"This season, we have some returning players with a great deal of experience and we look forward to having them lead us to the next level," said head coach Ken Prorok. "Last season we held down the number two spot in the conference going into the last week of conference play, this team has set their sights even higher and have worked very hard this off-season to achieve their goals.â€
With just six upperclassmen, the Trojans are, for the most part, a very young team. All six upperclassmen - Laura Shanafelt, Ashley Souphimdara, Jayna Ackerman, Leslie Neiman, Ashley Stevenson and Amanda Stevenson - have been starters since the day they arrived on campus, starting in over 40 games each last season.
â€œWe have added eight talented freshmen. Despite losing three everyday starters and two pitchers from last year's squad, we feel like we're a much improved team,â€ said Prorok. â€œThe freshmen have brought in a lot of versatility, speed and offensive power that we needed in our line-up. They can play a variety of positions, which gives us great depth and competition within the program.â€
Ken Prorok will be entering his fourth year as the head coach for the Trojans. During his tenure the Trojans have been successful on and off the field, receiving honors both academically and athletically. Trojan softball players have earned 29 different recognitions during Prorok's tenure including; 18 DAC Scholar Athletes, 5 All-Conference selections, 3 player of the week recipients, 2 Gold Glove recipients, and the 2009 Freshman of the Year recipient. Under Coach Prorok, the Trojans have also been recognized nationally as a top ranked program in the following statistical categories: Batting Average #20 in 2006 (.334), Stolen Bases # 22 in 2006 (82), Home Runs #33 in 2008 (.609 per game), Stolen Bases #23 in 2009 (82). In 2009, the Trojans saw five different players ranked nationally in nine different positive statistical categories.
Brittany Postma enters her first season as a graduate assistant for the Trojans, after completing a very productive career as a 4-year starter at NCAA D-I South Dakota State University. Postma ended her career hitting .307 in 2009 facing some of the nation's best teams, including Arizona State, UCLA, Texas Tech, Creighton, Nebraska, North Dakota State and Missouri. In 2008 Postma was selected as a member of the Black Hills Gold All-Star team. The Black Hills Gold team, coached by current Dakota State Head coach Ken Prorok, was formed to play only one game against TEAM USA in an exhibition on July 15th, 2008 in Rapid City, SD. TEAM USA defeated the Gold 4-0 at the end of regulation. Postma hit third in the line-up for the Gold, and faced Olympian Monica Abbott.
In the circle this season the Trojans will be led by freshmen Ashton Lansink and Madison Willers. Lansink was a three time All-Conference selection in high school as well as an All-District selection from Primghar, IA. Lansink had a very productive fall for the Trojans allowing just one earned run in a scrimmage against South Dakota State. Willers a hard throwing right hander from Shenandoah, IA., was a two-time All-Conference selection in high school. Willers also had a dominating performance this fall against Dakota Wesleyan.
Behind the plate, DSU returns sophomore Jayna Ackerman. Ackerman started in 41 games for the Trojans last season recording 127 at bats and scoring 15 times. On April 20th, 2009 Ackerman recorded her first collegiate home run against Jamestown College (ND) in the second game of a double header en route to a 3-for-6 day at the plate.
Competing with Ackerman for time behind the plate this year will be freshman Danielle Vitale. Vitale is one of four players from the Victoria Devils club team, from Victoria, British Columbia, that will be on the roster this season. Vitale, when not behind the plate, is expected to fill the role as the teams DP.
Dakota State boasts a talented group of infielders this season, including returning starters Laura Shanafelt, Ashley Stevenson, and Leslie Neiman.
Shanafelt, one of two seniors on this year's roster, is again expected to hold the starting job at second base for the Trojans. In 2009, she appeared in all 45 games while leading the team in sacrifices with 18. Defensively, she posted a .945 fielding percentage. Laura had six multi-hit games in 2009 including a 2-for-4 effort against South Dakota State on April 30th.
