Alexi Bell, Campus Carrier Staff Writer
The Berry College softball team will be joined by numerous new faces this spring as they work towards tying up loose ends from last year’s heartbreaking loss in the NCAA Regional Championship game.
After losing six graduating seniors, Berry will look towards the rising upperclassmen for guidance in leading this new freshman class of seven.
“I think all the returners and especially the seniors are really hoping that we can pick up where we left off last year and essentially leave it all on the field this spring,” junior utility player Katlin Seger said. “We have a lot of unfinished business to attend to.”
A major hole on the field, the mound and at the plate for the Vikings that will need to be filled come spring season was left bare once Marie Collop graduated this past May. She ended her softball career as one of the most decorated Berry softball players in the program’s history appearing in 43 games and hitting .375 on the year.
Junior Kayla Sangrey hopes to step up and fill Collop’s place at first base and at the plate. Sangrey hit .409 in 38 games and will be one of Berry’s top batters to return.
Senior Kassie Howard will continue to lead the Vikings on the mound after earning National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) first-team All-America honors in her junior year. As three-time SAA Pitcher of the Week, Howard appeared in 23 games, including 21 starts last season, where she posted a 16-2 record with 117.2 innings of work and a 1.31 ERA.
The Vikings won’t be lacking speed this season with senior outfielder Brittany Tuttle. Tuttle stole 28 bases and added one homer last season even after injury pulled her out of playing for most of April. She also scored an impressive 37 runs and knocked in 10 RBIs.
Production at the plate will also come from Seger and senior second baseman Kylie Aiken. Seger scored 13 runs and knocked in 23 RBIs, while Aiken added 35 runs and knocked in 16 RBIs. Aiken also stole 14 bases and added 14 walks.
Although the Vikings field a team of 16 returners, they have also added seven newcomers to the roster.
“Our newcomers are very versatile,” Seger says. “We have a little bit of everything with this class including speed, power, in-field/out-field positions, pitchers and catchers. I think they are going to fit in well with us personality wise as well as in playing ability.”
A key player to watch will be freshmen pitcher Meredith Holland. Holland posted a 1.36 ERA including two shutout victories in her senior year at Allatoona High School.
An early tough schedule awaits Berry as they look towards the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Arizona to play teams from all over the United States, including Texas Lutheran and Illinois Wesleyan. Texas Lutheran finished their season ranked 10th in the NFCA Coaches poll and Illinois Wesleyan finished fifth.
The Vikings play Emory University early in their third series of the year looking for revenge after their 2016 NCAA Regional Championship game loss. Emory continues to be a major rival for the Vikings.
“It’s going to be good competition early on, so I think it’s good to strive to win those games but also know when to peak at the right time,” Seger says.
Looking back at last season, the Vikings continue to bring the heat year after year as the five-time regular season Southern Athletic Association (SAA) Champions, as well as three-time SAA Tournament Champions. They finished their best season in program history with a 40-4 overall and 17-0 record in conference play so the expectations going into this season are high.
The Vikings will play two fall scrimmages on November 4 at home against Georgia Highlands and Shorter University.
Their official season begins their official season on February 6 in a two-game series against Covenant College.