Analysis: USI softball to enter first DI season


Photo by Quinton Watt

Josie Newman, Spring 2022 freshman pitcher and infielder, winds up for a pitch against Missouri S&T April 24, 2022 at Broadway Recreational Complex.

Eric Reynolds, Sports Writer

The USI softball team is entering the 2023 season with a mixture of experienced and inexperienced players. There are seven freshmen on this team compared to only four seniors. 

Softball is returning from a 49-13 record overall with a 26-2 Great Lakes Valley Conference record in their final Division II season. The team won both the GLVC regular season title and the GLVC tournament last season.

Along with the team’s GLVC success, they won both the NCAA DII Midwest Region #1 Tournament and the NCAA DII Midwest Super Regional. These tournament victories resulted in an NCAA DII Softball Championship Tournament appearance for the team.

The team is led by their returning seniors Allie Goodin, senior pitcher and first baseman, Emma Tucher, senior outfielder and infielder, Jordan Rager, senior infielder, and Rachel Martinez, senior utility player. 

Goodin solidified herself as one of the most important players on the roster last season due to her 2.03 ERA as a pitcher, along with eight home runs, a 0.610 slugging percentage and a 0.420 on-base percentage as a hitter. 

The team has kept both of their top-line starters, Goodin and Josie Newman, sophomore pitcher and infielder, which can lead them to success in a tough Ohio Valley Conference. 

Newman was arguably the team’s leading pitcher last season as a freshman with a 1.74 ERA and a team-leading 185 strikeouts.

The duo pitching combination gives the Screaming Eagles a great opportunity to succeed, especially since Goodin and Newman are different styles of pitchers. Newman is a strikeout pitcher. Goodin is a contact pitcher. 

The difference between a strikeout pitcher and a contact pitcher is that usually the strikeout pitcher will keep runners off base by not allowing hitters to make any contact at all, and contact pitchers do not have the strikeout ability, but they do induce weak contact from the batters resulting in either ground balls or flyouts instead of strikeouts.

The team will, however, be looking for a consistent top-of-the-line hitter due to the graduation of Katie Back, 2022 pitcher and first baseman. Goodin is primed to take this spot in the lineup as she was second on the team in home runs and fifth in batting average.

With the departure of Back, the Screaming Eagles will be forced to go with a more contact-oriented approach at the plate. With returning starters such as Lexi Fair, junior catcher and infielder, Mackenzie Bedrick, junior outfielder, Sammie Kihega, junior catcher and infielder, and Rager the Screaming Eagles will be able to use contact hitting to their advantage. The lowest batting average of the players listed was 0.305, making them incredibly likely to get base hits consistently.

There are seven freshmen on the team who currently have the opportunity to play with talented and experienced upperclassmen this season who they can learn from to develop their skills. 

This year’s freshman softball class includes Caroline Stapleton, freshman outfielder, Carlee Effinger, freshman utility player, Raegan Gibson, freshman pitcher, Kylie Eads, freshman pitcher, Lavin Osborne, freshman infielder, Olivia Money, freshman outfielder and Julianna Hibbs, freshman infielder. 

The freshman class could play an important role in filling the holes left by the graduating class to continue the past season’s success. 

With the departure of Murray State University and Belmont University from the OVC, the top two programs from the 2022 season, USI has a golden opportunity to come into the conference and compete for a championship. 

USI has its first softball game Friday against Winthrop University in Elon, North Carolina. The game starts the five-game Elon Softball Classic that stretches from Feb. 10-12. 

Check out the rest of USI softball’s schedule here