AU softball: Expecting greatness in 2019 season



An AU pitcher winds up in a contest in the 2018 season.


After feeling out the water last year with new head coach Emlyn Knerem, the Ashland University softball team is ready to crack down and give the 2019 season their all.

“Our motto this year is to expect greatness,” junior infielder Camille Pollutro said. “We need to go in to each game expecting to take two and avoid complacency.”

Last year, Pollutro had a breakout season as a sophomore, achieving a .390 batting average, 33 runs, and a .968 fielding percentage.

“She’s one of those girls who’s an all around athlete, she goes out there and plays hard,” Knerem said.

Knerem, now in her second year coaching at AU, expects to have a successful season and further grow as a team. Knerem was hired in 2017 and succeeded Sheilah Gulas who coached the Eagles from 1997-2017.

In her first year, Knerem secured a 23-25 record for the Eagles and led them to substantial wins such as their 2-0 win over Grand Valley State University on April 21, 2018.

“We came in there, knocked two home runs out. Laney Jones pitched a phenomenal game, we were one of their two losses they had in-conference last year,” Knerem said. “That shows how good of a team they were and we ended up on top.”

The Eagles were eliminated from the GLIAC Tournament on May 4 after losing to No. 3 seed Saginaw Valley State (10-6) and then subsequently, No.7 seed Northwood (9-7).

“We had our backs against the wall and I thought we did a really great job being patient, finding holes and getting runners in to make a game out of it,” Knerem said.

Knerem explained that the largest hurdle of last year was settling into a new team dynamic.

“One of the big ones was just getting to know each other. They were trying to get to know my coaching style and I was still settling in as a first year head coach,” Knerem said. “Last season started slow because of that and I want a stronger start this season. We want to stress the importance of every single game this time around and hopefully we’ll sit above that .500 mark.”

Senior first baseman Kylie Asmus has a similar mindset to that of Knerem.

“I view last year as a learning experience; we had some downfalls and the weather didn’t help,” Asmus said. “We’ve used last year to our advantage though and adjusted, and we are striving for better this year.”

AU head coach Emlyn Knerem coaches her players from third base.

Asmus had a similarly successful season last year. As a junior she scored 28 runs, 246 putouts, and a .362 batting average. Asmus is one of nine seniors on the team this year, a stark contrast to last season with pitcher Paige McMenemy and catcher Sadie Cunningham being the only two seniors.

“We have nine seniors so essentially we’re bringing back all of our starters with the exception of McMenemy,” said Knerem. “We’ll see our three pitchers this year get a lot more time all around.”

Although the team lost McMenemy and Cunningham, Knerem is confident that the new upperclassman will fulfill lost roles.

“We have a very strong lineup coming back, getting (now) upperclassman like junior Dayna Denner back in the lineup will be great for us, adding another powerbat to the list. The goal is to keep our core strong.”

Along with Knerem’s coaching abilities, Erin Pond was hired as assistant coach in July, 2018.

“Pitching and defense has always been more of my forte,” Knerem said. “I purposefully looked for someone who could teach batting and take over the offense, and Erin came here and just ran with it. I think she’ll definitely help a lot with our teams growth offensively.”

Pond has adopted a new offensive philosophy that she is teaching to the players. Essentially the goal is to put pressure on the defence and focus on hitting ground balls and working up

Senior Paige Summers steps up to the plate in a game last season.

to line drives.

“She stresses putting the ball into play hard and working ground up,” said Asmus.

The AU softball team officially kicks off its season on Feb. 22 when they play at the Sixth Annual Lewis Dome Invitational Softball Tournament. Over the course of two days, they will play Lewis University, William Jewell, Missouri S&T, and Lindenwood University.

The Eagles’ GLIAC schedule will commence on March 20 at 3 p.m. at Brookside Park in a doubleheader vs. Northwood. They have been chosen to finish fourth in the 2019 GLIAC preseason poll, which was released on Feb. 7. In 2018, Ashland tied for fifth in the conference standings.

“We need to keep our pitchers fresh and strong, and make sure that everyone is ready for a challenge,” said Knerem. “Our conference is tough, it’s pretty much like a dogfight every time we take the field. There were a lot of splits last year and a lot of back and forth so we need to walk in to every single game with confidence.”