HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover softball season preview series continues with a look at the outfielders.
The Panthers are coming off a 2018 campaign that saw them go 19-17 overall and 7-9 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play. Cori Collinsworth became the first head coach in program history to post an overall winning percentage above .500 in their inaugural season at Hanover.
The Blue and Red will look to return to the HCAC Tournament this season, as the squad was recently picked to finish fourth in a coaches' preseason poll. The last time HC qualified for the conference tournament, they won it, sending the squad to its first ever NCAA Division III National Tournament in 2016.
The 2019 edition of the outfield group has a nice blend of returners and newcomers, led by sophomore Mackenzie Smith (Jeffersonville, Ind.), a 2018 HCAC honorable mention selection. Smith appeared in all 36 games last season and is one of three returners with over 100 plate appearances, as she posted a .319 batting average. As a freshman, Smith led the team with 29 runs scored and is also the leading returner in steals after swiping four in 2018. She got her opening campaign with the Blue and Red off to a fast start, as she recorded a hit in each of her first 11 games and 14 of the first 15 outings for HC. Smith posted a batting average over .400 in both February and March.
Other returners include junior Jennah Ruddick (McCordsville, Ind.) and sophomore Rachel Cox (Indianapolis, Ind.). Ruddick saw action in 19 games last season, logging 34 at-bats and a .342 on-base percentage. Three of her nine hits went for extra bases as well.
Cox played in 28 games during her first collegiate campaign, tallying a .339 average over 62 at-bats. As a freshman she added 14 runs, six RBI and four extra-base hits. Cox had a stretch in early March where she posted back-to-back four-for-four outings against Capital (Ohio) and Centre (Ky.).
"Our outfield unit is pushing each other every day at practice and competing for a starting spot," stated coach Collinsworth. We have a good mixture of experience to help the newcomers learn quickly."
Hanover is set to open the 2019 slate with eight games in five days down in Florida. The stretch begins at noon, Sunday, Feb. 24, against Cabrini (Pa.).
Contact: Tyler Jester