The 2016 Saint Leo University Softball team not only begins their season Feb. 5 on the road, but also as the top ranked team in the Sunshine State Conference. Following a 39-12 finish to last season, the team looks to continue its excellence in head coach Erin Kinberger’s second season.
One of the keys to last year’s success was the dominant pitching, as the team finished second in the nation with an earned run average of 1.23, while now senior Alana Tabel led the country with a 0.94 ERA. Also joining Tabel amongst the leaderboard was freshman sensation Samantha Tyler, who’s 1.28 ERA was good enough to place her eleventh in the nation.
“In addition to Tyler and Tabel returning, we recruited a junior college transfer named Stephanie Adkins,” said coach Kinberger.
The addition of Adkins is especially important, as the Lion’s lost Ashley Ehlers to graduation, a key cog to the pitching staff last year.
“I didn’t know that we could find a kid that would work as hard as Ashley, but we got lucky with Stephanie,” said coach Kinberger.
These three pitchers give the Lion’s a great chance to build upon their accomplishments from last season.
“I think our battery is gonna be one of the best in the conference again. I think that we have a great pitching coach, Maddie Holub, that I brought with me,” said coach Kinberger.
Holub, who was last season’s Assistant Coach of the Year for Division-II, is likely going to be a hot commodity soon, as other schools will look to fill coaching absences in the upcoming years.
This does not guarantee a change of scenery for Holub, but something that coach Kinberger might have to contend with in a few years.
“I think she (Holub) is awfully loyal to me and definitely to the program at this point. I think she definitely has a bright future, and I would like to keep her as long as I can, but whatever her decision is, I would support it,” said coach Kinberger.
While the team performed spectacularly last season, finishing with six All-SSC players, they also lost some big performers to graduation.
“At first, a little concerned with graduating seven seniors from last year, but I think we did a really good job in the recruiting process where we brought in really strong athletes that are gonna come in and fill some of the spots we lost,” said coach Kinberger.
Coach Kinberger expects this recruiting class will be able to help the team pick up where they left off.
“I think you’ll see a very similar offensive team to last year, and actually a little more power, but a little less speed, so it’s a little give and take,” said coach Kinberger.
Overall, coach Kinberger does not believe that losing seven seniors to graduation will cause a lot of harm to the program, nor does she want to call this a rebuilding season.
“We’ve reloaded, and I think we reloaded really strong,” said coach Kinberger.
With that mentality, and the returning players that are projecting dominance, this could be an historic season for the softball team.