Southwestern still KCAC target for Tabor track teams
Though hit hard by graduation, the Tabor College track teams will again set their sights on catching conference-leading Southwestern.
Coach Dave Kroeker said the women?s team has the potential to prevent the Moundbuilders from winning a 16th straight Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference title.
?We lost several middle-distance and distance runners?Shelby Miller, Heidi Schmidt and Amber Wiens?who made a big difference last year, so we won?t be as strong in those areas,? he said. ?But we?re going to be stronger in hurdles and throws. It?s different, but I think no less effective.?
Tabor caught lightning in a bottle when the 4×800 relay team of Miller, Schmidt, Wiens and Liz Kleinsasser obliterated the KCAC meet record and qualified for nationals with a time of 9:26.79 at the end of last season.
Without Miller, Schmidt and Wiens, it is unlikely that the Bluejays will generate the same electricity. But with proven gains made by national 4×400 veteran Kelli Kopper and the hope of an outstanding sophomore season from Kleinsasser, Kroeker expects the relays to be a strength well.
?I think the 4×8 relay team is going to be not quite as strong, but we have people back and we have a couple of underclassmen girls with the ability to step up, so I think we have a legit shot to go to nationals again,? he said.
?With the 4×400 team, we have the potential to run faster than we did last year if we stay healthy.?
Kopper will run both of the longer relays and has set her sights on posting times under 60 seconds in the open 400.
Kleinsasser is struggling with some injury issues, Kroeker said.
?She was second in our conference in the 800, qualified for nationals in 4×4, 4×800, and she can do a lot of things when she?s healthy.?
The health of sprinter Tasia Johnson is also a difference-maker for the Bluejays chances to send a 4×100 relay to St. Louis.
?When she?s healthy, she?ll be as fast as anyone in the conference, but she hasn?t been healthy,? Kroeker said. ?That is a real question mark at this point.?
Kroeker said sprinter Kayla Gershon has looked good in practice so far: ?Maybe not in the same speed category as Tasia, but quality in the 100 and 200.?
The Bluejays will have strength and depth in the long-distance races, particularly the 10,000, with the addition of Butler County transfer Christina Addison and the retention of Jera Tesselle.
Kroeker said Addison qualified for the half-marathon in December and should be ?very strong, under 40 minutes… (and) one of the top two or three in the conference? in the 10,000.
Jessica Burden, who placed second in the 100-meter hurdles, has been ?looking very good,? Kroeker said. ?I?m looking for her to score some points at the conference meet.?
Hesston transfer Sharae Wadel (100 hurdles), Erin Vance (400 hurdles) and Becca Liebe (400 hurdles) each have a shot at breaking into the conference?s top six.
Apart from Burden (second place pole vault), Johnson (third place long jump) and Amy Dueck (honorable mention triple jump), the Bluejays are ?not a real deep area.?
But with a group of throwers headlined by four-time national qualifier Breanna Wray, the Bluejays will be competitive in the field events.
?Qualifying two times indoors and two times outdoors speaks for itself,? Kroeker said. ?She?s got our school record in the hammer and in shot put, and she?ll be leading our team in that respect.?
Estey Wichert is gunning for all-conference in the discus and hammer.
Five others will compete in the women?s throws: Samantha Van Ranken (javelin, hammer), Amanda McDonald (shot put, hammer), Megan McCarty (hammer, shot put and javelin), Chelsea Malone (javelin) and Amanda Krier (discus).
?If we?re healthy at the end of the year and we?ve been training all year long?we?ve got a couple of girls hurt right now, but if they get healthy?a conference championship is the goal,? Kroeker said. ?Our women throwers are going to be really good.?
For the men, ?there?s a lot of unknowns,? Kroeker said. ?There?s a lot of uncertainty on the men?s side and there?s some real glaring holes. We don?t have a lot of speed in short distances, we don?t have the jumpers we?ve had in the past?we don?t have a guy high jumper at this point, and I?ve had a conference champion every year for the last four or five?so there?s a lot of question marks.?
The good news for the Bluejays is that where there is certainty, it is certain strength.
Consider national javelin qualifier Adam Dirks: ?He?s the best thrower who has actually thrown for Tabor (but) he?s the one guy we know a lot about.?
