Memphis 2014 Softball Preview: Outfielders
Feb. 4, 2014
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – If one word could be used to describe the outfield for the 2014 University of Memphis softball team, that word would be depth.
Lindsay Crowdus, Ijiah Hargrove, Breslin Perry, Hannah Harrell, Lindsie Knowles and Wheeler Hill, a total of six players, will compete for playing time at the three outfield spots throughout the 2014 season.
While certain players may have a leg up in the competition, the depth within this group ensures that all six will work as hard as possible to get on the field.
“I feel like it’s going to be a great year of people continuing to push each other. That does motivate them,” head coach Natalie Poole said. “People are always waiting to get in that game and make the most of the opportunity. It will continue to raise the level of our outfield.”
Hargrove, Perry and Harrell are the most experienced of the group. Hargrove, a senior, has played in 138 games and has made 87 starts at Memphis. She looks forward to taking on an important role in the outfield this season.
“I expect to be a leader in the outfield. To have a voice and make sure we are calm and confident,” Hargrove said. “If a ball comes, I need to make sure we know where we are going with the ball and that we have each other’s backs.”
Perry, a junior from Austell, Ga., has played in 64 games over her first two seasons with the Tigers. She believes that the depth and competition for playing time will help each player perform at their best.
“It’s definitely been a competition,” Perry said of the preseason. “It pushes us more and more throughout each practice and each scrimmage.”
Harrell returns for her sophomore season after being named to the 2013 Conference USA All-Freshman Team. In 2013, the Ashland, Miss., native hit .267 for the season and led the team with a .419 (13-for-31) batting average during conference play. As she gains more experience, Harrell has learned how important it is to focus on the little things.
“Taking care of the ball, focusing on what you have to do,” Harrell said of her focus for the upcoming season. “Don’t try to make it a bigger deal, just play the ball and do what you have to do.
Hill, a redshirt sophomore, played in 33 games last season, and Knowles, also a sophomore, made 27 appearances in 2013.
The newcomer in the group is Crowdus, a freshman from Houma, La. Crowdus was a four-time all-state selection at Houma Christian School.
While there is playing time available, the competition for that time has only made the group closer as teammates.
“It’s friendly competition. We get along really well and have great chemistry. We are helping each other by trying to be better,” Perry said.
Harrell echoed Perry’s statement, and believes each player’s desire to start makes the group better as a whole.
“You do have that competitive spirit because you want to gain that starting spot,” Harrell said. “It’s still that friendly competition. You still have your teammates there to help you and motivate you.”
Perhaps the most exciting thing for the coaches is all of the talent and potential that is a part of this outfield competition. Poole and her staff are pushing this group with the hopes of being one of the best outfields in the American Athletic Conference.
“We have good enough speed that we shouldn’t see balls dropping. We shouldn’t see insecure catches. We shouldn’t see balls get past our outfielders,” Poole said. “They are going to have to step up and they know that. There’s a level of play they have to rise to and help contribute throughout the entire season.”
Trust, an important theme for any team sport, will be extremely important for this group of outfielders to have a successful 2014 season.
“We are the last line of defense. Knowing the player next to you, knowing how they play the ball and how the read the ball is very important,” Perry said. “Trusting that she has my back in any situation and on any play I have hers.”
The Tigers open the season this weekend at the 2014 Troy Subway Invitational in Troy, Ala. Memphis will face Middle Tennessee to open the season at 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7.