March 7, 2014
GALESBURG—Carl Sandburg College coach Todd Winkler always wants to win, but he also realizes the importance of keeping things in perspective when the Chargers open the season this week.
“If we could win four out of 10, I’d be jumping up and down,” said Winkler, in his 10th season as Sandburg’s coach. “We’re going to be playing teams that have played 20-some games already and some really good teams from up north.”
The Chargers will take the field outdoors for the first time when they kick off their 2014 campaign at 11 a.m. Sunday against Jefferson Davis (Ala.) in Brewton, Ala., before finishing off their weeklong Spring Break trip in Pensacola, Fla.
“We have a lot of sophomores, which is a positive thing,” Winkler said. “We have a lot of leadership from them, and I see a lot of freshmen who have stepped up and can fill some holes.”
The biggest hole to fill figures to be in the circle. Sandburg graduated All-Region IV and All-Arrowhead Conference pitcher Brooke Howard as well as No. 2 hurler Grace Cleair. Freshman Hannah Mixer (Burlington, Iowa) is likely to step in as the team’s new ace, but Winkler also likes the arms he has in sophomore Whitney Freeman (Spoon River Valley) and freshmen Katie McGee (Galesburg) and Megan Hobson (Limestone).
“I would say we’re deeper than we were last year,” Winkler said. “I’m positive with the pitching position we have right now. I think we have enough arms to make things good.”
Elsewhere on the diamond, sophomore Kaylee Moseley (Rockridge) returns behind the plate, and Hannah Johnson is back to start in the outfield. The Chargers also figure to be strong defensively on the left side of the infield with sophomore third baseman Lorren Newingham (Pittsfield) and sophomore shortstop Jordyn Chasteen (Canton), an all-region and all-conference pick last spring after hitting .340 with a pair of home runs and 23 RBIs in 47 games.
“There are three solid spots in the lineup right there,” Winkler said of Moseley, Johnson and Chasteen, “then the rest is kind of up in the air. I think we are a small-ball team. We’ll need to get people on and push them around with singles and doubles.”
One of the newcomers Winkler expects to slide into the lineup is freshman Justine Bodenhamer (Avon).
“She’s going to play a great second base, and I think she’ll hit the heck out of the ball,” he said. “Once she gets her feet wet, I think she’ll be a good thing for us.”
The Chargers finished last season 29-23 overall and 12-8 in the Arrowhead Conference. Sandburg used a nine-game winning streak late in the regular season to jump to as high as No. 20 in the NJCAA Division II rankings.
“I think we can be pretty good if everything fits together,” Winkler said. “I hope we can have as successful of a season as we did last year. That’s my goal, and we’ve got double the sophomores, so I think maybe the tone is a little bit better.”
Members of the 2014 Carl Sandburg College softball team: Justine Bodenhamer, Jordyn Chasteen, Tygan Cole, Jessica Forward, Whitney Freeman, Corinne Heins, Megan Hobson, Erika Hulvey, Hannah Johnson, Danielle Kenney, Lexa Mahr, Katie McGee, Hannah Mixer, Kaylee Moseley, Lorren Newingham, Leah Pence, Kassidy St. Clair, Kylie Stewart, Tesha Woolley, Rylie Yoho. Head coach: Todd Winkler. Assistant coach: Katie King.