WALNUT RIDGE – The Williams Baptist University (WBU) softball program will begin year one under Head Coach Jessica Nutt on Tuesday, Feb. 11. The Lady Eagles travel down Highway 412 to Paragould to battle against Crowley’s Ridge College in a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m.
“Our preseason has gone well. There have been some adjustments that had to be made as I have different expectations, but the team was very receptive to me, and they have made adjustments quickly. I have a different style of coaching and I am excited to get the season started,” stated Nutt.
The team returns 18 ladies from a team that won 13 games a year ago, including four all-conference performers. Laura Helmich returns for her final season after being named first-team All-AMC twice and second-team once. She was also AMC Freshman of the Year in 2017.
The two-way player holds a career ERA of 1.75 with 36 career wins from the circle. She has struck out 365 batters in her career with 11 shutout victories.
From the plate, the Avilla, Ark. native has a .353 batting average with an on-base percentage of .424. She has hit six home runs with 64 RBI.
Another senior, Tori Johnson, earned second-team All-AMC honors in 2018. The second baseman has hit .312 for her career with an on-base percentage of .397. She hit a career-high five home runs in 2019. For her career, she has 69 runs batted in and 167 total bases.
Maggie Crossno returns for her junior season after earning second-team all-conference honors in 2019. Crossno led the team last year with six home runs while finishing third in RBI with 22. She was second on the team with a .339 batting average and led the way with a .616 slugging percentage.
Kaydra Cole led the team with a .395 average a season ago on her way to second-team All-AMC honors. The Paragould, Ark. native hit three home runs with 20 RBI and a .464 on-base percentage.
These ladies join Hali Williams, Ashley Hagel, Hannah Crafton, Tess Temple, Emma Shinn, Bailey Zini, Ashley Sloan, Chasity Gandy, Camryn Martin, Baylee Haskins, Jaye Chalk, Macy Carter, Cailey Cossey and Mikayla Adams as returners.
“We have a great group of returners, and I am excited to see their leadership, on and off the field, throughout our season,” added Nutt.
The newcomers consist of Shelby Jones, Alyssa Cordell, Kayla Spray, Jenna James, Jillian Hunter, Jordan Menard, Angel Gillette, Madison Strayhorn, Victoria Schmidt, Barbara Thomas, Allie Weber, Briana Mahoney and Elizabeth Adams.
“I am excited to see which freshmen will earn some varsity time and make an impact when they play,” said Nutt.
The schedule is set up where the first ten games will be played on the road. After opening with CRC, the Lady Eagles will play in back-to-back tournaments hosted by Evangel University in Missouri. First, on Feb. 14-15 they will compete in the Doubletree Preseason Round Robin. Next, they will compete in the Queen City Bash on Feb. 21-22.
The first home doubleheader is scheduled for Feb. 25 against Bethel University. Game one is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
The AMC Preseason Coaches’ Poll has the team slated to finish seventh.
“My goal for the season is to compete for each game and compete for every pitch. I hope we learn to make adjustments at the plate quicker and score every inning. We want to play WBU softball. We want to be playing good softball when it matters most,” added Nutt.
AMC play begins on March 13 in St. Louis, Mo., at Missouri Baptist University. The home conference opener is scheduled for March 17 against Lyon College.
The program has a history of success. The Lady Eagles have had a .500 or better record in 11 of the last 12 years. They have made four national tournament appearances in that time, finishing in the top six nationally twice.
You can keep up with the team all year round at www.wbueagles.com as well on Instagram and Twitter at @WBUEagles and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WBUEagles/.