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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Softball gears up for a different season with conference newcomers

Bryan Chavez
The Wichita State softball team gathers together before the match against McLennan Community College on Sept. 16.

Wichita State softball has a long history of success in conference play. Now, the 2023 regular season champions are gearing up for their spring campaign, and this year’s new additions to the American Athletic Conference will be the ultimate test for the team. 

Six schools joined the AAC: the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Florida Atlantic University, the University of North Texas, Rice University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of Texas at San Antonio. 

Head coach Kristi Bredbenner said North Texas, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, UAB and UTSA are going to be tough schools to face off against. 

“Those five were probably five of the toughest softball (teams),” Bredbenner said. “Softball got tougher, whereas in maybe some of our other sports, it didn’t, and so we’ve got to be ready.” 

In January, Wichita State’s softball program was picked in a preseason coaches poll to repeat as conference champions.

Bredbenner said that although she is flattered by the vote, there will be pressure to recreate what they have done in the past.

“I think there’s always pressure when you create a culture of success,” Bredbenner said. “We’ve got a lot of missing pieces, but missing pieces mean opportunity.”

Senior pitcher Lauren Howell said that although the team is pretty young, they have developed good chemistry. 

“I think a lot of the freshmen have kind of broken out of their shells a little bit and loosened up, and it’s been fun to see,” Howell said. 

Without players like Sydney McKinney, Zoe Jones, and Lauren Mills, Bredbenner said the team will have to play a different style of softball. 

“We’ll still have some power and some big hitters, but I also think we’re going to have to manufacture a little bit differently and play great defense and just find a different way to win,” Bredbenner said.

Graduate student and infielder CC Wong said that although the team might not be the same as last year, that has not stopped them from working hard in practice. 

“I think it’s going to be really good to see where we compete with those top teams,” Wong said. “But we’ve got to play our own game because they’re really good, so I think we got to come out and prove that we’re able to be on that field as well.”

Bredbenner said that the first few weekends of play will be pivotal as they learn what to work on in and out of conference play. 

“We need to start off the season on a high note, hopefully give ourselves some confidence, and yeah, we’re going to have to claw and scrape,” Bredbenner said.

Wichita State softball will begin its season on Feb. 9, traveling to Huntsville, Texas, to compete against Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in the Bearkat Classic. The first pitch is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

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About the Contributors
Melanie Rivera-Cortez
Melanie Rivera-Cortez, Sports Editor
Bryan Chavez
Bryan Chavez, Photographer
Bryan Chavez is a first-year photographer for The Sunflower. He is a freshman at Wichita State, majoring in Journalism and Media Production. Chavez is from Dallas, Texas, and wants to pursue a career as a professional sports photographer. Chavez's pronouns are he/him.

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