Dirks will also throw the hammer. Returning senior Matt Fox (shot put, hammer) is the only other returning thrower. But with five promising newcomers, Kroeker believes the group will be a team strength.
The five newcomers are: Richard Snyder (discus, shot put), Tristan Burrow (hammer, disucs), Aaron Munsch (shot put, discus, hammer), David Quarker (hammer, shot put) and Thomas Jackson (discus, hammer).
Jackson, a senior in his first year with the track team, was a heavy-hitting linebacker for the Bluejay football team in 2007.
Tabor will have a strong 4×800 relay anchored by all-KCAC 800-meter man Justin Ball. Ball will team with Brent Nelsen, Ric Johnson and Matt Spurgeon to take a run at the school record.
?They have a chance to break it,? Kroeker said. ?If we really bring some times down, there?s some potential for them to make it to nationals.?
But the 4×400 and 4×100 relays are ?still pretty much up in the air,? he said. ?We?re not as strong in those.?
Ball posted a 1:58 mark in the open 800 last year, and Kroeker foresees continued improvement.
?I don?t doubt he could be a 1:54/1:55 guy this year,? he said. ?I think he?ll be in the top three or four in the conference, but if he runs 1:55, he?ll be in the top three.?
A strong?but again, unproven?group of new recruits will keep the Bluejays competitive in the running events.
Kroeker said Spurgeon posted a 2:02 in the 800 in high school and is ?running well.?
Jordan Stahl ?just loves track,? so he?s going to compete in the 100, 200, 400, long jump and 4×400, Kroeker said. ?He?s going to be a good one.?
Drew Crosson, a transfer from Bethel, has led Tabor in the 110 hurdles?one event where the Bluejays possess proven depth?in the early part of the season.
?I don?t know if we?ve got a conference champion in that group, but we?ve got the most guy-hurdlers we?ve ever had,? Kroeker said.
The group includes Crosson, Brad Kiser, Tony Loewen and Ralph Manous, but does not include 400 hurdles conference champion Andrew Schroter, who transferred to Southwestern.
The Bluejays do return a conference champion pole vaulter in Silas Hibbs, who set the school record at 14-10 at the conference meet last year.
The Bluejays are neither deep nor proven in the jumps. Stahl and Chris Roddy?both freshmen?and junior Mike Rousell may be capable when healthy, but only Rousell, who placed third in the long jump, is a known quantity.
?That?s the unique situation we?re in?we?ve always been strong in the jumps, but this year will be a little bit down in the jumps,? Kroeker said.
Stahl posted a 20-foot mark in the indoor long jump. Roddy competes in both long jump and triple jump.
Southwestern will, barring a rash of injuries, run away with the men?s title, leaving Tabor vying for a spot in the top three.
As for the women, Kroeker said: ?It?s all about, ?are we healthy?? If we?re healthy for the last six weeks of the season, starting after spring break, we should absolutely think we have a chance to win our first conference championship. If not, we?ll be second or third.?
The Bluejays competed at Cowley County Community College Saturday, and will compete next April 4 at the Emporia State relays or the Friends Invitational.
The conference championships will be at McPherson May 1-2.
Bluejay baseball program progressing under new coach
With former Wichita State slugger Mark Standiford in his first season coaching the Tabor College baseball team, the Bluejays have posted an 11-16 overall record, and a 2-6 mark in their first eight conference games.
But while the 1988 Collegiate Baseball Magazine all-American has not turned the Bluejays (18-31 overall, 7-17 KCAC in 2008) into worldbeaters overnight, the team has made gains under his tutelage.
Two weeks into conference play, the Bluejays lead the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference in scoring average with nearly 6.6 runs per game. Tabor?s pitchers are second to Saint Mary in earned run average (5.01 staff ERA).
But inadequate fielding has contributed to truckloads of trouble. The Bluejays? gloves rank just ahead of last-place Ottawa, and the 71 unearned runs they have allowed make Tabor by far the most generous team in the KCAC.
?If we have a strength, it has been the way we?ve competed as a team,? Standiford said. ?Our pitching has been pretty good the last couple of games, but we need to be better defensively. It?s a constant battle, something we?re trying to improve on.?
