU after a junior college year at Olney (Ill.) Central, is apt to see considerable mound time. “Kenzie has looked good in practice,” said Buchta.
Three freshmen complete the pitching roation. Sydney Davis, from Loogootee, “has good location.”
Ashton Steinbrenner, from North Vermillion High, “throws in the mid to high-50s.”
Madison Marlow, from Union Dugger, also will get some innings.
A future pitcher and outfielder, Hannah Gantner from Evansville Memorial, is redshirting as a dfreshman.
Freshman Megan Ghrist, from Mount Vernon, seems apt to do most of the catching.
“Megan is Mount Vernon’s all-time home run leader and a good contact hitter. She also works well with the pitchers she catches,” said Buchta.
“Reagan Hensley, now a senior, has played as catcher and designated hitter the last two years. She’ll again get some catching time and can also play outfield,” her coach said.
Offensively, the Lady Oaks must replace Princeton-bred Caitlyn Huff, who batted .354 with a team-high 4 home runs as a 2019 senior. They’ll play their first few games without sophomore and Castle grad McKendree Ward, who batted a team-high .391 as starting third baseman a year ago but currently is playing basketball.
Junior Lauren Stone, Evansville Central grad who hit .354 in 2019, when Lewis hit .297 and Hensley .290, will start at second base a third straight year..
“Bailey Davis at shortstop will be a four-year starter,” Buchta said of the Loogootee grad. “She has a nose for the ball. And like Lauren, she always makes the right play.”
Mount Carmel-bred Carmen Deisher, having transferred from junior college Rend Lake of Ina, Ill., will open at third base.
“Carmen can bunt, hit the ball in the gaps and play any infield position,” said Buchta.
Anna Orsburn, from Farmersburg North Central, will start in left field a fourth year.
Abbi Jacquess, freshman from Castle, is ticketed for center field.
“Abbi has a good arm and her bat was impressive in our fall season,” said Buchta, whose outfield depth includes senior Kate Gertin, Southridge-bred freshman Misty Merter, and now classmate Dixie Short. “Misty is a great baserunner. Aggressive,” the veteran coach said.
A Gibson County coaching veteran has joined the coaching staff. Assistants include not only hitting instructor Ryan Schuler, but also former Princeton Community head coach Brian Modafari.
“Brian can work in a lot of areas,” said Buchta.