Wichita State’s softball team went 8-0 in scrimmages last fall and coach Kristi Bredbenner isn’t sure she wants a repeat.
“I think it gave our team a false hope that we were a lot better than we really were,” she said. “When you don’t have any losses in the fall season, you tend to get that.”
Bredbenner will try to get a more realistic measure of WSU’s ability this fall. She added Oklahoma State and Tulsa to the schedule after not playing an NCAA Division I school a year ago. The Shockers open their fall season Saturday against Pittsburg State (2 p.m.) and Johnson County Community College (6 p.m.) at Wilkins Stadium. WSU closes the fall with a trip to Stillwater to play Tulsa and OSU on Oct. 13. Next fall, Bredbenner might add more Division I opponents to the eight games allowed by the NCAA.
“I really think the more competitive we can be in the fall, the more realistic it is,” she said. “The big thing for us is, can we can get better every weekend? Can we figure out what that mentality is by the time we get to Stillwater and prove we’re a changed program and a program heading in the right direction?”
WSU returns five of its top seven hitters from a team that went 15-40 last spring. Bredbenner will experiment this fall with lineups and positions, giving her eight newcomers and her returners chances to play different spots. Much of her attention will be on the pitchers. The Shockers ranked last in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 5.37 ERA . Senior Katie Armagost and junior lefty Sloan Anderson are back and freshman Hunter Stohlmeyer is undergoing changes to her motion.
“This is the year we’re looking for both (Anderson and Armagost) to step up,” Bredbenner said.
Bredbenner said practices are moving more quickly this fall, her second as coach at WSU. Expectations are clear.
“Last year, it took us awhile for it to really click that we need to put in extra hours,” sophomore catcher Melanie Jaegers said. “Everybody gets better at practice. If you want to earn a spot or get even bettter, you have to come in on our own time and do it.”
McLeod, a sophomore from Peculiar, Mo., wasn’t much of a factor as a freshman, running in five meets and placing 58th in the MVC Championships. That was OK with her. She needed that year to adjust to college running.
As a sophomore, McLeod is making a difference. She finished fourth in the JK Gold Classic (14 minutes, 18.79 seconds in the 4-kilometer) and third in the Richard Clark Invitational (18:37 in the 5K). Both finishes ranked second among Shocker runnners.
“I saw an opening when we were losing two of our top five runners,” McLeod said. “We need somebody to really step up.”
McLeod went to work over the summer, upping her weekly mileage to around 70, 20 more than her fall routine as a freshman.
“I decided I wanted to be a consistent top-five scorer and help out the team,” she said. “I knew that doing the summer miles and being consistent and putting in that extra work when nobody else was would was going to get me there.”
WSU’s men’s and women’s team run in the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday.