Bluffton enters 2010 campaign with high expectations
February 3, 2010
By: Josh Bruner, sports information assistant
Click here for pre-season HCAC coaches poll
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University softball team will enter the season with
high expectations as the 2009 Beavers finished second in the Heartland Conference,
tied with Defiance College. Bluffton finished the season with a 30-13 record, the
best mark in school history, en route to being ranked fourth regionally by the NFCA.
The Beavers placed third in the HCAC tournament after dropping a 1-0 decision to host
Head Coach Heather Bruder returns for her fourth season with the Beavers. Bruder enters
the season with an overall record of 69-47 at Bluffton, including a 34-13 mark in
the HCAC. She was named HCAC Coach of the Year following the 2008 season. Bruder will
again be joined by second-year graduate assistant coach Paul Burnside.
Bruder stated that one of their goals for the year is to secure a berth in the NCAA
Regionals. She stated, "We have been on the verge of qualifying, but have yet to put
together a great post-season." The winner of the HCAC tournament receives an automatic
bid into the NCAA Division III tournament. The Beavers fell just short last year as
they placed third, while Defiance captured its second straight HCAC tournament title.
Although the Beavers finished the season with the best record in Bluffton history,
Coach Bruder looks to be improved this year. "Our goals are to win, and to get better
every game," noted Bruder. The Beavers plan to accomplish these goals through hard
work, determination, passion and motivation. Bruder believes that the strengths of
this years' team will be in pitching, and the ability to move the ball around offensively
with power and speed. Improved defense as well as the growth and maturity of last
year's freshmen have led to more confidence which will be evident on the diamond this
The Beavers will have a couple big holes to fill both offensively and in the circle
following the graduation of three seniors in 2009. The Beavers will be without second
baseman Lindsey Miller who paced the team with a .458 batting average and a .687 slugging
percentage. Miller was named first team HCAC last year after claiming the 2008 HCAC
Player of the Year award for her efforts as a junior. Another big loss for the Beavers
was Kellie Kenney, who was named second team HCAC. Kenney did the job both on the
mound and at the plate, providing Bluffton with a top-notch hurler who led the Beavers
on the field and in the dugout.
The Beavers will have a strong corps of returners to help fill in those holes left
by the seniors. Bluffton will count on leadership from three-year starter and First
Team All-HCAC performer Brooke Babcock (Findlay). Babcock led the Beavers with 15 wins during the 2009 campaign. She also
finished the season with a superb 1.89 ERA. Babcock is far from a one-dimensional
threat as she was second on the team with five home runs while hitting .318 as a junior.
Bruder also believes that Meagan Price (Toledo/Springfield) will help take over a leadership role for the team. Bruder referred
to Price as, "The battery of the team as she is always going, and always working defensively."
Price, who started 38 games for the 2009 Beavers behind the plate, led the team in
fielding percentage, and only allowed five passed balls for the season.
Kristin Agauas (Bloomfield, Mich./Andover) also returns to the circle for the Beavers. She wore
many hats for Bluffton during her freshman campaign as she started, came on in relief
and also closed games. Jayme Marbaugh (Ohio City/Parkway), the Beavers' hard-hitting and slick-fielding third baseman,
has the tools to finish her career as one of Bluffton's top offensive players in school
history after she was voted first team HCAC for the 2009 season. Marbaugh led the
team in runs scored (39), and was second to Miller in batting average at .385. Chelsie Osborne (Chillicothe/Waverly) gives the Beavers great athleticism both in the field and at
the plate. Osborne was one of the top hitters (.346) in the HCAC as a freshman who
was named honorable mention last year.
The Beavers will also be looking for solid contributions from their new freshmen this
season. Bruder believes that Stevie Cuttitta (Columbiaville, Mich./Clio) will help the Beavers on the mound right away. "She comes
in as a pitcher who can start, relieve and close. She has the tools to be a very good
pitcher." Another freshman standout is Shelby Wade (Delaware/Buckeye Valley). Bruder stated, "She will be a starting outfielder, is
quick on the bases and has a phenomenal glove. Wade also has a super personality and
great work ethic."
When asked who which teams will be in the HCAC tournament mix this year, Bruder quipped,
"Transylvania, who won the regular season conference title and knocked us out of the
tournament 1-0, and Defiance have the talent to again compete for the top spot in
the league." Defiance, who lost six seniors to graduation, won the HCAC tournament
in 2009 and received the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Beavers, who find themselves second in the HCAC coaches pre-season poll, will
strive to follow the footsteps of the 2009 Bluffton University volleyball team by
making the NCAA tournament. They also have their sights set on a second HCAC title
in three years. Although they have been highly successful since Bruder took over,
the fourth-year mentor stated, "We have never capped it off with a great post-season
run, and that is what we want to change this year."
Bluffton starts off the season with a highly challenging schedule, as they travel
to Florida for their first 10 games. Bruder is looking forward to a Florida trip that
includes four nationally ranked teams, and four more regionally ranked teams during
those first 10 contests. The Beavers will kick off the season in Kissimmee on March
8, using those contests to prepare for their Heartland Conference schedule.
Bluffton will return from Florida and begin their regular season on March 18 when
they travel to Adrian College. The Beavers will open up at home on March 19 with Trine
University, where they begin their second season on the new field. The early portion
of Bluffton's schedule also includes a home doubleheader with Alma as the Beavers
face off with the top three schools in the MIAA before delving into 12 straight conference
games, starting with a doubleheader at Hanover College on Saturday, March 27, at 1
p.m. Also adding to Bluffton's schedule strength is an April 22 home meeting with
2009 National Division III tournament qualifier and local rival Ohio Northern.