As the Webster University softball team prepares for its upcoming season, it look to rebound from a fifth-place finish in conference last year. Webster finished the 2013 campaign with a record of 8-8 in conference play and 19-16 overall, missing the SLIAC conference tourney for the first time since forming a team in 1997.
Webster is looking to bounce back this season, but the Gorloks will have to do it without some of their key players from years past. Webster lost eight players from last year’s team due to graduation and student transfers. With only four freshmen coming onto the team this year, the team is forced to have a short roster of 13 girls. Team members are looking at the shortage in a more positive light.
Senior catcher Molly Muntz thinks the short roster could possibly make the team stronger by making the players more versatile.
“With the little amount of people we have, it gives all of us a chance to play in another position. Coach (Eaton) will be able to switch all of us around and know that we will do our job in whatever position,” Muntz said.
Chris Eaton is entering his sixth season as head coach for Webster softball. He doesn’t consider the roster to be short because of the team’s depth.
“We have a lot of girls who can play two or three positions well, so that definitely helps out a lot,” Eaton said. “We look to be the best defensive team in the conference every year, and this year we have a good shot of doing that.”
Webster lost some key pieces to past success to graduation — pieces such as Jessica Arcangel, Kayla Mahoney, Aly Watson, Kaytlin Burczak and Trisha Thompson.
Thompson finished her Webster softball career after just three seasons. During that time, Thompson finished in the top 10 in several Webster softball pitching categories. She finished 10th in earned run average (3.01), sixth in wins (29), first in strikeouts (352), and tied for first in shutouts (15). In the 2013 season Thompson set a single-season strikeout record for Webster with 175 strikeouts, breaking the record of 169 set by Crystal Wilson in 2002.
The team also said farewell to Arcangel. During her career at Webster, Arcangel found herself in the top 10 of several Webster offensive categories. She finished 10th in runs scored (92), 10th in runs batted in (96), 10th in home runs (10), eighth in hits (142), and fifth in total at bats (407).
While Webster is losing some key players, others like Muntz, sophomore pitcher Rachel Franck and junior infielder Taylor Gibbs are returning.
Franck is coming off a successful freshman season. On the mound, Franck was a dominating force for the Gorloks. She was 6-1 and led the SLIAC conference with a 0.66 ERA (Earned Run Average). Franck batted a team’s best (.420) throughout the season while adding on 16 stolen bases. She performed despite suffering from an arm injury for most of the season.
Franck does not think the short roster will be a problem for the team for the same reason as Eaton and Muntz. She thinks the short roster will help by improving their defense and teaching the girls to play multiple positions.
“I think our defense will be our strong point for sure. Almost every girl can play two or more positions well, which is good for a small team,” Franck said. “This year we definitely have to make sure everyone stays healthy, stays positive and being able to play different positions.”
Last year, Muntz experienced this versatility by playing catcher and outfielder. She held a .972 percent fielding percentage and only committed one error during the season. She said she feels like the defense will be strong this season, while the offense will need improvement.
“While I think our defense is going to be pretty solid, I really think we really have to focus on being consistent with our hitting throughout the year. I think we fell a little short on doing that last year towards the end of the season,” Muntz said.
Muntz and Gibbs look to be helpful on the offensive side for the Gorloks. Muntz had a batting average of .326 and batted in 21 RBIs. Gibbs led Webster last season with 25 RBI’s while batting .272 and slugging a team leading eight homeruns.
Franck, Muntz and Gibbs are the Gorlok team’s captains this year. Last year Eaton did not name any captains, but he said naming captains this year has really helped out leadership on the team.
“I feel like (the captains) have really stepped up. No one is looking out for themselves – all about the team,” Eaton said.
The Gorloks have nine returning players from last year’s team. Their first game is March 1 at home against Robert Morris College (III).