Northeastern State’s team earned run average in 2013 was good enough to be middle of the pack in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. The RiverHawks allowed 3.82 runs per game, which was 10th out of 15 teams.
In 2014, NSU coach Clay Davis expects his club’s ERA to be much lower.
“Pitching could be a strength for us,” Davis said. “We have tremendous depth in the circle. We return sophomore Kayce Wooldridge, who won double-digit games for us last year and was the ace of our staff, along with redshirt sophomore Alex Files, who is completely healthy and ready to assume a top spot in our rotation.”
But Davis’ pitching staff doesn’t stop with his two returners. Davis also bolstered his arms race by adding a Division I and a Division II transfer.
Shelbie Wagnon, a Mounds native and former standout at Beggs High School, transferred from Florida International, where she appeared in 20 games last season with a 3-2 record and a 4.17 ERA. Laura Fleck of Muskogee left Rogers State to join the RiverHawks after going 29-13 with a 2.90 earned run average at Rogers State in 2013.
“[When we] add D-I transfer Shelbie Wagnon and transfer Laura Fleck, who won 30 games last year at Rogers State,” Davis said, “we have a lot of options in the circle.”
The RiverHawks’ will feature plenty of returning players in their lineup to back up the pitching staff. Madison Reed, Saharra Henson, Megan Robison and Navada Campos all will reclaim prominent spots in the NSU batting order.
“As far as offense goes, we have a great combination of power, speed and hitting for average,” Davis said. “(Freshman) Lauren Flanary and Madi Reed are great table-setters and could allow Saharra, Krysti (Cearley), Megan and Navada to tally up some big offensive numbers.”
Reed will retain her spot in left field, but Henson and Robison will begin the 2014 season at new spots on the diamond. Henson moves from center field to third base, and Robison moves from second base to center field.
Affording plenty of lineup flexibility are three youngsters that Davis projects to start in the opening-day lineup. Flanary, Cearley and second baseman Maddie Boyd will all log plenty of playing time in their first full collegiate seasons.
“We will start three freshmen on opening day and look for all three to have big years,” Davis said. “Maddie Boyd will play second and has as good of hands as anyone I’ve ever coached at that position. Another freshman Ryan Martin will also see a lot of at-bats and bring enormous power to our lineup.”
NSU will open the 2014 campaign in Stephenville, Texas, against Harding. The RiverHawks are slated to play 10 games between Stephenville and Wichita Falls, Texas, to start the season before opening up at home against Bacone on Feb. 22.