Boise State Softball: 2015 Season Preview

Feb. 4, 2015

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BOISE, Idaho - The seventh season of Boise State softball gets underway this weekend as the Broncos open the 2015 campaign at the North Texas Invitational in Denton, Texas. The Broncos begin with a doubleheader Friday (Feb. 6), taking on Seton Hall at 9 a.m. MT the the defending SWAC champion Texas Southern at 1:30 p.m. MT.

The weekend will continue with a doubleheader Saturday (Feb. 7) featuring the Broncos facing Texas Southern at 9 a.m. MT and host North Texas at 1:30 p.m. MT. The action concludes Sunday with a rematch against the Mean Green at 10 a.m. MT.

The 2015 season also heralds a new era for Bronco Softball, as head coach Cindy Ball begins her first year as Boise State boss. Ball, named the second head coach in Boise State history on Aug. 29, succeeds Erin Thorpe, who after building the Bronco program from the ground up and serving six seasons as head coach left to take the same position at UC Davis in July.

With the openers day away, here's a peek at five key storylines for Boise State's 2015 campaign:

"A New Era: Cindy Ball Takes Helm At Boise State"

Head coach Cindy Ball begins her first year as Boise State boss in 2015. Ball, named the second head coach in Boise State history on Aug. 29, succeeds Erin Thorpe, who after building the Bronco program from the ground up and serving six seasons as head coach left to take the same position at UC Davis in July.

Ball has four seasons as a head coach at the junior-college level under her belt as she served in the position at Modesto Junior College (2007) and Consumnes River College (2008-10). She put together a record of 136-66 over those four seasons, including a 111-44 mark at Consumnes River College, which she led to the Cal JC State Final Four in 2010.

At the Division I level, Ball has spent eight seasons as an assistant coach, first serving as a graduate assistant coach at her alma mater, Pacific, from 2003-06. She would then serve as an assistant coach at Washington from 2011-12 before spending the past two seasons at Cal State Northridge (2013-14).

Ball was also a decorated player at Pacific, being named an NFCA All-American and Big West Pitcher of the Year following the 2001 and 2002 seasons. She helped lead the Tigers to three NCAA Tournament appearances and still holds nine career-pitching records at the school. In 2012, she was one of the first two Pacific softball players to have her number (No. 9) retired by the program.

She is joined on staff by first-year assistant coaches Taylor Smith and Nate Miller.

Ball's thoughts:
"Our team is very confident in the preparation we have put in all fall and in January. We are striving towards getting better everyday, and learning how to play best together as a team. We are very excited to put all of our hard work into the game. We are committed to taking care of the ball and hitting for the situation, but most of all you will see this team stick to our process. They look to accomplish playing hard and having fun with their teammates."

"Devon's Back"

First baseman Devon Bridges, the top power hitter in program history, returns in 2015 for her fifth season after having her 2014 campaign cut short by injury. Bridges, Boise State's all-time leader in six offensive categories including home runs (43), RBI (153) and slugging percentage (.687), also owns a career batting average of .373 (second-best in program history) and is a three-time all-conference selection (All-WAC in 2011, All-MW in 2012-13). Despite appearing in just 13 games last year, Bridges batted .409 with nine hits, a home run and 10 RBI.

Bridges also enters 2015 needing just 37 hits to supplant Tara Glover (216) as well as 143 at-bats to pass Holly Bourke's (2010-13) Bronco career record of 625.

Ball's thoughts:
"Devon is a pitcher's nightmare, she has some of the fastest hands I know and one of the best-balanced swings in the game. Her bat will win a lot of games for us, and so will her positive championship presence on the field."

"Senior Leadership"

Bridges' return from injury also highlights Boise State's four-woman senior class that will provide a healthy punch to the lineup. In addition to Bridges, the Bronco senior class features 2014 second-team All-MW infielder Jordan Kreiger (.313, 47 hits, 37 runs, 14 doubles, 25 RBI), catcher Hailey "Buggs" Torrez (.331, 43 hits, 4 doubles, 27 RBI) and outfielder Lindsey Nicholson (.279, 36 hits, 24 runs, eight doubles, four home runs). Together, the quartet accounted for 35.3 percent (135 out of 382) of Bronco hits in 2014, while Kreiger (14-for-18) and Nicholson (14-for-15) bring the speed on the basepaths, having combined to steal 28 bases in 33 attempts, an 84.8-percent success rate, last season.

Ball's thoughts:
"These fearless four have been a blessing every single day. Since Sept 2, the day that I started, they have been nothing but bought in. Devon, Jordan, Lindsey and Buggs have committed to leading this team through preseason into May 10 and beyond. It will be exciting to see them have the opportunity to put their leadership in action on the field in games. They are completely ready to lead their team this season."

"New Look In The Circle"

The graduation of 2014 ace Rebecca Patton (25-14, 3.04 ERA, 244.1 IP), who tossed Boise State's final 30.0 innings last season, leaves the circle ready for the next Bronco to step up. Sophomore Mackenzie McGill (5-4, 5.85 ERA, 75.1 IP) is the lone returning full-time pitcher in 2015, and she will be joined by junior Nicole Wilson, a transfer from St. Peter's, as well as freshman Rachel Rodriguez out of Fresno's Central High School.

Ball's thoughts:
"The sky is the limit with this pitching group. You are going to see a dynamic pitching staff that isn't afraid to work together to win a game. They have been challenged all year long physically and mentally, and understand what it takes to carry your team in the circle. All four pitchers have their own mastery to the art of pitching, which will make us stronger as we get games under our belt.

As for Gill she will be a transformed pitcher from last year. We're looking forward to hearing the catcher's glove pop and seeing Gill stand tall in that circle. Her determination to get better for her team has been amazing to watch over the past five months. Rachel is our bulldog on the mound, Nicole is the workhorse, and Sarah Barnes is the quiet thunder."

"The Newcomers"

Boise State's roster will be boosted in 2015 by the addition of 12 newcomers, a group made up of seven incoming freshmen and five transfers.

Three of the transfers, junior infielder/outfielder Corey Hendrickson (Florida State), and sophomores Ashley Panetta, a catcher/outfielder, and Nicole Wilson (St. Peter's), a pitcher, come from Division I programs, while junior outfielder Ariel Frantz (College of Southern Nevada) and junior shortstop Teauna Hughes (Mount Hood CC) come from the junior-college ranks.

The seven freshmen include first baseman/outfielder Alexandra Didion, outfielder Kaelie Doyle, infielder/outfielder Laina Holmgren, shortstop/outfielder Sara Ketelsleger, third baseman/outfielder ShaeLee Pearson, pitcher Rachel Rodriguez and infielder/outfielder Makenzie Sullivan.

Ball's thoughts:
"The culture of this program is 'Team First,' and that is exactly what our returners have taught to our newcomers. We are all newcomers, since we have four new coaches and 12 new players, and have felt nothing but welcomed since the moment we stepped on this campus. When you watch us you won't be able to tell who is new and who isn't because we all play as one, and that means we play comfortably with our entire team. New is always good, and our dedication to creating a culture of 'Team First, Bronco Passion, Resilience, Confidence and Discipline' are held at the forefront."

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