This perfect storm of returning and new talent, of the right attitude and ability, doesn’t come along very often.
Cowley College softball coach Ed Hargrove, in his 29th season, understands this.
“Two of the three best freshmen seasons in the history of our program were last year, by players we have coming back,” Hargrove said. “And there are no egos involved, which makes this group very fun to be around.”
Coming off a fourth-place finish at last season’s NJCAA Division II Tournament, the Tigers are ranked No. 3 in the Division II preseason poll and open their season Tuesday at home against Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa.
Cowley returns two first-team All-Americans in shortstop Haley Strawn, who played second base as a freshman, and center fielder Laura Seeman, a Maize product who has already signed with Emporia State.
“I think we wish we would’ve been No. 1,” Seeman said. “We’re all excited for the competition, for the season, for getting to see the progress we can make.”
Strawn led Cowley in batting average (.505), home runs (20), hits (107), runs (82) and doubles (29) last season, and will bat leadoff again. Her hit and run totals were both single-season records for the Tigers.
And all done while playing second base for the first time.
“I feel like I caught on (at second) pretty well, but now (Hargrove) needs me at short,” Strawn said. “I want to be just like I was last year, but better. I feel like if I succeed, it’ll be good for the team.”
Seeman batted .503 with 88 hits, 67 RBIs, 64 runs and 15 home runs.
“Haley batting first and Laura batting third seemed to work last year,” Hargrove said. “So I think I’m going to stick with that.”
Rose Hill product Keelyn Bonar transferred to Cowley from Allen and will be the Tigers’ No. 1 pitcher to start the season. Freshman Brooke Benge, Jessica Seay and Kristen Hall will fill out the rotation.
“We’ve been pitching since August, and threw a lot through the fall,” Bonar said. “I think we’re going to be ready for Tuesday.”
Bonar was an honorable-mention Jayhawk East utility player last season after batting .442 with 17 doubles and 38 RBIs. From the mound, she was 15-14 with a 2.90 ERA and 147 strikeouts.
“Keelyn will be our top pitcher this season, she’ll have a lot to do with our success,” Hargrove said. “The three freshmen are going to battle for playing time.”