By BEN JOHNSON
There is a single-digit number that best describes Cayce Coleman.
It’s the number on the back of her jersey, and it’s the number of her position on the softball diamond. But more importantly, it sums up where she stands on the list of importance for Northeastern State this season.
“She’s going to be our workhorse,” NSU coach Clay Davis said. “She’s going to run out there for game No. 1 of every doubleheader. There will even be times when she goes out for game two for us.”
Coleman, a senior hurler from Red Oak, is coming off a junior season in which she posted a career-best earned run average, 1.69, to go along with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.3 to 1. In fact, since stepping in and becoming the RiverHawks’ starter as a freshman, Coleman has dropped her ERA with each passing season.
“I think each year has gotten a little bit better,” Coleman said, “just because you learn new things, and you learn how to adjust to new hitters and new environments and places that you play at.”
Coleman is well aware of the pressure that is bestowed upon her while being the ace of the pitching staff.
“I’ve kind of been in that role and that position ever since high school and all the way through college,” said Coleman, who was a part of two state-championship teams in high school.
“It’s really nothing different. I like being in that position.”
Leading NSU in the pitching circle hasn’t been Coleman’s only area of expertise. Last season, Coleman had a .310 batting average with 21 runs batted in and 20 runs.
However, how Coleman performs in the pitching circle will determine the RiverHawks’ success. Good thing she has capable relievers and secondary pitching options in sophomores, Shelby Enloe and Alex Files, and freshman, Kayce Wooldridge.
“We’ve got four other pitchers behind (Coleman), and that’s our goal: to get those kids to take quality innings,” Davis said. “Whether it’s Shelby Enloe, whether it’s Alex Files, whether it’s Kayce Wooldridge, between those three, they all bring a different skill set to the table. And we think between those three, we can help Cayce in those innings.
“Now, Cayce is still going to get her innings, don’t get me wrong. But with those three, we definitely have a viable option as a No. 2.”
Even Coleman recognizes that Files, Enloe and Wooldridge will get their fair share of innings, and that she will have to give the ball up from time to time.
“I love pitching, and of course, I want to pitch every game,” said Coleman, who, along with her team, will get the 2013 season started in Durant on Friday in the Southeastern Oklahoma State tournament. “But, sometimes that’s just not possible.”
Coleman’s final season will be unlike any other during her time in green and white. That’s because it’ll be the first with Davis in charge after he took over for Dee Gerlach, who resigned in May. Coleman, though, said the transition to a new coach has been a smooth one.
“It was a little bit of a shock when she retired, but he came in with a lot of energy and a lot of desire,” Coleman said. “He’s just instilled that in us, and we just kind of follow him.”
Despite dedicating her time to Gerlach for the past three seasons, Coleman said a notion to transfer to another school never crossed her mind.
“I wanted to be here,” Coleman said. “This is where I wanted to be from the very beginning. Even after (Gerlach) left, I still want to be here.”