WKU softball looking to build on gained experience from postseason run

Senior utility player Jordan Mauch (19) runs home to score during the Lady Toppers’ 7-3 win on Saturday, April 1 at the WKU Softball Complex.

Casey McCarthy

The WKU softball team discussed building off momentum from last season on media day as opening day approaches.

“We want to pick up where we left off,” senior Brittany Vaughn said. “We played four games in the postseason. We weren’t even supposed to be there according to preseason rankings.”

The Lady Toppers finished the 2016 season with a record of 31-31 entering the single-elimination Conference USA Tournament as the lowest possible seed. WKU finished its postseason with a 4-4 record, winning twice in the inaugural postseason NISC Tournament. Vaughn, the lone senior on the team this season, said she doesn’t feel like she has to be the sole leader for her teammates. Her head coach, Amy Tudor, called her somebody with the ability to make some wild plays, doing things that aren’t coachable. Vaughn said her fellow upperclassmen, three juniors, help pick up the slack.

“Everybody brings a little something different to the table,” Vaughn said.

Tudor said she expects Vaughn to try and get the most out of her team this season, wanting to go out with an exciting senior season, adjusting her role accordingly. Tudor called Vaughn “a doer”

The Lady Toppers bring in five newcomers this season, four freshmen and a transfer from the Louisville, junior Jordan Vorbrink. Tudor, entering her fifth year at the helm of the program, said the young players still need time to grow mentally entering the season.

“As far as talent goes, I think they’ll help us win games,” Tudor said.

Tudor said adding three lefties to the lineup will help the team out this season. She said the team has more athleticism, more at the plate this year, as well as another arm in the circle. In addition to the newcomers, the Lady Toppers return seven sophomores and three juniors with postseason experience. Junior Kelsey McGuffin reiterated the importance of this.

“Experience, you can never replace that,” McGuffin said.

While the Lady Toppers lost one of their best offensive players in Jordan Mauch and their leading pitcher, Kathryn Downing, the depth returning may outweigh what they’ve lost. The Lady Toppers are picked to finish seventh in C-USA this season in the preseason rankings. McGuffin said she feels being picked so low isn’t always bad.

“The lower you’re picked, the more freely you can play,” McGuffin said. “It definitely leaves a chip on our shoulder, though.”

McGuffin emphasized the importance of playing free and loose. She said she often puts a lot of pressure on herself, and said she tries to remember she’s blessed to be here every day.

“We’re here to do what we love,” McGuffin said. “Every time we hit that field we’re playing for that one goal.”

Both McGuffin and Vaughn said the team has been locked in since winter break. Vaughn said the focus speaks volumes to their team to come to every practice ready to go.

The Lady Toppers will face up against five Power 5 opponents, including a home stint against Kentucky, and a trip to Louisiana State in March. Vaughn said games such as these are what she dreamed about as a young girl.

“You dream of stepping on the field with these girls because you know you can play with them,” Vaughn said.

The Lady Toppers will open their season Friday against Hampton, in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. The team will then face Gardner Webb later that day.

“The biggest key for us is how mentally strong we can be,” Tudor said.

Reporter Casey McCarthy can be reached at (270)-929-7795 and [email protected]