Memphis 2014 Softball Preview: Infielders
Jan. 31, 2014
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Much like the pitchers and catchers, the infield for the University of Memphis softball team in 2014 will be a mix of talented returners and talented newcomers.
After transferring from Western Carolina, Braman appeared in 54 games and made 52 starts as a junior in 2013. She finished third on the team in both hits (38) and home runs (2).
Goranson has played in 87 games at first base or designated player during her Memphis career, and enters her senior season with 21 career runs batted in. Goranson has made just five errors during her three years as a Tiger so far.
As a freshman last season, Cierra Mangum was a major contributor for the Tigers. She made 51 starts at third base, led the team in walks with 28, and finished second in on-base percentage at .358. Smith, a utility player, appeared in 23 games and made 13 starts all around the infield last season
This group will be joined by freshmen utility infielder Sami Jo Schulz, first baseman Anna Thomas and shortstop Brittany Vaughn. All three arrive at Memphis with accolades from their high school and club careers.
Schulz, a Munford, Tenn. native, was a three-time all-district selection and a two-time all-region selection in high school. Thomas earned all-state honors in 2013 at Bentonville High School in Bentonville, Ark., while Vaughn was a two-time all-state selection in Kentucky.
“I think the group is an athletic group. I think a lot of the players can play multiple positions if necessary,” Memphis head coach Natalie Poole said of her infielders.
The graduation of three infielders from last season, Jami Miller, Morgan Mosby and Laura Curtis, means the returners, especially Braman and Goranson, will need to take on that leadership role this season.
“As a senior, people will look to me and follow my lead,” Braman said. “So, if I set the right example, hopefully the rest of the team can follow in my footsteps.
In addition to leading by example, the returning infielders will play a role in helping the newcomers adjust to college softball, something Vaughn said they have already started to do.
“They (the returning players) have been guiding me in the right direction,” Vaughn said. “They have helped me keep my mind on what’s coming next and not on past mistakes.”
Regardless of who is in the infield during games, the players and coaches all agreed that one thing will be crucial to the group’s success this season: communication.
“Communication is key. If we don’t have communication out there, we are not going to do well,” Mangum said. “If we keep that (communication) up in games, it will help us get some wins.”
The coaching staff has spent the past few weeks challenging all of the Tigers to be more vocal in the infield.
“It is crucial that they communicate with each other in terms of strategy, when we have different types of hitters up, or when we are covering different bases than normal,” Poole said.
As the newcomers continue to adjust, the onus will remain on the remaining players to challenge the whole group of infielders to be more vocal on the field.
“We will need a vocal presence out there on the field this year,” Braman said. “When you have someone who is upbeat and positive and loud all the time, I think that makes a big difference.”
As preseason practice winds down, the group continues to focus on the little things with an eye on big improvements for 2014.
“We want them to work on better recovery,” Poole said. “Sometimes last season, when things didn’t go right, we would have a second mistake that followed. I’d like to see us handle adversity better.”
When mistakes happen, the players have focused on continuing to support each other, rather than let the mistakes frustrate the team.
“That support helps me shake things off more quickly. Softball is loud and has a lot of cheering in general,” Braman said. “So being loud on that field helps us all come together for our own benefit.”
This group of infielders in clearly a close-knit group, and that positive, vocal atmosphere should help produce results on the field in 2014.
“Be positive and let your teammates know that you are always there for them,” Mangum said of the group’s focus for this season.
Next week, GoTigersGo.com concludes its season preview with an in-depth look at the Memphis outfielders. The Tigers open the season in seven days, taking on Middle Tennessee on Feb. 7 in Troy, Ala.