Mixed Bag of Veterans and Newcomers Lead Spartan Softball in 2016

Feb 26, 2016

2015 UD Softball stats
DUBUQUE, Iowa -  Led by a trio of seniors and a talented crop of underclassmen, the University of Dubuque softball team is ready to make a push up the Iowa conference standings.

The Spartans look to build on a 2015 that saw UD upset #3-seed Simpson in the first round of the Iowa Conference tournament followed by a 7-1 defeat to the eventual IIAC tournament champions in Central. Despite the loss, UD was its own worst enemy after allowing five unearned runs.

On a squad that features 13 combined freshmen and sophomores on the 19-woman roster, it’s the trio of OF Andrea Smith, IF Tori Woltz and IF Ainsley Billesbach, who aim to make some noise in the Iowa Conference tournament for the fourth consecutive season, a never-before-seen feat in school history.

They will have the talent to do it behind Billesbach, who returns as the offensive leader in multiple categories including the batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage slash line (.330/.417/.480) and home runs (3). Woltz chips in a .296 batting average and two dingers, while Smith, UD's only returning All-IIAC selection, hit two homers in 2015 and returns a team-high 15 RBI.

UD will need all seven of the trio’s home runs after placing last in the conference with four homers during conference play a year ago.

A talented pair of sophomores lead the Spartans top battery in C Courtney Markin and UD’s lone returning pitcher in Megan Schlueter, who backed up three departed seniors in 2015.

Markin, a sure-handed backstop, committed only five errors all of last season and added a .301/.323/.387 slash line with one home run at the dish. She will provide a target for the right-handed Schlueter, who returns with a 4.85 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 26.0 innings over 10 appearances.

Anchoring the defense are speedy juniors in returners, Dia Borden (.218/.291/.244) and Gianna Kuras (.232/.295/.321), in the outfield. 

Coach Wipperfurth brought in three talented freshmen pitchers to bolster the rotation in Randee Jackson (Burlington, Wis.), Mackenzie Kyle (Elkhorn, Wis.), and Taylor Blair (Warrenville, Ill.).

Spartans open their season with a pair of games in the Rochester Dome in Rochester, Minn. on Saturday, February 27 at 2:30 p.m then head to Kissimmee, Fla. for the Central Florida Rebel Spring Games over spring break. The Iowa Conference slate begins on April 5 against defending IIAC champion, Luther, with a matchup at rival Loras on April 19.

Key Returners
IF Ainsley Billesbach (Sr.) | .330/.417/.357, 100 AB, 15 R, 33 H, 3 HR, 14 RBI
C Courtney Markin (So.) | .301/.323/.387, 93 AB, 14 R, 28 H, 1 HR, 7 RBI
IF Tori Woltz (Sr.) | .296/.461/.407, 108 AB, 10 R, 32 H, 2 HR, 13 RBI
OF Andrea Smith (Sr.) | .280/.325/.398, 118 AB, 19 R, 33 H, 2 HR, 15 RBI 
OF Gianna Kuras (Jr.) | .232/.295/.321, 112 AB, 8 R, 26 H, 2 HR, 12 RBI
OF Dia Borden (Jr.) | .218/.291/.244, 78 AB, 10 R, 17 H, 0 HR, 6 RBI
P Megan Schlueter (So.) | 10 G, 4 GS, 4.85 ERA, 1-1, 26.0 IP, 21 K, 16 BB

Key Newcomers
P Randee Jackson (Fr.) | Burlington, Wis. – Burlington HS | WFSCA All-Star
P Mackenzie Kyle (Fr.) | Elkhorn, Wis. – Burlington Catholic Central HS | All-Racine County 1st/2nd team
P Taylor Blair (Fr.) | Warrenville, Ill. – Wheaton Warrenville South HS | All-Conference Honorable Mention
IF Brandy Heraty (Fr.) | Hainseville, Ill. – Grayslake Central HS | All-Area team
IF Nikki Blum (Fr.) | Dubuque, Iowa - Marquette Catholic | 2x All-State

Returning Hitting Statistics
AB – 48.7%                                                           
Hits – 54.0% 
Runs – 50.9%                                                       
RBI – 50.3%
Stolen Bases – 57.9%                                                                      

Returning Pitching Statistics
IP – 9.8%
Wins – 6.7%
SO – 12.0%
BB – 7.7%

Spartans averaged 4.5 runs per game in first 8 IIAC games (5-3) of 2015, but mustered 2.0 runs per game in final 6 IIAC games (0-6).