Redhawks softball not resting on last season’s success
In 2019, Southeast captured the program’s first-ever Ohio Valley Conference Championship while boasting a 46-18 overall record and made the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.
To do that again Southeast coach Mark Redburn will heavily rely on his “eight core seniors” this season.
Moving into his sixth season at the helm of the program, Redburn is looking forward and not letting himself focus on the program’s past success.
“We say, ‘last year is last year,’ good or bad. We have to earn our success,” Redburn said.
On the field, the 2019 team was led by the school’s first-ever Division I All-American senior center fielder Rachel Anderson. Coming into her senior season, Anderson has already made a name for herself at the plate. Anderson, a career .416 hitter, finished her junior season ranked in the top ten nationally in both batting average (.454) and hits (84).
The 2020 softball team refers to themselves as Team 44, as the 44th team to wear the Redhawk uniform. Redburn believes all of his players buy into the team as soon as they join, and they look to set new expectations for the program.
“That’s what Team 44 has to do this year,” Redburn said. “We don’t want to be one-hit wonders from last year. We want to go out with even higher marks.”
“We just try to keep that in mind that ‘last year was last year,’ and that team 43 did what it did, but Team 44 is going to be even better,” Anderson said. “We're at a higher standard. We don’t have a name for ourselves besides Team 44, and what we put under that is what we accomplish this season.”
Redburn said when looking back on past seasons and putting this season’s goals in perspective, it's not just winning that helps determine improvement.
“Really it’s about this group, and how good can [this group] be. Even though it was a tremendously successful year [last year], how much better can we be?” Redburn said.
A big part of the Redhawks’ past success has come at the plate. Last season, they finished first in the OVC in batting average (.301), hits (501), home runs (74), runs (363) and runners batted in (318).
“Trying to hit for power, trying to get into scoring position, you know, those are mainstays of our philosophy. That's the style of play that we have, our players understand that,” Redburn said.
Redburn’s optimism is not founded solely on attitude, with the team returning a considerable amount of assets.
“I mean, Rachel [Anderson] is, is going to go down probably as the best softball player in history here at SEMO,” Reburn said. “She’s tremendously talented, but she’s got a great support group around her.”
Redburn credits a lot of Anderson’s success to the caliber of her teammates. He would go on to cite the importance of having players like Ashley Ellis, who batted .330 in 2019, and led the team with 17 home runs and 60 runs batted in.
“Ellis hits in our four hole … So if they’re not pitching to Rachel, now they got to face Ashley.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Redhawks will look to replace a 22-game winner in Haley Thogmartin. In doing so, the Redhawks will turn to senior Alex Estes and junior Rachel Rook, who combined for an 18-6 record in 2019.
The Team 44 Redhawks will start the conference championship defense this season on Friday, Feb. 14, against the Kennesaw State Owls in the Troy University Tournament in Troy, Alabama.