Slightly over 41 percent of all opposition scores have been unearned.
Meanwhile, the Bluejays? offense has demonstrated an ability to counterpunch hard enough to overcome mistakes and win games in the late innings.
Tabor has outscored its opposition 70-41 in the fifth and sixth innings, and has overcome multiple-run deficits in five late-inning comeback victories so far.
The Bluejays have also seen a significant number of last-minute rallies fall short, in no small part because of a 30-13 seventh-inning scoring deficit.
The Bluejays? scoring machine has been turned most often by junior catcher Tyson Kendrick and freshman shortstop CJ Henrichsen, both of whom have posted batting averages above .400 in addition to the squad?s two highest RBI totals.
Henrichsen and center fielder Dustin Dick have been the Bluejays? top sluggers, and each has knocked four home runs.
Henrichsen?s 30 RBI lead the KCAC, and his 23 runs scored speaks to his success setting the table from the leadoff spot.
?Henrichsen?s been, if not leading the team in hitting, probably most consistent all year,? Standiford said. ?Tyson Ken?drick has been consistent as well.?
Dick hits leadoff or seventh, depending on matchups, while Kendrick has been Standiford?s choice to bat third.
First baseman Tanner Stephenson usually bats second and has posted a .308 batting average with 12 runs scored and 10 RBI.
Right fielder and cleanup hitter Clayton Kessler has accounted for 36 runs?20 scored, 16 driven in.
Mike Chaput, who has played at both first base and catcher, has been fifth in the batting order and has produced 14 RBI on 19 hits?eight for extra bases?in 65 at bats.
Third baseman Paul Briden?baugh has been effective batting sixth or seventh, but also has contributed significantly as a pitcher.
Standiford said left fielder Ryan Boucher has been ?a consistent hitter and probably our best defender?not real flashy, mainly a singles guy hitting seven or eight in the lineup doing a real good job.?
Brett Drone and Brad Zewe hold the fort at second base, with Zewe making an additional contribution to the pitching staff (21 innings as a spot starter).
The Bluejays? most consistent starter has been Wes Stancher, who has posted a 1-2 record with a 1.84 ERA in six games. Tyler Fenton (3-4) has two complete games and a team-high total of 37 innings pitched.
?I don?t know that we have a No. 1 right now,? Standiford said.
While Andrew Cook?s 6.97 ERA does not sparkle, the senior starter holds one of the Blue?jays? conference wins. Cook, a lefty, threw six innings and came out on the right side of an 8-6 battle with Bethany March 20.
Used primarily in relief early in the season, Bridenbaugh has started the fourth game of each home-and-home conference series. He came within an out of a ?no decision? after holding Saint Mary to two runs through five innings of a 4-3 loss March 14. He held Bethany to three runs, exiting with the score tied after five innings March 21.
Tabor?s other conference win belongs to freshman Quinton Smith, who Standiford said has been reliable in long relief.
Galva?s Travis Schafer (1-2) has notched seven strikeouts in eight innings, with just two walks?by far Tabor?s best per-inning and per-walk strikeout total.
Tabor resumes conference play with a home-and-home set against Friends.
Tabor visits Friends Friday and hosts the Falcons, who were picked a second in the pre-season coaches poll, at 1 p.m. Saturday.
TC men have four seniors, women led by youth in ?09
The 2009 Tabor College men?s tennis team will vie for second or third place in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference behind the leadership of four seniors.
But it?s already a team coach Michael Hagen will not soon forget.
Returning all-conference player Aaron Friesen stands alongside fellow seniors Chad Gayer, Scott Adrian and Jason Reiswig as a unique class for Hagen.
?Those four guys are a special group for me,? he said. ?They were freshmen when I was a senior, so those guys were teammates, and it?s been nice to see their progression since I?ve graduated and been their coach.?
Hagen said each one contributes to making the whole greater than the sum of its parts, but also contributes in different ways.
?Chad is a player, a guy you can count on to always come out and give you 110 percent effort,? Hagen said. ?Scott is the same way in terms of effort, and is one of our best doubles players. Aaron is the ideal singles player, a guy who can volley with you all day.
