Bredbenner hopeful for success in upcoming season


Easton Thompson

Wichita State head coach Kristi Bredbenner talks strategy with team members during their game against Southern Nazarene on Sept. 21 at Wilkins Stadium.

Last year, the Wichita State softball team saw an abrupt ending to their season. The team was slated for a semifinal matchup with No. 1-seeded South Florida Bulls, who won the American Athletic Conference regular season title.

In the previous week leading up to the conference tournament, the Shockers beat the Bulls in two of three games to end the regular season.

But they wouldn’t even get their chance to knock out the champions in the tournament. The semifinals were cancelled due to weather, and WSU’s hope of making the NCAA Tournament was crushed.

“I thought we had a really good chance at making a run for the NCAA Tournament,” Head Coach Kristi Bredbenner said. “I felt like when it (the conference tournament) ended, we were playing our best softball of the year.

“We can’t put all of our eggs in one basket in winning a tournament — we are better off working for an at-large the entire year, and that’s what we have got to try to do this year.”

Bredbenner said she doesn’t believe the team’s urgency this season will come from that outcome a season ago, but does see it as a quality learning point moving forward. The team struggled to stay healthy throughout the course of the season, and she saw that when the team was healthy, they could be dangerous.

“We needed to put it all together in March, and it happened in April,” Bredbenner said. “When you get to a situation like that, you’re taking yourself out of an opportunity for an at-large bid to the tournament. It’s a lesson.”

She also said the team needs to stay more disciplined throughout the entire season — not in “spurts.”

Last season aside, Bredbenner said she’s hopeful for the spring season. Over the summer, the team brought in a new pitching coach. Pitching is an area the team struggled in last year. Morgan Lashley joined the staff after being a graduate-assistant for nationally ranked Alabama a year ago.

Bredbenner said she’s hopeful that Lashley will bring a new aura to the pitching staff this season.

“[Lashley] is bringing a whole new philosophy than we have had the last four years,” Bredbenner said. “It’s a much more structured, much more fundamentally based philosophy where we are going to start from a beginning spot and progress, but we can’t get better if we don’t have a good foundation.

“The pitchers are learning a lot, and growing. That’s what they were craving these last few years. When it comes to March, April, you’ll see a much more productive, deep pitching staff that’s focused.”

WSU got their first action of the year Saturday against Southern Nazarene, which kicked off The Shockers’ eight-game fall season. Bredbenner said she was “just excited to see the first game.”

“I liked seeing everything,” Bredbenner said. “Game management, our hustle, our nervousness, experience, making mistakes and overcoming them — I felt like we have a lot of things to work on, but it was an opportunity for the kids to show me what we need to work on.”

Bredbenner said she has high expectations for her team. She said that if the team can stay healthy, then they’ll compete at the top of the AAC and should earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

“We’ve got a very difficult schedule,” Bredbenner said. “But with our players, I’m comfortable playing a tough schedule. If we can win the games we are supposed to win, which got away from us last year, and pick up some wins in games we weren’t supposed to win, then I think we’ve got a shot.

“If we stay healthy, I think we can be great.”

WSU continues their fall ball season Saturday against Central Oklahoma at Wilkins Stadium. The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.