The Ferris State softball team is eager and ready for an 18-day trip to Florida.
While other Ferris students will be heading south soon to party and take a break from school, the softball team will be getting down to business on the diamond. The Bulldogs will leave this Thursday, Feb. 25 to the Sunshine State.
Starting the following Sunday, Feb. 28, the team will begin a packed schedule, playing 22 games in just 14 days. Players are anxious to get back on the diamond regardless of the busy couple of weeks.
“I’m really excited because of the fact that we’ve been practicing for so long in the rubber room and it’s just not the same,” said Ferris junior pitcher Megan Hiler. “I’m just excited to be out in the warmth and have dirt under my cleats and actually play competition rather than just practicing.”
The Bulldogs will be enjoying the warm weather, playing games in five different Florida cities including Tampa and Daytona Beach. The warm weather combined with the rigorous schedule could cause the Dawgs some wear and tear, but they are up for the challenge.
Ferris junior pitcher/outfielder Megan Jean said, “Our team has been preparing for our intense schedule in Florida by doing a base strength conditioning program as well as putting in the time and repetition in our practices to make sure we are ready. These games in Florida are getting us prepared for our demanding schedule of regular season games and anticipated post-season play.”
It also helps that the Bulldogs have a 22-player roster this season and a six-pitcher rotation as opposed to the 16-player roster and a five-pitcher rotation the Dawgs played with last season.
The team has been preparing under a completely new coaching staff including pitching/strength and conditioning coach Adam Kirkpatrick, assistant coach Jasmine Watson and head coach Wally King.
King brings decades of experience to the Bulldogs after the team posted a disappointing 16-36 record last season. Some of King’s accomplishments include winning two Big East Championships and four 30-win seasons in a five-year tenancy as the associate head coach at Division I Syracuse University.
“We have all gotten better since Coach King, Coach Watson and Coach Kirkpatrick have been here and we will continue to get better,” said Jean.
Hiler had nothing but praise for her new coaches as well, especially King.
She said, “I have never met anybody as ‘softball smart’ as he is. He can watch you take one swing and he knows what you’re doing wrong, or watch us pitch and tell us what we’re doing wrong. He just knows everything about every position. It’s amazing.”
Though the Bulldogs will have plenty of softball to play, the team is excited to escape to the warm air of Florida and take a bit of a break from the stresses of class and practice. During their 14-day stretch of 22 games, the Dawgs will have two days where they won’t play any games.
“I think we’re actually practicing on those days, but most of the girls’ parents are coming down and in years past we’ve been able to go to spring training Tigers games, so that’s something people usually do. We also went to the beach last year and that was pretty fun,” said Hiler.
When the Bulldogs return from their trip, they’ll kick off their GLIAC games with double-headers against Lake Erie and Ashland on Friday, March 25 and Saturday, March 26, but as for now the team is focused on the task at hand.
Hiler said, “Our goals are to win and get prepared so that we can come back and play well in the GLIAC and get used to playing together as a team.”