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College softball: Aurora U. expecting better results

AurorUniversity catcher Tristan Wilcox hit .424 with seven home runs last season. | Phocourtesy AurorUniversity

Aurora University catcher Tristan Wilcox hit .424 with seven home runs last season. | Photo courtesy of Aurora University

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Updated: April 1, 2013 7:19AM

Most coaches would be absolutely thrilled with a 26-17 record.

Mike McKenzie isn’t one of those coaches.

“We’re not going to be happy with 26 wins,” McKenzie said, “because we’ve been spoiled in the past.”

In fact, 26 wins is pretty much a down year for the Aurora University softball program. In 2010, the Spartans finished 38-9 under McKenzie while they were 31-7 in 2009.

This year’s team has the potential to return the Spartans to that level, win the Northern Athletics Conference championship and advance in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

“We like what we have,” McKenzie said.

It starts with senior catcher Tristan Wilcox. She is the offensive leader after hitting .424 with 7 home runs and 29 runs batted in.

Senior shortstop Brooke Spencer also returns and McKenzie is hoping she returns to her sophomore level and puts last year behind her. Spencer was an impossible out two years ago, finishing the year with a .480 batting average, 14 homers and 49 RBI. She slumped to .231 with no homers and only 18 RBI.

“I think she just put a lot of pressure on herself to do what she did as a sophomore,” McKenzie said. “She started out in slump and it just snowballed.”

Junior Lillie Stone (.265) can hit with power and will be at first base with senior Stephanie Lynch (.329) getting a look in the outfield.

“She’s looked pretty good out there,” McKenzie said. “She’s a heck of a weapon at the plate.”

Junior Sarah Clauser was a .307 hitter as a sophomore and will be at second base with several players looking to work in at third base.

Junior college transfer Rebecca Randall (Waubonsee) could open the year patrolling center field for the Spartans, and returning senior Mia Henderson may join her with freshman Lauren Huebner in the mix in the outfield or at third base.

Pitching, always the key in fastpitch softball, is another strong area for the Spartans with returning Northern Athletics Conference freshman of the year Natalie Zanella leading the way. She was 16-11 with a 1.31 earned run average last season.

Junior Hope Webster is recovered from hip surgery and could be the No. 2 pitcher for the Spartans, although freshman Vanessa Hartzell might grab that spot.

“She (Hartzell) does a lot of things well,” McKenzie said. “With Natalie, Hope and Hartzell, I think we have a good mix there.”

AU opens its season March 3 against Presentation College in Orlando, Fla. The Spartans play their first home game at noon March 24 against DePauw University at the Stuart Sports Complex.

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