A wave of new talent is expected to make an impact this year as the Chadron State College prepares to take the field for the first time in 2022, entering the Lubbock Sports College Invitational this weekend.
The Eagles won’t be lacking for competition in their opener, as they face none other than defending national champion West Texas A&M in their season debut on Friday at 11 a.m. MT. They go on to play host Lubbock Christian later that day, and they begin Saturday with in-state rival Nebraska-Kearney at 3 p.m. MT. Following the Kearney game, they have Eastern New Mexico, and Sunday they finish the weekend with Northwestern Oklahoma State.
More than half the team this season is comprised of newcomers. CSC welcomes back 13 returners, but 14 will be put to the test for the first time in NCAA Division II this weekend.
The Eagles will undoubtedly be led by its four seniors, three of whom have experience starting in the pitching circle.
Senior Tia Kohl is to throw the first pitch of the season. She is in her third year at CSC, after two seasons in community college, where she was Co-MVP of her league. Last year she was injured for part of the season, but she is back healthy in 2022. Kohl led the staff in 2019 for fewest walks per inning.
Classmate Peyton Propp emerged last season as a worthy No. 1, leading CSC pitchers in most stat categories. She ranked fourth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference with a .260 opponent batting average. Propp pitched an eight-inning shutout at New Mexico Highlands last year and blanked Black Hills State in five.
Rounding out the trio is Gabby Russell, who set a CSC single-season record last season for fewest walks per inning. She was called into a starting role last year, in the second half of the season, and performed admirably. Russell also doubled as a designated player in the batter’s box, where she played for more than half the season.
Caitlyn Lotspeich returns as a reserve pitcher as well.
The other senior is first baseman Allie Mason. She has missed large portions of the past two seasons due to injury, but is looking to return in full health. When available, Mason has been described as a confidence booster to the pitching staff, providing a reliable and rangy target for putouts. She also held the third-highest batting average on the team in 2018, at .305.
Junior Micah Stouffer, who came in for Mason last season, remains a first base option.
CSC will unfortunately be without star shortstop Bailey Steinke, formerly Bailey Marvel, who will miss the season due to injury. Steinke led the Eagles in batting for two consecutive seasons, and she has led in stolen bases for three.
Sophomore Mackenzi Kroll is expected to mind home plate for the opener. She played there part time last season while also roaming the outfield. Kroll led the team with six home runs in 2021, including a walkoff two-run shot with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning in the season finale.
The remainder of the infield should be comprised of one veteran and two newcomers.
Addison Spears will rotate to shortstop, after attending to second base the past two years.
The second base role should go to freshman Amaya Ruiz. Originally from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Ruiz took All-Conference honorable mention as a junior at Valor Christian High, recording 30 RBI on 12 doubles, a triple, and one home run.
At third base, sophomore Sloane Quijas is expected to reprise her role from 2021 in the opener. She is the second leading batter returning from last year, other than Steinke.
The outfield should have an all-new look to it as two freshmen and one junior college transfer are penciled into those roles.
Aliyah Rothstein is a freshman lefty from Lakewood, Colorado, who came highly decorated from Wheat Ridge High. She will man left field to begin the season.
In center field, another freshman lefty, J’lyssa Martinez, will fill the spot. The Denver native was a Colorado Senior All-Star last season with Pomona High.
Left field duty falls to junior transfer Chloe Brown, another former Reiver from Iowa Western. She batted .293 in 2020 and was third on her team in runs scored. Brown hails from Riverside, California.
Finally, the designated player role will start with sophomore Lauren Zimmerman. She was an All-State honorable mention at Robert McQueen High in Reno, Nevada.
Samantha Conradie, a sophomore, has also been eyed for DP. Playing catcher last year, she was third on the team with 79 putouts, despite playing in only half the games.
Sophomore Jessie Henchenkski is the top batter, other than Steinke, who returns from last year. She is expected to play a major role again in 2022. Another sophomore, Paige Propp, is slated to see her share of play as well.
Freshmen Ramsey Deming of Rapid City is another newcomer to watch.
Logan Asia of Stockton, California, Paige Edwards of Firestone, Colorado, Kenzi Garner of Broomfield, Colorado, Kendall Petty of Loveland, Colorado, Jordan Rudd of Platteville, Colorado, and Nikki Waddle of Thornton, Colorado, are the remaining freshmen who will begin their collegiate careers. Makayla Keck, an Otero Junior College transfer from Pueblo, Colorado, is also new.
Head Softball Coach Kaley Ness also recently introduced Kinsley Mason, a former CSC pitcher, as a coaching assistant next to former first baseman and catcher Kayla Campuzano, who competed as Kayla Michel. Kinsley is the older sister of Allie.
In addition to Lubbock, CSC has scheduled one other tournament. It is next week in Oklahoma, before RMAC play begins on February 26 in Colorado Springs. The Eagles are supposed to open their home stadium on March 5 versus CSU-Pueblo. The home schedule for March contains an ambitious 14 games.