MADISON, S.D. - After a promising fall season, Dakota State University Trojan Softball head coach Ken Prorok is excited to get the 2013 campaign underway. "I am excited to get the season kicked off," said Prorok. "We have a very talented group that has worked very hard this preseason and throughout the fall. We have a lot of new faces this year who have come together really well."
The Dakota State infield is anchored by the teams two captains, senior Renaye Gamson (shortstop) and sophomore Brittany Hill (first base). Last season, the two combined to record 167 assists and 84 putouts.
Gamson earned the starting role as a junior and returns to the position again this year. Last season, Gamson hit .319 while recording nine doubles and stealing ten bases.
"Renaye is without a doubt our emotional leader, her energy is contagious," stated Prorok. "Last year, she grew into the role of a leader, this year she needs to take it to even a higher level for us to reach our goal of advancing deep into the post-season."
Junior transfer Chelsey John is slated to be the opening day starter for the Trojans at third base. She is a true utility player for the Trojans and will see time at a variety of positions but will get the nod at third base for the first game of the season.
"Chelsey is one of the most athletic ball players we have had in the past five years," said Prorok. She can play a variety of roles for us and is still learning the game. Once she gains the confidence in herself that the coaching staff has in her, she will be a force to reckon with."
Junior transfer Katie Slibowski will see time at first and second bases this year as well as in the circle.
"Katie has done a tremendous job of being open to a variety of new roles; her strong desire to succeed will serve us well," added Prorok. "When she is in the circle, the entire team feels like today is our day."
Hill has made the move from third to first base. Hill was recruited as a first baseman but was needed at third base last season. As a third baseman, Hill hit .440 and was named as an All-Conference selection. She may also see limited time in the circle this season.
"Carry a big stick and speak softly, that is B-Hill," said Prorok. "Brittany has established herself as arguably one of the best hitters in DSU history, and is just entering her sophomore year. She is a joy to work with and has a tremendous work ethic."
Freshman Bretton Lien is slated to be the primary second baseman for the Trojans, Lien will also serve as one of the top pitchers for the Trojans this season.
"Bretton is a powerful young athlete who exemplifies what it means to be a power-pitcher," stated Prorok. "Bretton has the potential to be a 'career leader' by the time she graduates if she stays focused."
Freshman Shai-Lee Hill will see time at first base and in the circle this season.
"Shai is a quality pitcher who has the potential to become a dominant pitcher," added Prorok. "In the field, she has a good glove and is working to improve her range and flexibility. At the plate, Shai handles the bat well and will get better as she gets stronger."
Freshman Jenilee Misko will see time at third base and serve as a designated player for the Trojans this season.
"Jeni is a strong and powerful corner infielder, who possesses a cannon for an arm. She is working hard to improve her foot speed and agility which will serve her well as a corner infielder."
Junior transfer Sami Deen will be worked into the outfield as she is recovering from a viral infection that has sidelined her during most of the preseason.
"Sami is a very knowledgeable ball player who we are excited to get on the field and in the circle," said Prorok. "She has tremendous power at the plate, and is a tough-nosed competitor."
Junior transfer Lori Harshbarger will see time as a platoon outfielder, relief pitcher and as a pinch runner.
"Lori has a great passion for the game and is a very dedicated ball player," stated Prorok. "She is very hard on herself at times as she has a tremendous desire to win and be the best she can be."
Sophomore transfer Audrey Lorenz will be the everyday starting center fielder for the Trojans. Lorenz is a transfer from Colby Community College.
"Audrey is a very talented ball player, who is blessed with great speed," said Prorok. "We expect Audrey to be the leader of the outfield this season."
Lexy Miller returns to the outfield for her sophomore season; last season Miller started in 34 games. During her freshman year, Miller stole six bases and recorded a .970 fielding percentage and had four outfield assists.
"Lexy is a very energetic player, who is just starting to reach her potential," added Prorok. "I fully expect Lexy to become a force at the plate and in the field this season."
Freshman Elizabeth Rubalcava has been named the starting catcher for the Trojans this season, as junior Emily Kulp will be redshirting during the 2013 season. John will serve as the Trojans back-up catcher this season.
"As a freshman Liz is a very solid catcher who is still refining her skills behind the plate," said Prorok. "She is blessed with a very strong and accurate arm, which will serve her well this season."
This season the Trojans will have a true pitching staff as six different players are expected to get work this season.
Slibowski and Lien have been the most dominant and consistent members of the staff through the preseason. Shai-Lee Hill and Harshbarger have been effective and are becoming more reliable, while Brittany Hill will get some spot work as she is expected to be at first base most of the season. The Trojans are anxious to get Deen back into a position where she can work her way into the rotation. Slibowski won 15 games last season, while Deen won 10 games.
The Trojans feature a non-conference schedule that includes two tournaments, highlighted by matchups against Friends University (31-19 overall record), Northwestern (Iowa) College (33-13) and Morningside College (28-21). DSU will also play 12 home games at the newly renovated Thue Softball complex.
"The schedule this year gives us exactly what we need," said Prorok. "We have a nice mix of highly respected teams and teams that should prepare us for the post-season. Last year, we failed to reach the post-season for the first time in 16 years. That disappointment has fueled our staff and returning players to make sure that doesn't happen again."
The Trojans open the season with a 13-game road trip during spring break that takes the team to central Kansas and Oklahoma City.
The Trojans first home game is set for March 23 against Valley City State University (N.D.), with the first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.
Nick Huntimer, Dakota State University SPorts Information Director