Sports / The Prairie Fire / April 20, 2016

Player profile: Chelsey Howard

With just 10 games remaining this season, Knox Softball is still searching for their first victory. At 0-24, it has become clear that this postseason will not have the Knox team making a long playoff run, but those who think the team lacks a reason to play are sorely mistaken.

One of the leaders of the team is junior Chelsey Howard, an Anthropology/Sociology major who normally splits time between first base and catcher. Howard leads the team with a strong .323 batting average, nine RBIs and a nearly perfect fielding percentage of .961.

Howard explains that this season has her “learning how to be a better leader on the team,” as this year’s squad is abnormally young. With no seniors and only three juniors, this team is easily one of the youngest in the conference. This also means that next year’s squad will only add talent with the incoming class and not lose any graduating students.

This unique situation has allowed younger players to play in everyday roles they normally would not have, providing them with invaluable experience the team hopes will pay off in the future. Getting more time to develop their game, Howard explains that Head Coach Erin Rutledge has been “stressing the fundamentals,” while Assistant Coach Troy Smith has been encouraging the players to “stay positive and keep [their] attitudes up.”

Even with the struggles in the win-loss column, Howard has seen immense improvement in the team’s play this season.

“Our record really doesn’t reflect how much better we’ve become and how far along we’ve come this season alone,” said Howard.

She even sees several ways in which this year’s team is stronger than in years past, as they have been able to avoid letting errors “snowball,” and have “gotten into [their] own heads less.”

Howard credits a lot of the growth, as well as the deep sense of camaraderie on the team, to the annual Softball team trip to a Florida tournament over spring break.

“Florida was a great opportunity for us to bond while also challenging ourselves to compete against some of the best competition we’ll see all year. We were able to hang tough with some solid teams there, setting the groundwork for the rest of our season,” Howard said.

Not only was Florida fun for Howard because of the beautiful weather and time with new friends, but also because she performed at as high a level as any player in the tournament. In the eight games Knox played in Florida, Howard batted 11/23, good for an average of .478. This strong start undoubtedly helped propel Howard to a strong rest of the season.

The tight-knit community of the Softball team is another aspect that Howard values about the team, noting that it is a chance to get to know other students on a more personal level while playing a game they all love.

Though she has greatly enjoyed this season so far, Howard knows there is much room for improvement. She understands, however, that this progress will not happen just because the team wants it to. Because of this, Howard says that even with the poor results to date, the team is “working as hard as we can, trying to win a game.”

Howard knows a good deal about improvement, as she has raised her batting average this year by nearly thirty points. She credits this improvement to her focus on “just making solid contact with the ball instead of trying to kill it every time.”

Though she is focused on helping Knox win its first game of the season, Howard knows that “good things are coming for Knox Softball,” explaining that this season has allowed them to “get the ball rolling.”

One thing the Knox community can help the team with is higher attendance at their home games. “Fans always help us get pumped up and encourage us to work harder and do it for Knox,” said Howard.

With the big strides the team has taken already behind her strong play, Knox Softball star Chelsey Howard predicts that “big things are coming from Knox Softball, and soon.”

Don’t miss the last Softball action of the season: The Knox Softball team has three home doubleheaders left, with one on Saturday, April 23, another Sunday, April 24, and the last Tuesday, April 26.

 

Jonathan Schrag, Sports Editor

Tags:  chelsey howard erin rutledge Softball troy smith

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