The typical approach to softball: Ride a dominant pitcher and hope to squeak out a few runs.
Slugfests are rare, and teams that come out and encourage them are even more scarce.
Wichita State's offense could be its pitcher's best friend.
"I think our sticks are going to help us win a lot of ball games," said Heather Gerritse, the source of much of that hope. "It will give more confidence to our pitchers to just throw the ball and have faith that if they give up one or two runners, it'll be OK."
Picked to finish sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Shockers are scheduled open their season today at the Centenary College Tournament — but the threat of snow in Louisiana has cast doubt on those games.
Last season, WSU lost 10 times when it scored four or more runs, which was troubling to coach Mike Perniciaro. Pitcher Kasha Kolb, a freshman, took her lumps trying to replace Ashley Bright as the team's ace. A year of experience could help Kolb.
"This fall she was running at the front of the line during sprints," senior Kara L'Huillier said. "She's really been working and I think she has a better understanding of what it takes to be successful at the Division I level."
Perniciaro won't be asking Kolb, junior Brianna Smet and freshman Katie Armagost to hold teams to a run or fewer. He believes the team's hitting will provide enough room for error.
"I think we've got a pretty good blend of speed and power," Perniciaro said. "I think this year we don't have a hole in our lineup. There's no easy out. Everybody's tough."
Returning seven players that started 35 or more games last season is a plus. Having experience and more than 70 percent of the offense back bodes well for WSU.
Gerritse, a catcher, and L'Huillier, a second baseman, return to the middle of the lineup. Gerritse showed a knack for getting on base with a team-leading .353 average and L'Huillier consistently drove runners in (34 RBIs and 20 extra base hits).
Last season the Shockers actually fared better against the top half of the league than the bottom half. To avoid not qualifying for a spot in the conference tournament again this season, handling the lower tier is a must.
"The key there is to play at our level all the time," L'Huillier said. "We know we can go out and compete with the top teams in the league, like Creighton. As long as we play at our level, we're capable of beating anybody."
According to Gerritse, that shouldn't be too hard.
"It's just a matter of playing ball," she said. "It's just hitting and pitching. We're going to try to keep it that simple."
12—Memphis*; 13—Centenary, Southern*; 14—Houston Baptist*; 19—Tulsa, Baylor#; 20—Central Arkansas, Texas-Arlington#; 21—Texas-El Paso; 26—Texas Southern, Prairie View A&M%; 27—Prairie View A&M, Texas-Arlington%; 28—Texas-Arlington%.
5—Boise State+; 6—Boise State, Texas Tech+; 7—Texas Tech+; 10—at UMKC (dh); 15—Rutgers; 17—at Missouri (dh); 20—Northern Iowa (dh); 21—Northern Iowa; 23—Oklahoma State; 24—Missouri State; 27—at Illinois State (dh); 28—at Illinois State.
2—at Drake (dh); 3—at Drake; 6—at Tulsa (dh); 10—Creighton (dh); 11—Creighton; 14—at Missouri State (dh); 17—at Evansville (dh); 18—at Evansville; 20—at Oklahoma State; 24—Southern Illinois (dh); 25—Southern Illinois; 28—at Kansas (dh).
1—Bradley (doubleader); 2—Bradley; 8—at Indiana State (dh); 9—at Indiana State; 13—Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
*Centenary College Tournament at Shreveport, La.
#QTI/Getterman Classic at Waco, Texas
+Texas Tech Tournament at Lubbock, Texas