UBC softball 2015 season preview

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VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds softball team is working on taking the next step in 2015 under second-year head coach Gord Collings.

Last season, Collings’ first at UBC, the team finished with a record of 16-15 and fell one game short of making the NAIA National Championship Opening Round.

Four seniors graduated after the end of the last campaign, but a host of talented players return for 2015 and are joined by talented recruits brought in by Collings.

“The players are really working hard and playing well defensively,” says Collings. “I hope our hitting is more consistent than last year but I have no doubt our team can hit. I really like the way our team has come together this year.”

Three of the team’s top hitters from last season, centre fielder Shayla Kaplen (Richmond), pitcher/first baseman Lindsey Ogilvie (Surrey) and shortstop Yasmin Bains (Richmond), are back.

As a rookie, Kaplen started 29 of 31 games last season and completed the year with a .381 batting average, five doubles and 15 runs batted in.

Ogilvie is also the top returning pitcher for UBC. In the circle, she went 1-0 with a 3.82 earned run average, while at the plate, she batted .377 with two home runs, 19 RBI and a team-high 20 walks.

Bains started all 31 outings for UBC last season, hitting .352 and driving in a team-best 22 runs. She is also an integral part of the team’s leadership group, alongside first baseman Kelly Rumley (Surrey) and left fielder Sarah Hillsdon (Langley), who are both fourth-year seniors.

Rumley also drove in 13 runs in 2014, fourth-best amongst the returning players on the UBC roster.

“I’m very pleased with the work that Yas, Kelly and Sarah have done already this year to help show their leadership with the team,” says Collings. “They’re huge parts of the team.”

At catcher, Margarita Sison (Richmond) and Leanne Jung (Delta) will split playing time behind the plate. Sison started 21 games at backstop for the T-Birds last season while Jung started in the other 10.

Promising rookies Zoe Gillis of Delta, a former White Rock Renegade, and Windsor, Ont., native Mackenzie Siddall, join Ogilvie on the pitching staff. Ogilvie and Gillis can also play first base, while Siddall is also an outfielder.

Junior Quinn Dhaliwal (Delta), who started 30 of 31 games for UBC last year, will be the team’s mainstay at second base. Rookies Frances Ramsay (Vancouver) and Katie Sherlock (Richmond) will back up Dhaliwal.

At third, Lauren du Toit (Vienna, Austria) will be the main starter after losing most of last year to a thumb injury. Newcomer Cherise Chang (Delta) can play at third and shortstop. With a strong arm, Brittany Hince Siwicki (Winnipeg) will spend most of her time in right field, but she is also effective playing at third.

Various players, like Sherlock and Jung, will also get playing time in the outfield.

“We have some depth this year that we didn’t have last year,” says Collings.

UBC will once again enjoy a competitive schedule, one that will see the T-Birds face four teams currently in the NAIA Top-25 as well as two more that received votes in the preseason poll.

Without a set league schedule, the T-Birds will need to win enough games to be chosen to participate in the six-team Association of Independent Institutions conference championship tournament April 30-May 2 in Lawrenceville, Ga. The event will determine which A.I.I. teams will move on to the NAIA National Championship Opening Round May 11-13. The NAIA Softball World Series will take place May 22-28 in Sioux City, Iowa.

After the cancellation of the Feb. 6-7 tournament in Salem, Ore., UBC’s first games of 2015 will be played this weekend in Redding, Calif., at the Simpson University tournament.

The Thunderbirds will play three games each on Friday and Saturday. The season opener will be Friday, February 13 at 9 a.m. PT against Corban (Ore.), a team that received votes in the preseason NAIA Top 25 poll.

After the tournament, UBC will play doubleheaders at No. 10 Simpson on Feb. 15, against No. 17 Oregon Tech in Medford, Ore., on Feb. 17, and at Southern Oregon on Feb. 18.

The T-Birds will then take part in the 2015 Northwest Cup in Clackamas, Ore., Feb. 20-22.