Seniors Chisley, Pritchard helping Centre softball reach new heights

April 02, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

They were having fun even when they were losing almost every game, so imagine how much Jessica Chisley and Lindy Prtichard are enjoying themselves now.

The two seniors are helping the Centre College softball program reach heights it hasn't seen before, and Centre coach Wendie Austin-Robinson said the success they and their team are enjoying is a fitting reward for all they have done.

"It's a tribute to their work ethic and their determination and their love of the game," Austin-Robinson said.

Pritchard and Chisley are Centre's only seniors, and they have been on board for the journey from the basement of their conference to a level of competitiveness they could only dream of four years ago.

The Colonels have a chance at the first winning season in the program's five-year history, and they expect to contend for the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Eastern Division championship this month.


They are 10-8 going into divisional games

They take a 10-8 record into their first divisional games, a four-game weekend series at Rose-Hulman that begins Saturday.

"I think we're definitely as good, if not better than all the teams in our division," Chisley said.

The two women said they could see the program begin to turn the corner last season. The team's 13-21 finish wasn't that impressive, but the Colonels finished second in their division to qualify for the conference tournament at the SCAC Spring Sports Festival for the first time.

"Last year was the first year we made the Spring Sports Festival, and it was a big year for us," Pritchard said.

Centre's best record came two years ago, when it finished 15-19. That followed 2001 season - Chisley and Pritchard's freshman year - when the Colonels went 4-28.

"It's like a family," Chisley said. "Everybody's your sister, and we honestly believe that we are a family. When we were 4-28, it helped that we were a family. It's unlike any other team I've ever played for."

Pitching has made the difference

But winning keeps the family happier, and Pritchard said the wins were few in those days because the pitching wasn't up to par.

"We'd score 14 runs and still lose," she said.

Now there is capable pitching - top hurler Erin Grumley ranks fourth in the SCAC in earned-run average - to support an offense that leads the league in batting average (.317), doubles (35) and home runs (10).

Both Pritchard, a psychology major from Lebanon, Ohio, and Chisley, a music major from Frankfort, said they play simply because they love the game. Fans are few, and their successes and failures go largely unnoticed.

"The girls on the team know what we're playing for, for Centre softball," Chisley said.

Though there were five other girls in their class who left the Colonels, the two girls said they weren't about to give up.

"I couldn't imagine not seeing this all the way through," Pritchard said.

"Competitive softball is over for us after we graduate," Chisley added. "I couldn't imagine not being here."

Especially now that times are better.

"We've worked so hard, especially in the off-season and getting prepared," Pritchard said.

"We're still building off what we started last year," Chisley added.

Injury sidelined Chisley last season

Chisley was a witness to last season's success, but she didn't get to enjoy it on the field. She suffered a broken leg at the end of the 2002 soccer season, and she sat out the softball season in order to be fully recovered for her senior year in both sports.

This year, Chisley is back at her familiar spot in the middle of the infield, where she plays shortstop and second base. Through Centre's first 17 games, she was hitting .286 out of the leadoff spot with a .406 on-base percentage and a team-high 15 runs scored. She also shared the team lead in stolen bases with seven steals in eight attempts. Pritchard, who hits third in the lineup and plays in the outfield and occasionally at short, was hitting .292.

"They're both doing a fantastic job for us," Austin-Robinson said.

They are naturally in roles as team leaders, but they said virtually anyone on the team can be a leader on a given day, just as they were from the time they arrived when the program was in its infancy.

"They asked us to be leaders from the time we got here," Pritchard said.

But even with all their experience, they said they are still learning the ropes in some respects.

"It's always a learning experience," Chisley said. "Each and every day there's something we haven't seen before."

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