2017 Bronco Softball Preview
Feb. 8, 2017

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    BOISE, Idaho - As Boise State prepares to open its 2017 campaign with five games in Honolulu this weekend, beginning Thursday night at Hawai’i, the Broncos have a simple motto: “Flip It.”

    It’s a motto that covers a wide range of things in the team’s preparation for the new season, from mentality to preseason workouts to on-field performance. The Broncos, led by 13 returners including 10 position players who started at least 19 games, aim to “flip” last year’s 14-38 overall record and 6-18 mark in Mountain West play, as well as its 6-15 record in one-run games. After all, the Broncos know that working on the little things and making sure that they are sharp in every facet of the game at every moment is what will “flip” their fortunes in 2017.

    “I really think that this staff as a whole has done a good job of preparing our team for that. It started in the weight room with conditioning. I want this team to know that they’ve outworked the opposing team and that we’ll get through it,” said Cindy Ball, who enters her third year as Boise State head coach. “Experiencing what we did last year has shown our team that we can control the momentum of the game, and it comes with maturity. That’s one of the biggest things we’ve talked about with our ‘Flip It’ motto. One play, one at-bat, one pitch doesn’t define us, and not letting it affect the next one. They realize that you don’t give up, you stay poised, keep your composure.”

    The Broncos went through a hard-working summer and fall conditioning and practice regimen, and Ball feels it has only forged the bonds between the players. Led by captains Cassidy Edwards, Tatiana Sorokina and Kora Wade, Boise State enters the new campaign with plenty of optimism.

    “It started in the summer. I had gotten a heartbeat from the team at the end of last year about who could be a captain or a leader on our team,” Ball said. “Kora was the one who stayed for the entire summer along with Tatiana, who stayed for quite a bit. There was a whole big group that stayed. With the team vote and the staff vote, Tatiana and Kora were the most consistent in terms of being seen in that role.”

    Now a look at the 2017 Boise State softball team:

    Infield
    The Bronco infield begins with its lynchpin, sophomore shortstop Rebekah Cervantes. Last year, Cervantes was the only Bronco to start all 52 games, and went on to be named the Mountain West Freshman of the Year and to the All-Mountain West First Team after batting .342 with a team-best 13 home runs along with 36 RBI and a .658 slugging percentage. The Visalia, Calif., native led the team in home runs, runs scored (36) and ranked second in batting average, hits (50), RBI and total bases (96).

    Cervantes was a big part of Boise State’s defense turning a conference-best 29 double plays last season, having a hand in 20 of those. She’ll be joined in the infield by juniors Makenzie Sullivan and Shaelee Pearson, who have the versatility to play multiple positions around the diamond, along with Sorokina, who saw time at third base in addition to the outfield in 2016, and freshmen Karlee Johnson and Micaela Leal.

    “You’re going to see a few changes. Shaelee might play a different role in the infield, so that will be a little different up the middle,” Ball said. “As far as having experience and leadership, it’s been huge. They know the way we want to play. They know our Bronco Softball way. We want to get the game in motion, handle the ball, get double plays and lead outs.”

    Behind the plate, the foursome of sophomore Morgan Lamb, senior Kaitlyn Shreves, freshman Matti Chavez and Pearson will handle the Bronco pitching staff. Lamb started 36 games last season, batting .323 with nine doubles, six home runs and 17 RBI.

    The team will also be boosted by utility player and senior Corey Hendrickson, who batted .284 with six doubles, five home runs, 24 RBI and a team-high 16 walks a year ago.

    Sullivan was third on the team with seven home runs and 26 RBI last season, while Sorokina batted .288 and finished tied for third on the team in hits (38) and tied for fourth in runs scored (20).

    “Having a staff of eight pitchers is tough to deal with, but our catchers have been doing a great job in embracing their role and making the pitchers feel comfortable. We expect to see good things from our catchers, and we may see Shaelee in that mix as well.”

    Outfield
    As with the Broncos infield, the outfield enjoys what Ball calls the welcome problem of having more capable players available than starting spots.

    “It’s really great to have all of this experience coming back in the outfield, and now we add Cassidy to that mix,” Ball said. “It gives us a good problem to have in figuring out who to play where, and again, our returners show our newcomers what to do out there, how to play the game our way. Having that core group in the outfield makes us very strong because they are our last line of defense.”

    Along with the addition of Edwards, and the availability of Sorokina, the Bronco outfield also features Wade and senior Izzy Serrano returning. Wade, in her debut season a year ago, batted .277 with 23 hits and 20 runs scored. Serrano, meanwhile, finished third on the team in batting (.325) and hits (38) in addition to hitting a pair of homers and driving in 16 runs last season.

    “Izzy is the quiet thunder of our team. Our opponents see her and think they won’t get much from her but she has some power. I call her the Tony Gwynn of our team, she just has a beautiful swing,” Ball noted about the senior outfielder.

    Pitching
    Boise State boasts a staff of eight pitchers as 2017 gets underway, bolstered by the addition of transfers Christina Washington (Cal State Fullerton) and Rainey Dyreson (Oregon State). Washington, a southpaw who went 3-0 against the Broncos as a member of the Titans two seasons ago, went 31-12 during her three seasons in Orange County. Dyreson, who sat out the 2016 season, made 22 appearances for the Beavers as a freshman in 2015, going 5-3 with 36 strikeouts.

    “Adding Christina and Rainey to our pitching staff has helped us in so many ways in the fall workouts and the competition in the bullpen,” Ball said. “The team has even acknowledged that they are among the hardest workers. We’ve done timed runs, and running the mile, things we hadn’t done before here, and they’ve come in and pushed this entire group, and it’s great to have that experience.”

    Washington and Dyreson join a returning staff of redshirt junior Paige Reimann (1-7, 22 strikeouts last year) and seniors Mackenzie McGill (3-7, 17 strikeouts) and Jenna Bassler (1-10, 27 strikeouts). Also joining the Bronco staff are freshmen Veronica Lynch, Kelsey Broadus and Leal.

    Continuity and Consistency
    The lead up to the 2017 campaign was one of the most consistent of the past few seasons for Ball and the Broncos. Whereas in her first two seasons she had to rely heavily on transfers to fill holes on the roster, this offseason Ball had a full complement of returning veterans to oversee and guide the eight incoming freshmen and two transfers.

    “It’s been very efficient, the whole process in general. A large group of the team stayed here the whole summer and when our eight freshman came in for bridge, the returners took them under their wing, showed them how we do things, how we’re moving forward,” Ball said. “They really decided that it’s been two hard years, learning years, and those aren’t always fun to experience. They decided that we’re not going to have that this year. We may have a learning game but we’re not going to have that for an entire season.

    “The biggest thing is that we’ve focused on leadership this year. We’ve done a lot of leadership training, met every week, and they’ve focused on getting better every day. We’ll go as far as our leadership takes us,” Ball added.


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