CSU softball enters 2018 with fresh legs, added depth

Mack Beaulieu

Last season Colorado State University’s softball team was led by a one-girl wrecking crew named Haley Hutton. This year, the team will play with newfound flexibility and depth.

Two softball players stand with their coach
From Left: Nicole Valdez, Jen Fisher and Hannah McCormick (Photo by Mack Beaulieu)

Running this year with five freshman and three transfers, the Rams are young, but they’ve built depth and seek to have everyone lead by example. The team is so deep that coach Jen Fisher looks at a possibly ever-changing lineup as a good thing. They’ll put this dynamic lineup in play for the first time this weekend as they play fives games from Friday through Sunday.

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“Although we don’t have a superstar like Haley Hutton, we’re so much deeper overall that we’re going to be able to do a little more with matchups and not necessarily have to have a determined starter in every game,” Fisher said. “I think we’re going to see some movement.”

Most of that movement will likely come in the middle infield, as the Rams try to adjust to the loss of Hutton at shortstop. The new competition comes greatly at the expense of sophomore Nicole Valdez, who is one of only two returning middle infielders. However, Valdez seems content to compete if it means the team is better.

“I’m best friends with all these girls,” Valdez said. “Off the field everyone gets along, but on the field we can definitely see the competition, how hard everyone works, and we just push each other to be better. Nobody’s degrading anyone for not starting or anything.”

That should be a hard line approach for most of these girls as Fisher made it clear that each girl should expect some disappointment in that regard. It will be unexpected if anyone starts in the same position all year.

“That would probably be pretty unique,” Fisher said.

Replacements and lineup changes should be the norm this year as the team has more speed and power this year that extends throughout the roster. CSU was dead last in batting average for the Mountain West last season and ranked in the middle of the pack in stolen bases. The Rams still managed to keep an acceptable overall record on decent pitching and strong fielding.

Most of that pitching is back, perhaps with improvement, as the Rams return four pitchers. The new additions may help on the offensive side as well as provide a little extra spark for the older members of the team.

“This year we have experience along with a revived energy from some of the younger classmen stepping up and taking a spot,” first baseman and senior Hannah McCorkhill said.

McCorkhill expanded on the fact that it’s not just hitting, but situational hitting that the team needs to improve on.

“When we need that hit to score that run, just situational hitting to score more runs for our pitchers,” McCorkhill said. “If we can hit better than we did last year, we’ll be in a pretty good spot this year…We definitely have players who can come off the bench and can do damage with one swing.”

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They’ll need to bring that hitting and pitching together, along with bringing their new players up to speed on defensive alignment, to have a strong opening weekend against opponents like the University of Wisconsin and University of Texas.

Fisher thinks they have the leaders to do it, noting that this team leads together.

“Leadership wise, I feel really good, because the great teams I’ve coached in the past were exactly the same way,” Fisher said. “There’s a really great mutual respect for one another amongst this team, more so than I’ve really seen since I’ve been here.”

With a combination of mostly seniors and newcomers, Fisher and the team will have to be looking at all the small details this weekend.

“We have to have all our plays and coverages down,” Fisher said. “I want everything to go off without a hitch in that regard, because I think you can have some physical mistakes, but if your coverages aren’t tight, a team like Texas or Wisconsin will expose it.”

Mack Beaulieu can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on twitter @Macknz_james