The more things change, the more they stay the same for the Lawrence University softball team.
As the Vikings prepare for the upcoming season, they do it without Shannon Murray, the 2013 Midwest Conference North Division Pitcher of the Year, who was lost to graduation. While that is a big change for Lawrence, the Vikings do return nearly every position player and some experienced pitching.
That combination should give Lawrence a chance to return to the Midwest Conference Tournament again this season after finishing second in the league in 2013.
“In some ways, we are as strong or stronger (than last season),” said Lawrence coach Kim Tatro, who earned her seventh league Coach of the Year honor last season. “The loss of Shannon is a significant one, and our pitchers are well aware of that. Someone has to step up and lead us. What may be most effective for us is to pitch by committee. We’ll see, it may be a work in progress.”
The Vikings return a trio of pitchers, led by junior Kara Vance, who saw action last season. She went 6-3 last season with a 3.16 earned run average in 64.1 innings. Pitchers Jessica Demski and Liz Barthels also return after seeing more limited action a season ago.
“Kara looks good. She’s doing some really nice things,” Tatro said.
“Until you’re on the field and playing in game situations, you don’t know how people are going to respond, but I feel pretty good about where we’re at right now.”
The wild card on the pitching staff is second baseman Cory Paquette, who pitched extensively as a prep standout. Tatro joked that she pulled Paquette out of retirement, but that she has the best velocity among the staff.
Lawrence has some outstanding returning players in the field, including all-conference third baseman Anna Wawiorka. She hit .319 as a freshman in 2013 and anchors an infield that returns all but one of its starters.
“Anna was just so solid there last year, and she makes things go for us in the short game, especially defensively,” Tatro said.
Senior Alex Chiodo hit .333 last season and will likely spend more time behind the plate after playing extensively at first base. Sophomore Katie Schumacher also is back at first after starting 12 games last season. Paquette returns at second, and senior Alissa Geipel is back after starting at shortstop last season.
The Vikings also have newcomers that are trying to nudge their way into the starting lineup. Junior transfer Amanda Jaskolski could be the starter at shortstop, and freshman catcher Samantha Belletini and freshman second baseman Marisa Thackston are pushing hard.
“(Amanda is) very gifted and Alissa Geipel did a fantastic job at shortstop last year,” Tatro said.
“We have solid newcomers who are going to contribute immediately or compete to contribute immediately.”
Across the outfield, the Vikings have returning starters in Savanna Marsicek and Tierney Duffy and experienced players in Mary Diduch, Brielle Bartes, Taylor Dodson and Geipel, who played left field as a sophomore. Freshman Rheya Upadhyaya also is in the mix for playing time in the outfield.
“We have 17 players and legitimately all 17 could compete for spots,” Tatro said. “This year’s group, top to bottom, is probably the most complete we’ve had in a while.”
The Vikings open their season March 21 in Clermont, Fla., and the ultimate goal will be to return to the four-team MWC Tournament in May.
“It’s nice that we got a taste of it last year and had some success in it,” Tatro said. “It was great to get back, and nice for our players to see that if you get there, anything can happen.”
Three for Siebert
Men’s basketball star Chris Siebert has been named to the All-Midwest Conference team for the third consecutive year.
A senior guard from Baraboo, Wis., Siebert was a first-team selection this season after earning second-team honors for both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. Siebert averaged 17.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game for the Vikings.
Siebert ranked seventh in the league in points per game and was among the leaders in a number of other categories. He ranked fourth with 3.1 3-pointers made per game and was fifth in 3-point shooting at 46.2 percent. Siebert finished 12th in field goal percentage at 46.8, 12th in free throw percentage at 81.7 and 13th at 2.9 assists per game. Siebert made 72 3-pointers on the season, which ranks second in school history to the 75 John Dekker made in 2009-10.
Siebert finished a stellar career fourth in scoring at Lawrence with 1,360 points.