Softball takes the field for ’07

After one of the most successful seasons in school history, BG’s softball team will open the new season with a new head coach today when the team travels to Chattanooga, Tenn. to compete in the Panera Challenge.

The Falcons went 5-0 last year in the event to win it and will look to defend that championship to begin this season.

The Falcons finished last season 37-23 overall with a 16-6 mark in the Mid-American Conference. They finished second in the Eastern division, one half-game behind Kent State.

BG was picked to finish second once again in the MAC Eastern Division behind Kent State in the preseason polls. BG got the coach it wanted from Kent State when they hired former Golden Flashes assistant Shannon Salsburg.

“Our expectations are up for this season,” Salsburg said. “We hope to challenge for the conference title and be playing on that final day in the conference championship game.

“We know what type of players we have yet to see this team play together,” Salsburg said. “After being hired after the fall games, we’re still not sure who is going to hit in the clutch or come up with the big play. That is what is so important to find out early in the season.”

The team will be returning some very impressive players from last year’s squad. This year’s captains will be Jeanine Baca (OF), Ashley Zirkle (C/UTIL) and Hayley Weimer (P). Baca and Zirkle are seniors while Weimer is a sophomore.

“Ideally everyone wants to have a good year,” Zirkle said. “But of course the seniors all want to go out big and will work as hard as they can to make sure the team wins whether they are playing or not. Our pitching staff has worked extremely hard and I feel as if all of them will have very good seasons.”

“Baca is our cornerstone centerfielder,” Salsburg said. “She has been working on hitting and has increased her power in the offseason. We are also expecting bigger and better things out of Hayley as well.”

The team will have two other seniors on the roster: Lauren Hoffman (C/OF) and Emmy Ramsey (OF). This year’s team will also see some freshmen making an impact.

“We have a great group of freshmen who bring a lot of intensity and athleticism to our team this year,” Weimer said. “We will probably have at least two or three freshmen. Our freshman class as a whole is very talented, and we will look to them to help us out for sure.”

“We have Susan Sontag vying for a position in the outfield,” Salsburg said. “She is a nice lefty to hit at the top of our lineup. We also have Joceyln Gray, another OF who will give us a ton of speed and put pressure on opposing defenses.”

“Some of our strengths include our sense of team and everyone knows everyone else’s capabilities and we are all confident in each other to get the job done,” Zirkle said. “We are a loud group that is constantly learning about the game. We have a great work ethic and never give up which is always strength.”

The team also got Junior College transfer Brittnay Hay from California. Coach Salsburg believes Hay possesses “one of the best gloves I’ve ever seen” and said she will start at third base.

The pitching staff will also include junior Emily Gouge. She currently ranks third all-time in winning percentage (.625) and is tied for ninth in shutouts in school history with nine.

“With Weimer and Gouge anchoring us, we anticipate having a fantastic pitching staff,” Salsburg said. “We have tremendous leadership and this team enjoys being around each other. They are always working hard in practice and can take us to the next level.”

This combination of youth and experience should give the Falcons a good chance to make their mark. The long season will also give the team time to develop.

“I am so excited for the season to start,” Weimer said. “I love being around my teammates who are my second family, and to play the sport that I love with the friends and teammates that I love is more than I could ask for.”