The Kellogg Community College softball team began their 2013 season this morning with a pair of away games played on fields a thousand miles away and several degrees hotter than their home field here at Bailey Park.
The games kicked off the Bruins’ annual spring trip, which will see them play a minimum of six games through this Friday in Panama City, Fla. Seventeen players and a handful of coaching staff left KCC’s North Avenue campus on the trip this past Saturday, when the baseball team returned from their own spring trip to Louisiana and Mississippi.
Russ Bortell, the team’s head coach and an enrollment services representative at KCC, said this year’s location is new for the team, which in the past has traveled to places like Myrtle Beach in South Carolina and Cocoa Beach, another Florida location.
“It’s a great team-bonding experience,” Bortell said of the trip. “A lot of things can happen between driving there and back, spending 30 hours together. … It’s invaluable as far as team chemistry.”
While the team has been practicing together indoors since mid-January, Bortell said the trip offers benefits that practice can’t: Exposure for freshmen, for one, and an indication of the areas the team needs to work on going forward.
“Until you play, you don’t know what you’ve got,” he said. “It’s just tons of information and feedback that you just don’t get at practice.”
As far as the season ahead, Bortell said this year’s squad is “kind of the polar opposite of last year as to how we project on the field.”
While the Bruins’ strength last year was on the mound, this year’s pitching is mostly unproven, he said. And while the team struggled on offense and defense all last season, this year’s team has more depth that will likely make them stronger and more consistent in those areas.
Bolstering the team’s strength are eight returning sophomores, who with a year of experience under their belts can, starting today, begin proving the new team’s chemistry on the fields down south.
“It’s a valuable part of our program,” Bortell said of the trip. “Hopefully we can learn from it.”
If you want to follow along with the team’s progress as they play, sophomore infielder Taylor Howes is live-tweeting the trip through KCC’s @Kellogg_CC_Live twitter account, which you can follow online at www.twitter.com/Kellogg_CC_Live.
For more information about the softball program at Kellogg Community College, visit www.kellogg.edu/athletics/softball/index.html.