Softball, baseball to start off seasons away from home

Sports Editor and Sports Editor

Take a step outside and take a big whiff.

That’s the smell of February, or just winter in Bowling Green, Ohio. But to some baseball or softball fans, it’s just good enough.

Impatience has gotten the better of those who participate in America’s pasttime and the Falcon softball and baseball teams will take the field to start their seasons in warmer climates.

The baseball team will travel to another Bowling Green, this one in Kentucky to play the Hilltoppers in a three game series.

Western Kentucky, like the Falcons, will look to improve upon dismal seasons the year before. The Hilltoppers finished 2012 at 25-33 finishing eighth in the Sun Belt.

Western Kentucky will return 17 letter winners including 10 starters for this season. The Falcons will return 21 letter winners and 10 starters to match.

Finishing out 2012 with a 20-33 record, the Falcons failed to qualify for the Mid-American Conference tournament — a feat that had been accomplished four consecutive seasons prior.

New to the bases are nine newcomers for the Falcons, including eight freshman been named captain for the second straight season.

In the MAC Preseason Coaches Poll, the Falcons are slotted to finish third in the East Division, which would get BG back into the MAC tournament at the season’s end.

The season is just starting, however, and the Hilltoppers will be the first team in the way. This marks the 11th matchup between the two Bowling Greens, with the advantage to Kentucky, 8-2. They last played in 2011 when Western Kentucky swept the Falcons.

The series starts the long-traveled month ahead. By the month’s end, the team will have traveled 4,905 miles including visits to Murray, Ky., Cookeville, Tenn., Florida and Normal, Ill.

The Falcons will be headlined by its offensive production. As a team, it hit .290 and all seven players that batted over .300 will return for this season, including Andrew Kabuki that led the team with .367.

The softball team will also be flocking south for the winter. The Falcons will face four teams in three days in Spartanburg, S.C. Opponents include George Washington, George Mason, Winthrop and Samford.

The 2012 season was good to the Falcons as they made a strong run in the MAC Tournament after being predicted to finish last in the conference. Instead the Falcons finished second.

This season, the Falcons are the favorite to win the MAC in the preseason polls.

“We are actually more focused on what we didn’t accomplish last year,” said Shannon Salsburg, head coach. “The thing that we need to continue to work on is being able to focus when the game is on the line.”

Senior Hannah Fulk finished this past season with 15 home runs and 42 walks, both BG single-season records. The team hit a total of 46 home runs that fell one run shy of breaking the record as well.

Paige Berger enters her final season just two home runs shy of the career record of 32. Fulk is fourth on the list with 23. Fulk is also threatening to take the all-time walks record as well as having 91 total compared to the record set at 121.

Of the four opponents, the Falcons have only seen two before. George Washington and Samford are new faces to the Falcons and the weekend will mark the first contest between the schools. The Falcons lead the overall series with George Mason, 3-1. The Falcon’s will also face Winthrop, a team that beat the Falcons this past season 9-8 in a close contest.

“This year, it’s a really simple word, they’re hungry.” Salsburg said. “They want it bad and they have talked about what they want this year. Last season we weren’t quite sure what we wanted. We know this year we want to be MAC Champions.”