Shelton Begins Senior Year for Millikin Softball Team
Published on February 27 2014 2:14 pm
Last Updated on February 28 2014 11:33 am
Written by Millie Lange
DECATUR, Ill. — After a full year of planning and recruiting, second year Millikin University Head Softball Coach Amber Dohlman believes the Big Blue program is on course to improve on last year’s 20-15 record.
“This year we have a clear vision of where we want to go as a program,” states Dohlman. Dohlman believes that adding her first recruiting class to the program has added more athleticism to the team and added players with better understanding of where the program is going.
In 2014, Millikin will continue its emphasis on hitting and will be looking to add more speed to its lineup. Coach Dohlman is using Millikin’s six weeks of indoor practice to work on hitting and pitching. Millikin hitters are doing more individual work with the coaching staff and taking 500 swings a week.
Millikin returns 12 letterwinners including six returning starters. Two of the Big Blue’s key pitchers from the last two seasons have graduated, but Dohlman believes Millikin has the arms to be successful on the hill. Seniors Hillary Shelton (Beecher City, H.S.) and Hillary Lambert (Donovan, H.S.) both return. Shelton, a lefty, pitched in 15 games last season with a 6-5 record. Lambert pitched in nine games last season with a 2-2 record. The Millikin staff will be bolstered by the addition of junior transfer Taylor Hull (Decatur, MacArthur H.S./Parkland CC).
Behind the plate, sophomores Abbie Tinnon (Bartonville, Limestone Community H.S.) and Lena Dyer (Chesterfield, Mo., Cor Jesu Academy) return after making their marks last season. Tinnon played in 25 games with a .309 batting average. Dyer was a solid performer in her 15 appearances.
The Millikin infield returners are led by junior Rachel Kindred (Ottawa, H.S.) at first base. Kindred started all 35 games last season with a .366 batting average and 16 RBIs.
Millikin will need to replace its starting double play combination from last season leaving the battle for the middle infield spots wide open. Senior shortstop Meghan Matthews (Clinton, H.S.) returns after missing all of 2013 with a knee injury. Matthews was a solid performer for Millikin starting all 79 games at short for the Big Blue in her first two seasons.
The competition for playing time at third base will be intense between three players including two that saw time at the hot corner last season. Junior Becca Thompson (Hanover Park, Schaumburg H.S.) earned CCIW All-Conference Second Team honors last season playing both third base and the outfield. Thompson hit .357 in conference action and hit .302 overall with three home runs and 16 RBIs. Sophomore Sarah Kisch (Elgin, Burlington Central H.S.) is back after batting .429 in 12 games last season. Junior transfer Raeshel Braden (Decatur, St. Teresa H.S./Parkland CC) will be in the mix after a successful junior college career at third base. The trio will battle for plate appearances as the designated player as well as time at third. Sophomore Alyssa Visvardis (Homer Glen, Lockport Township H.S.) leads the group of returning outfielders. Visvardis was named Millikin’s Best Offensive Player last season after hitting .323 with a team high six homeruns and 28 RBIs. Senior Rachael Bishop (Villa Grove, H.S.), Shelton and sophomore Raquel Rodriguez (San Antonio, Texas, John Jay H.S.) all return to battle for time in the Big Blue outfield.
Five other returners give the Big Blue depth around the diamond. Junior Kaitlyn Gumina (Newton Falls, Ohio, H.S.) and sophomores Brie Cimino (Homewood, Homewood Flossmoor H.S.) and Kelli Layton (Grayslake, Warren H.S.) provide experience in the outfield. Sophomores Lexi Rogers (Tuscola, H.S.) and Kirsten Iversen (Tinley Park, Lincoln Way North H.S.) provide the Big Blue with solid hitting and infield flexiblitly.
Nine freshmen complete the Millikin roster with several of those players expected to push the returners for playing time as the season progresses.
Millikin opens the 2014 season with four games at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. March 1-2 facing Rhodes and Fontbonne University.