“Lights, camera, action …”
The curtain will open and the spotlight will be on the 2011 North Greenville University softball team, and for the first time in several years, the Crusaders will have the stability of the same coach for two consecutive seasons. Second year mentor Sarah Hall guided NGU to a 25-21 mark last season, and NGU had its shot at a NCCAA national title snuffed by Palm Beach Atlantic in regional tournament.
North Greenville will open its schedule Friday, Feb. 11 at home against Mars Hill College. The beefed up ’11 slate is filled with teams from NGU’s future conference, Conference Carolinas, along with numerous contests against teams from the South Atlantic Conference. “Our schedule is packed with teams we’ll play next year in conference,” Hall noted. “I want our players to know what to expect next season and how we’ll measure up. We will play the top three teams in Conference Carolinas and also Carson Newman, Mars Hill, Lincoln Memorial, and Tusculum from the SAC. It’s a very challenging schedule.”
This year, North Greenville is a very different team that possesses veteran pitching, but will also have a host of newcomers that dot the roster. Hall has four experienced pitchers in Taylor Roof (JR - 8-5, 3.14 ERA), Laura Hopper (SO – 6-4, 2.27 ERA), Kimberly Robertson (SO – 3-4 3.66 ERA), and Courtney Campbell (SO) on the mound along with a delightful transfer in Rachel Glazebrook, a native of Traveler’s Rest, who began her career at Georgia Tech last season. “Glazebrook is a huge addition to our team. She can play several different positions, and has a ton of high level experience,” Hall said. “She’ll contribute on the mound and on the corners.”
NGU will see a battle between freshmen Emily Campbell and Brittany Dunn (who caught Rachel Glazebrook at Traveler’s Rest High School), along with Rachel Holeman (SO) and Haley Gregg (FR) behind the plate. “We only have 17 players, so we’ll have a lot of people playing a lot of different positions,” Hall noted.
Rachel Glazebrook will play first base if she’s not pitching, and Sarah Griffith (JR) will split time with her. Sophomore Kansas Wofford started last season at second base, but look for Elizabeth Pitts to push her for field time. Kimberly Robertson and Courtney Campbell have become ultra valuable for Coach Hall in the infield because they can play almost any position as a utility players. Hall has penciled them in to compete for the spot at shortstop. Junior Karli Taylor is the odds on favorite to start at third base.
In the outfield, several players will be called upon to fill the three spots. Freshmen Kelsey Burgess, who has a strong bat and even better arm, may be in left, Laura Hopper will split time on the mound and in center, and Marielena Santos, a veteran from last year, can play any outfield position. Look for Kristen Brown and Lauren Rickus to play right field.
“Our team has several goals for the season,” Hall explained. “We want to be ‘committed, passionate and relentless’, and come together as a team by loving one another on and off the field. We plan to come out every day and be consistent at every practice and every game. Another area we need to improve on is winning on the road. Also, we need to get better at not leaving runners on base in key situations and we want to hit .350 as a team. Our ultimate goal is to get into the NCAA II playoffs, but the NCCAA national title is always there to pursue.”
“I really like this team,” Hall exclaimed. “We have 17 players out with five freshmen and one transfer. We lost seven players and three starters from last year. But, this team is exciting; they’re fresh. We’re extremely young, but I really look forward to practice because they are learning to like each other on and off the field. I’m not asking them to be best friends, but they’ve got to show that they care for their teammates. That will be reflected when they walk on the field for practice or a game, and they learn to leave every else outside the lines and focus on doing their job.”
The Crusader softball has adopted 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 as its defining theme for the year: ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres’. Hall explained that as a coach, she has learned to give her team more time to focus on spiritual matters such as giving them time to do a team Bible study. “We love the Lord and our team leaders are guiding us that way. My job as a coach is to give them that time. It’s hard for me because I want to be on the field at all times working on softball, but me letting them have that time will contribute to better success on the field.”
The strengths of the 2011 NGU softball team will be a stunningly deep pitching staff, a good mixture of power hitters, contact hitters and others who can be integrated into the lineup. The Crusaders continue to work on developing team speed as the season approaches, but Hall is eager for the new players to get comfortable with her system. “Our new players are learning new skills, but they’re eager to gain that knowledge,” she said. “They ask, ‘how to you want me to throw; how do I improve my swing, or how do I get stronger?’ They want to learn and that excites me.”
“Our team will be founded in the works from Crazy Love by Francis Chan,” Hall concluded. “We all want to be consistent in our walk with Christ and consistently read the Bible. They have stated that they’d like to lead one of their teammates to Christ. This goes hand in hand with the unity of forming a family within our team. We’re on the right track. With the right things in place, if we keep seeking the Lord, we pray that He will bless our team.”
“I’ve been part of a lot of teams that always wanted to achieve that, but I never have seen it. I Loved some of the teams I played on, but never had that feeling. I feel like I missed out on that unity, and I don’t want my players to have that experience. We are called to be in community and live life together. That is my true goal for this season.”