Softball starts season with pair of wins

Despite having a game snowed out on Saturday, the New Prairie softball team is off to a hot start after the first week of the season.

The Cougars (2-0) have opened the season with wins over non-conference opponents Valparaiso and Michigan City Marquette.

At Valpo, New Prairie started their 2016 campaign with an offensive explosion, pounding out 16 hits en route to a 10-8 victory over the Vikings.

“That game was a back and forth battle,” New Prairie coach Jessica Hull said. “My girls never gave up , though they did give me anxiety.”

In the home opener against Marquette, the Cougars took a rain-shortened 5-3 decision.

Hull is in her second year at the helm of the program. She guides a relatively new squad after graduating five seniors from last season’s team, which finished with an overall record of 14-15 and a third place finish in the Northern State Conference (NSC).

The program returns two seniors, Brooke Prestin and Ashton Woods, both have seen significant varsity action since their freshmen year in 2013.

Woods was selected first team all-conference catcher in the NSC all three years.

Prestin was a first-team infielder as a sophomore in 2014 and received honorable mention last year.

The team also welcomes a senior transfer, Lauren White from southern Indiana. Hull expects White to be a key contributor, and her impact has already been felt at the plate. White went 3 for 5 in the season opener.

Like the rest of New Prairie’s athletic programs, the softball team is competing in their first season in the Northern Indiana Conference (NIC).

The Cougars will open up the conference slate on Thursday, April 14 with a home matchup against Mishawaka. The 13-team league will feature a round robin schedule. There will still be a North and South division, along with an overall champion.

The NIC will provide the Cougars with top-notch competition as three of the conference’s teams are ranked number one in the state in their respective classes (Penn-4A, St. Joseph-3A, and Bremen - 2A).

However, New Prairie is no stranger to any of these clubs. Of the 12 conference opponents, only Elkhart Central has not appeared on the schedule in recent years.

Hull embraces the challenges of the new conference and is confident about her team’s position in the league. “I think a lot of teams are going to be surprised by us this year,” she said.

Hull is already seeing improvement with the offensive production compared to last season.

“Last year I believe we hit four home runs as a team and already this year we have two,” she said.

Those home runs both came in the first game off the bats of sophomore Alaynna Rodriguez and freshman Kenna Young. Both youngsters are expected to make their presence known this season.

The Cougars were scheduled for a pair of road games over Spring Break. They will be back in action at home on Monday against South Central. First pitch is slated for 4:30pm CT at Ziolkowski Field.

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