Last season, the ISU softball team finished sixth in the regular season, squeaked into the conference tournament on the last day of the season and was one game away from advancing to the conference championship game.
The Bengals lost 8-6 in extra innings to Weber State to conclude their 2017 campaign where they were working with a very new and young team, especially in the infield.
This year, there are eight returning starters, and the team has gotten one year older but will be without its best player.
“We lost that dynamic [with Burnett],” said Candi Letts, head coach. “But we have made up for it with a little bit more power, and we have built our team up with more of a cohesive athletic team.”
Kacie Burnett, who led the nation in hitting, was named Big Sky Conference Player of the Year last season and was awarded First Team All-Big Sky four consecutive seasons.
But that is not the only thing that will be slightly different about the team from the last few years. This year’s lineup is loaded with power rather than an even balance of slap and power-hitters. Most of the power will come from the right side of the plate.
The Bengals will begin their season Feb. 16-18 in Las Vegas with conference play beginning on March 24 at Miller Ranch Stadium.
The overall goal for this season is to get to the conference tournament and win it in order to play in the NCAA tournament.
With new players coming into the team, Letts wants them be part of the bigger picture. She said she wants them to be an individual who can come in and make the team better by working as a system.
“One thing about us and how we run our program is that it doesn’t matter what year you are in school,” Letts said. “It doesn’t matter what age. There is no seniority in softball.”
Letts says that this year the girls are communicating well, one of the most important aspects of softball.
Athletically, she is excited for the team as well. The infield is solid, she said, and the outfield has a lot of power, both from the bats and in the arms.
Every game is a big game, according to Letts, but the team’s natural rivals are Weber State, Sacramento State and Montana.
“Those are the biggest rivals,” she said. “But you can’t allow yourself not to win games you should win and try to sneak away with the wins that you weren’t counting on.”
Letts says that there is always improvement to be made on the softball field. Even a bad weekend does not define a softball team. Practice and improvement are part of success. She says that there is always something to work on mentally or physically.
“If you play like a team, chances of winning are much greater than if you don’t, and right now our team is doing very, very well being a team,” Letts said. “We’re looking forward to the moments to be out on the field and playing someone else with a different jersey color.”