Stevenson, a versatile sophomore, who started every game at first base for the Trojans last season, has moved to short stop. The Victoria, British Columbia native, who posted a .978 fielding percentage in 2009, recorded 341 put-outs, ranking her 19th in the nation for total putouts. Offensively, Stevenson posted a .274 batting average while driving in 20 runs and scoring 20 runs as well. Ashley had 11 multi-hit games including a 3-for-4 game against Mayville State (ND) on April 9th.
Sophomore, Leslie Neiman has moved in from left-field to take over at first base for the Trojans to start the 2010 season. Neiman an Elkhorn, NE. native appeared in 42 games last season recording 107 at bats while driving in 17 RBI's. Neiman had her most productive day as a Trojan on April 23rd when she went 3-for-4 and drove in 3 runs against Dordt College (IA).
Peterson, a native of Alta, IA, was a two time all-conference selection in high school as well as an All-State selection in volleyball. She is capable of being a true utility for the Trojans and has shown quickness defensively and looks to be a threat offensively utilizing her speed and aggressiveness.
McLane, a native of Cheyenne, WY, won 5 state titles as a member of the highly decorated Cheyenne Extreme team. She is capable of becoming a true power hitter for the Trojans and possesses a very strong and accurate arm that will help her find time at third base this season.
Walter, the third member of this year's team from Victoria British Columbia, was slated to be the team's starting first baseman before suffering an injury this fall. She possesses a great understanding of the game, and is a tremendous defensive presence at first base. Walter is expected to be ready to crack the line-up by early April.
In the outfield, the Trojans return two starters in Ashley Souphimdara and Amanda Stevenson.
Souphimdara, a native of Brandon, SD, was chosen as an All-Conference selection and Gold Glove winner in 2009. Souphimdara hit .329 last season while patrolling centerfield. During the 2009 season Souphimdara stole 28 bases tying the previous school record and placing her 16th in the nation. In addition to her base stealing abilities, she recorded 13 multi-hit games including four games where she recorded at least three hits.
Stevenson, the fourth member of this year's squad from British Columbia and the twin sister of Ashley, will be a familiar face to Trojan fans in the outfield. Last season, she started in all 45 games recording 27 hits and stealing 15 bases. Amanda is expected to pick up where she left off last season, hitting .321 in her last 21 games and hitting .333 in conference play.
Peterson, a native of Tea, SD, was a 4 year starter in high school, earning both All-Conference and All-State Tournament team honors her senior year. Peterson has made great strides this off-season, greatly improving her strength and her quickness.
Haiar, a native of Emery, SD, is a transfer from NCAA D-I University of South Dakota. She possesses great speed and has the ability to put pressure on a defense both as a hitter and as a base-runner. She is a gifted athlete as indicated by the 12 letters she won in three sports while in high school.
Dakota State's 2010 schedule features six games against NCAA competition including games against in-state neighbors South Dakota State University on March 24th and the University of South Dakota on April 13th. The Trojans will also play a four game set against conference rival Dickinson State who finished the season ranked 3rd in the nation in 2009.
The team will open their 2010 campaign on February 27th in St. Cloud, MN, as part of the Husky Invitational. The following weekend the Trojans will travel to Hastings, NE, to partake in the Bronco Invitational, before kicking off the conference schedule on March 20th when they travel to Spearfish, SD to face the Yellow Jackets of Black Hills State.
"With such a young nucleus of players I expect that we may have some growing pains as we open the season, but after our first 10 games or so I expect that we will have settled in and everyone will have a good understanding of what they need to do to help us achieve our goals for this season,â€ Prorok said. â€œThis team has tremendous chemistry and has shown great progress this off-season, so I expect good things are on the horizon for the club.â€
The Trojans hope this rigorous schedule will set them up for postseason success. The conference tournament will be held in Valley City, ND on May 7-8, with the NAIA World Series being held May 20-26 in Decatur, AL.
"Our goal isn't just to compete in the conference. We want to prepare a team that can win the conference tournament and advance to the National Tournamentâ€ concluded Prorok.