With a deep pitching rotation and an experienced junior class, the Belmont softball team feels at home to begin their inaugural season in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“We’re the new kids on the block in the OVC but that’s not going to deter us from our ultimate goal, which is to win the OVC championship… and get to the NCAA tournament and make a run as far as we can make it,” said coach Chris Kuhlmeyer.
While other teams at Belmont have had to adjust to new conference opponents, softball has faced all but three OVC teams during head coach Kuhlmeyer’s tenure.
“We know what everyone is capable of, we’ve been to a lot of the different cities, we’ve experienced some success with some of them,” said Kuhlmeyer. “None of this is going to be new for us, it’s old hat now.”
This year, the team boasts a pitching staff of senior Becca Gift, junior transfer Brittanie Albright, junior Mia Vierra, sophomore Katie Clancy and freshmen Carolyn Snodgrass and Taylor Moon.
“It’s exciting to have six pitchers that are healthy and are doing very well right now,” said Kuhlmeyer. “This is the most pitchers I’ve seen on a staff in softball, so I know innings might be at a premium at a lot of times, but it’s going to be awesome, especially come OVC tournament time.”
Despite having only two seniors in Gift and infielder Courtney Elrod, sophomore outfielder Kat Hollingsworth thinks the combined experience of the senior and junior classes will match well with the younger players.
“We have a young team which almost balances out,” she said. “We all have our own role on the team– there’s leaders by example, there’s leaders by mouth. I think having the experience with the young talent kind of evens out.”
Offensively, Kuhlmeyer and Hollingsworth believe this year’s lineup is capable of consistent production at the plate, even with the loss of second team All-Atlantic Sun senior Ashley Byers.
“With Ashley, she was a homerun hitter, she had a lot of RBIs, but I think this year we have a way more solid lineup than last year,” said Hollingsworth. “We have people who can produce every single time they can come up to bat. We’ll all just have our time.”
Belmont fans should expect to see Gift stepping in as the Bruins’ chief batter with the help of Heather Turner, Jordan Daly, Jessica Wilson and Mia Vierra.
The Bruins will open the season this weekend at Rose Park when they host the Belmont Spring Kickoff tournament against Jackson State, Central Arkansas, Valparaiso and Western Illinois.
“We are expecting a really good, competitive tournament,” Kuhlmeyer said. “This is the first time for us to host a tournament like this in our new facility at Rose Park, and to have this quality of opponent come in is exciting for us.”
Kuhlmeyer also believes that having the facility at Rose Park will bring some recognition as programs like Ole Miss and UTEP will travel to play the Bruins.
The team will begin conference play in mid-March against Eastern Kentucky, and will round out the month with SEMO, UT Martin and Jacksonville State.
At the end of April, the Bruins will host OVC rivals Austin Peay, assistant coach Ashley Taylor’s undergrad alma mater, and Murray State.