Softball ready for postseason return

After a posting a winning season in 2013, the Missouri Southern Lions softball team went backwards the next season, finishing eight games below 500 (19-35). With 11 returning players and seven newcomers, the Lions look to roar back for the 2015 season and make a run towards a conference title.

The Lions were chosen to finish 11th in the MIAA Pre-Season Coaches poll released Jan. 29.

“We feel like we can play with anybody in this conference,” said head coach Bill Gray. “I have a great group of kids with solid leadership. We can turn our record around and make some noise in the conference tournament.”

The Lion’s last season had a losing streak of three or more games six different times. The Lions also combined to go 9-25 on the road and at neutral sites. These are three aspects the Lions look to improve heavily on during this 2015 season.

Entering his seventh season as the head softball coach at Missouri Southern is Bill Gray. Gray has posted a 134-191 record since becoming the seventh head coach in Southern softball history.

Alongside coach Gray in her first season with the Lions is assistant coach Melissa Chmielewski. Chmielewski comes to Southern after two years as the head coach at Eagan (Minn.) High School, where she took a 1-19 program and complied a two-year record of 18-23.

“Coach Chmielewski was a great pickup,” said Gray. “She’s come right in and done a great job. She’s keeping me going in the right direction.”

Leadership is key for this 2015 Lions team. The Lions return 11 players, led by seniors Brooke Swadley and Kathryn Goins-Osburn. The two seniors are accompanied by five juniors.

“Those seven ladies help push each other as well as teach the younger ones what we expect, and they’ve done a great job with it so far,” said Gray.

Returning sophomore outfielder Jessica Killer looks to build upon a stellar freshman season.

“I look to get better by practicing hard every day,” said Killer. “It helps knowing that on a bad day, my team will be there to always pick me up.”

The Lions get the season under way tomorrow in the Quachita Baptist Tournament in Arkadelphia, Ark., against Quachita Baptist. First pitch is set for noon.