Softball season begins with new coach

The average varsity softball team usually has at least 15 or 16 players on the roster, but this season St. Ambrose only has 13 girls suiting up.
Out of these 13 girls, two are freshman, four are sophomores, and one of the juniors doesn’t have any college softball experience. New head coach Ron Ferrill knows this may be a big hurdle for his team to overcome, but he still has faith in their ability to get the job done.
“I don’t think I could ask for anything more,” Ferrill said. “Varsity went 4-1 in the fall and we have been in the weight room all winter. I’ve seen amazing improvement with some of the young and inexperienced girls.”
Before joining SAU, Ferrill spent the previous two seasons as the head coach at Robert Morris University-Springfield, where he led the Lady Eagles to a United States Collegiate Athletic Association  championship in 2010.
He compiled a 65-21 record in his two years at Robert Morris and he also coached five all-Americans and seven academic all-Americans while his teams maintained better than 3.0 GPAs. Coming to St. Ambrose, he knew he had a lot a work to do to make it a competitive program, but with the backing of Athletic Director Shovlain he got right to work.
“I definitely bring with me a winning mentality,” Ferrill said. “I have the attitude that we are going to go out there and win every game, and having the national championship under my belt helps the girls trust me and believe that I know what I am doing.”
Ferrill’s more intense program did turn some of the returning players away because of conflicts with their academic schedule, but Ferrill believes it has made the group of girls he still has much stronger.
“This is one of the tightest groups of girls I’ve ever been around,” he said. “They get along fantastically. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
Although he has about six girls returning with real college experience, he is excited about what they bring to the table. He is especially excited about starting pitcher Caitlin Polzin, who he thinks could be one of the best pitchers in the conference this year.
“Caitlin is one of the hardest workers I have ever been around,” Ferrill said. “I really look for her to surprise some coaches this season and I honestly think she could be one of the best in the conference. I don’t think our opponents will be expecting that and frankly that’s what I’m counting on.”
Polzin, a senior from Elk Grove, Ill., also has high hopes for herself.
“My goal always as a pitcher before every game is to never let the best player beat me,” Polzin said. “Being my senior year I want to leave knowing I left everything out on that field. So my goal is to stay healthy and have teams be afraid to face me and my defense behind me.”
Another player Ferrill is really hoping will make some noise this season is short stop Kirstin Kramer. She had previously been playing second base for the Bees, but Ferrill gave her a chance at short stop and she has really exceeded his expectations.
“Defensively right now she is playing the best on the team,” he said. “She also led the team offensively in the fall. She is our fastest player and also our best bunter. You know she’s going to bring it every day in the gym and on the field.”
A few other players who have surprised Ferrill so far are starting catcher Jordan Chappell, who he believes has really improved both offensively and defensively, also second baseman Felicia Fiorito has stepped up and been his most improved defensive player this winter. Another important addition has been transfer student Haley Nichols.
“Haley transferred from the University of Dubuque at semester and I believe she really has the capability to be a leader,” Ferrill said. “She is an outstanding hitter and a great outfielder and she is going to be a great asset.”
Although the team knows they may be facing an upward battle this season, Ferrill thinks they are going to surprise everyone in the conference.
“Preseason conference rankings have us sixth out of nine teams,” Ferrill said. “So, if you asked the other coaches they think we are in the bottom half of the conference, but I really don’t believe that will be the case. I think we have a great shot at sliding into that fourth spot and earning a place in the conference tournament.”
Polzin not only believes they will make it to the tournament, but she has even higher hopes for the team.
“My goal for the team this season is to prove everyone wrong, and to end up at the top of our conference,” she said. “Our hitting has come a long way, and teams are going to be afraid to face us. We have great team chemistry and we have worked too hard during the off season to accept anything but being at the top of the conference.”
The team opens their season March 12 in Selma, Alabama, before travelling to Pensacola Beach, Florida for a tournament March 14-18. Their home opener will be on March 22 against William Penn, who is the number one team in the conference. The very next day the Bees will host Augustana in a local rivalry game.
“We have an amazing group of young women that this school should be proud of,” Ferrill said. “These are girls that set the right example on the field as well as in the community and in the classroom. I think we are going to be an up and rising team in a hurry and I would like to think the community will get excited about that.”

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