UK softball taking new look into 2017

Head softball coach Rachel Lawson meets with the media at Media Day on Monday February 6. Photo by Chris Angolia || Staff.

Chase Campbell

UK softball fans should be ready to watch a lot of running when it comes to this year’s team. The Cats have been very clear about their identity heading into the 2017 season: be faster and more aggressive than the other team.

“We have a lot more team speed – it’s something we’ve been working on,” head coach Rachel Lawson said at media day. “(The team) is incredibly, incredibly fast.”

On a roster that features nearly three times the freshman than seniors, this is an extremely young Cats team, but not one that isn’t coming in ready to play. The staff and returning players all emphasized their faith in this recruiting class, and how strong it is.

“Coach Lawson recruited a great freshman class,” senior pitcher Megan Prince said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them play.”

However, this will be a very different year then UK softball fans are used to.

Many players will be in different positions than in seasons past, and they are without ace pitcher Kelsey Nunley – a luxury that helped them to a No. 18 national final ranking last season and a 45-14 record.

However, Lawson made it very clear in her press conference Monday that she isn’t ever going to worry about replacing players. The loss of Nunley makes them change their strategy, but her focus is on developing the players that are already there, and making sure her seniors have big seasons.

Lawson got emotional when talking about how she wants her team to succeed, not just rebuild.

“Everybody is important to me, and everybody’s career is important to me,” Lawson said.

However young this team may be, UK is returning a lot of firepower. They’re bringing back several of their top hitters in Abbey Cheek and Brooklyn Hinz, as well as a 20-win pitcher in Prince. The team this year will be all about letting those few veteran gems shine, while also using them to help develop this heavy freshman class.

The teams schedule will definitely be a test as always. UK is one of seven SEC teams in ESPN’s Top 25 poll, which is headlined by Auburn and Florida at No. 2 and No. 3.

By the time SEC play opens March, the Cats will already be 24 games into their season, and will have already been tested against powerhouses like No. 8 UCLA and No. 9 Oregon in late February. Fans can expect, upon UK’s home opener against Dayton, to see a team that certainly knows what it’s doing on the field.

The Cats will open their season Friday against Florida A&M in Orlando at the UCF Knights Invitational on Friday.