By Chuck Tidmore
Sports Information Assistant
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Huntingdon softball team is finishing up its preseason work as the Lady Hawks prepare to host Berry College on Saturday for their season opener.
The double-header will begin at 12 p.m. at the Huntingdon softball field.
The Lady Hawks will be looking to rebound from last season. Huntingdon finished the 2016 season with a 17-21 record and an 11-9 USA South Athletic Conference record, ranking them tied for fifth. Huntingdon qualified for the USA South tournament, but fell in the opening round.
In June, Huntingdon welcomed back Casey Chrietzberg to lead the program and the first-year head coach has been working hard with her team to produce a winning formula. Chrietzberg graduated from Huntingdon in 2008 and spent four seasons as an assistant coach for the Lady Hawks.
"We came in and changed a lot and demanded a lot from them," Chrietzberg said. "I think the girls have responded well and have understood where the bar has been set. Assistant coach Kelsey Baker and I are pushing them and holding them accountable to make sure they are reaching the level we want them at.
"The next thing we want them to do is to understand failure. We are ok with them failing as long as they are failing progressively and taking the right steps to fail less and less. We are preaching aggressiveness, so if they make an aggressive error, it's better than a passive error."
The Lady Hawks lose their top four hitters from last season and only return six players for this season. Included in those six are seniors Brandi Blair and Jesse Dunn as well as juniors Lindsey Selph and Raina Lanier.
Selph led the Lady Hawks with four home runs while collecting 22 hits, 11 runs and 15 RBIs. Blair batted .275 with 30 hits, 20 runs and 17 RBIs.
Dunn will be behind the plate again for Huntingdon while Lanier will be in the pitching circle. Lanier posted a 9-9 record, 85 strikeouts and a 3.83 ERA in 115 innings pitched and pitched 13 complete games.
"Jesse and Brandi have done really well leading the team," Chrietzberg said. "They lead differently but effectively and that has been very nice to see."
Chrietzberg welcomed nine newcomers to the program but has said everyone is a freshman in her eyes.
"For me, everybody didn't know what to expect and they were all learning," Chrietzberg said. "I think the upperclassmen got things a little quicker and maybe had a bit of an idea because they have been in college longer. But, for the most part, the fall and January have been a learning experience for everyone.
"Everyone was leveled out on the same playing field. We have girls playing in different positions than what they are used to, so it was an equal playing field for us."
Huntingdon was recently picked fifth in the USA South West Division with the release of the conference preseason poll.
Chrietzberg said with her team goals in place, the results will take care of themselves.
"We have goals we want to achieve each game for every position," Chrietzberg said. "We have benchmarks we want to accomplish each game and if we are able to do that, then the end result won't matter.
"It's all about the process right now. We have been process oriented and don't look for the end result right now. We have to trust in what we are doing as a team. It's nice to have the benchmarks because it helps us focus on what needs to be done."