Jan. 29, 2013
RUSTON - After battling the elements through the first two weeks of the preseason, Louisiana Tech head coach Mark Montgomery and the Lady Techster softball team capitalized on some much milder weather last week as they continue preparations for their Feb. 8 opener in Hammond.
"It's was great," Montgomery said. "We've been outside almost all week which was the difference from a week earlier. Being outside we began to iron out some kinks and were able to work on some problem areas and get more prepared. Consistency is one (of our biggest issues).
"We are talented but at times we make a routine mistake that shouldn't be made. It's just repetitions of going through it. We are doing some things differently this year and playing some kids at some different positions. We also have some freshman at some key spots. We just need repetitions of doing things over and over to get it right."
One area that LA Tech will have a good mix of experience and new blood is on the infield where Montgomery returns players who garnered 262 out of 290 starts from a year ago. Seniors Meghan Knowles and Amanda Krueger should anchor the right side of the infield while freshmen Anna Cross and Courtney Lowe will join returners Hailey Winter, Michelle Jones and Melanie Goff on the left side.
"We do have all returners back, but Hailey is out for a while and Mel will be out a few weeks as well," Montgomery said. "When those two return it will help us. Meanwhile we will rely on Courtney and Anna to play (a lot) defensively; they are both learning.
Tech must improve on its fielding from a year ago when the Lady Techsters posted a .947 fielding percentage with 86 errors being committed by the infield. Montgomery hopes that by taking some of the pressure off of Jones and Melanie Goff - who split time at shortstop while also shouldering a lot of the pitching load last year - the overall continuity of the infield will improve.
"I don't want to put the burden on any one player, but (as a freshman) Anna has to be the one (to continue to improve)," Montgomery said. "She is the one who has to keep growing, learning and getting better and better at the shortstop position. If she does, the sky is the limit on how good our infield can be.
"We want to shore down that position and have someone who is able to grow and develop as an all-round player at that position. I think Anna can do that. It's just going to take time. She has a canon for an arm and is so athletic and fluid. She has great range and makes tough plays look routine. She has her strengths, and she just has to continue improving until she is the polished player we know she can be."
Montgomery is also confident in his starting catcher as sophomore Alayna Kipp returns after logging 51 starts behind the plate as a true freshman. Kipp committed only four errors last year and showed an incredible arm by throwing out some of the Western Athletic Conference's top base stealers in BYU Jessica Dugas, New Mexico State's Amber Olive and Nevada's Karley Hopkins.
"I would say Alayna will catch every game she is capable of catching," Montgomery said. "She has really grown. She is getting better and better defensively, and she is gaining more and more confidence and knowledge. I think she is an all-conference performer down the road. When everything starts to click, there is no telling how good she can be."