Softball team sees huge roster change



Junior OF/INF Alli Hylton steps up to the plate during a game last season.

John Margida, Reporter

The Ashland University softball team is coming off a successful 2019 season where they finished 33-22 and made the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament for the second time under third-year head coach Emyln Knerem.

The Eagle roster this year will look a lot different with the graduation of nine seniors and the addition of 10 new players: nine freshman and one transfer. With a brand new set of players, the expectations are high as the team looks to build on what could be a great foundation for years to come for AU softball.

With so many new players added to this year’s team, a lot of ups and downs for the Eagles are expected this spring according to Knerem. Nothing is certain and most of all, the team will be trying to focus on finding as newfound congruence.

“Trying to figure out what the best lineup is going to be for us and trying to fit all the pieces right so we can still be a successful team this season is what is important right now,” Knerem said. “This group might surprise some people.”

Junior OF/INF Alli Hylton believes that the incoming freshmen are not to be underestimated.

“This year we are very young and I was very nervous coming into the season, but the freshman are so hardworking and they worked their butts off improving and getting better in the off-season,” Hylton said. “We can definitely have a great season.”

Only three seniors remain on the team this season: catcher Cassie Haight, second-baseman Camille Pollutro and shortstop Bree Gill. With that experience, the freshman will be able to calm their nerves in the first few games with leadership still available to keep the team running smoothly.

“Last year we had a lot of seniors and this year it is just being there for the few that are left,” Hylton said. “Doing what I can to help lead every new teammate we have. Along with this season’s seniors, I am just doing my best to be the best player and leader I can be for them.”

Pollutro believes that the best experience for the new players will be learning the ins and outs of each opponent and getting a feel for GLIAC competition.

“Going into every game this year we just need to know we can get the job done,” Pollutro said. “Our coach said ignorance can kind of be our friend at times because we have no idea what to expect from our opponents with many new faces on our team.”

This season, the Eagles will only feature three pitchers on the 20 person roster, all three being freshmen. There will definitely be some adjusting and the very realistic expectation that they will have some growing pains pitching in college, Knerem said.

“This year we have three freshman pitchers and they’re going to give up runs and hits,” she said. “We just need to make sure we are helping them get accustomed to pitching at the collegiate level this season.”

The AU softball team has started their 2020 season off with their annual early-season tournament in Rosemont, Ill. where they went 1-3 to start the year.

“We usually don’t do that hot in the early season tournament so this is nothing new to us,” Pollutro said. “But we’ve proven our skill the past two years by making it to the GLIAC Tournament.”

To Knerem, the most important aspect of the new season will be team bonding.

“This year’s team is a lot of fun,” Knerem said. “They bring a lot of energy to every practice and we really enjoy our team this year. The bonding is going to be a great key to our success this season because there will be some very low lows and very high highs; having a great group of kids will help us navigate that this season.”

To Pollutro, keeping a modest attitude is also key.

“The pitchers will need to figure out how to calm their nerves when they aren’t throwing the way they want,” Polltro said. “The hitters know that no pitcher is better than our batters, we can relax and focus on what we are doing at that moment. It’s so important to not get hot-headed.”

To Hylton, this season is all about setting groundwork for generations to come.

“We have to set the tone here and now if we want to see this team continue to grow and develop,” she said.

The Eagle softball team will not take the field again until their spring break trip to Winter Haven, Fla. Their first game there will be played on March 8 at 10 a.m. against Lake Erie.

“I’m just looking forward to getting our freshman and new kids experience,” Knerem said. “I like the direction the program is going and keeping Ashland softball what Ashland softball is. Holding our team to the standards that were set here over 20 years of the history of the program. Using this year is a stepping stone to success in the future.”