?And Jason Reiswig is kind of an assistant coach for me,? he added. ?If I need someone to help me with anything, he takes care of it. If I?m not around or a guy has an issue a player doesn?t want to bring to me, they?ll talk to Jason about it. He?s a natural leader.?
Hagen also noted that Reiswig is ?the most intense guy, the most likely to lose control on the court, but is also the most likely to pull out a joke in the van on the way back. He?ll be the one to pull the team together, the guy who, if he sees something he doesn?t like will step up.?
Hagen believes it is an effective dynamic for the Bluejays, in part because the other three seniors are not as vocal.
In card games, four aces is enough to win?but for the Bluejays to sneak into second place, they will need solid play from three other players Hagen thinks have the ability to step up: Emerson Kochem, Andy Adrian and Kyle de Blonk.
Kochem is in his second season at Tabor.
?He is a junior on the team, but this might be his last year,? Hagen said. ?He?s been awesome to have around?he?s from Sao Paulo, Brazil?and he brings a whole different culture and personality to the table. He?s a good singles player, but he?s had a hard time adapting to the hardcourt. Where he?s from, all the courts are clay.?
The Bluejays will also lean on a pair of two-sport athletes.
?Andy Adrian is also a soccer player, and for how much time he can spend on the court he does an awesome job,? Hagen said. ?I always know what to expect from him?he?s a great doubles player, a tall guy with a big serve.?
De Blonk, who flashed some of his agility while running the point for the basketball team, will also play doubles.
For the women, Tabor lost first-team all-conference player Laurel Delamater to graduation. Delamater was named KCAC ?Player of the Year? her junior season, and her shoes may be impossible to fill.
While the Bluejays are not without strength, their strength has so far grown out of their youth.
Former Tabor basketball standout Stacie Herman is the lone senior on the squad, but has only one year of tennis experience.
?She was an outstanding basketball player a couple years ago, and her athleticism translates well,? Hagen said. ?She can pick up a racket and get all over the court, chasing down balls.?
Herman will play No. 1 doubles and No. 4 singles.
The only junior on the team, Amanda Wann, came to Tabor out of high school. Hagen said she ?does everything we ask of her.?
?She?s a real good kid who plays anywhere from No. 2 or No. 3 singles to No. 1 or No. 2 singles,? he added. ?She?s an important part of our chances to take top-four in the conference this year.?
Another key cog in the Tabor machine is Hillsboro High School graduate Amanda Faber, who has jumped into the No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles roles with both feet.
?She has been awesome so far, and she?s only going to get better,? Hagen said. ?When you?re from any small town, and you?re the best on your team, sometimes you don?t have anyone who can really push you to get better.
?So when she gets out there with some of the players at our level, you can see her improving by the week.
?She?s very competitive, works hard outside of practice and will either come out to hit or call someone to play?you can see she wants to keep getting better.?
The Bluejays will also rely on a pair of sophomores?both graduates from Maize High School?in Jamie Williams and Katie Chlumsky.
?Jamie plays No. 2 doubles and 2 or 3 singles,? Hagen said. ?She probably has the hardest ground strokes on the team, hits the ball really hard, serves hard, and will progress.?
Chlumsky has the ability to frustrate opponents by returning tough shots.
?Katie is a backboard who will stay at the baseline and hit everything back,? Hagen said. ?She?s very, very consistent.?
Brynne Mitchell, a freshman from Wichita Trinity, has taken rapid strides in the early going.
?She?s a hard hitter who wasn?t as developed as Faber coming in,? Hagen said. ?But since she?s been playing against girls who hit harder, she?s gotten better every day. It?s great to see a player improve so much before conference play even starts.?
With a dominate men?s team in Bethany, and with Bethany and Bethel locked in an escalating arms race on the women?s side, the KCAC title will not be in play for either Tabor team.
But with no clear-cut runner-up on the men?s side, Hagen believes his team could climb as high as second.
?Bethany is the hands-down favorite,? he said. ?They?re extremely strong. Tabor, Bethel, Friends, Kansas Wesleyan are all in a battle for second through fifth.
?A top-three finish is our guys? goal,? he added. ?Ultimately we?d like to win second, but I?d have to be happy with top-three.?
The superpowers have already spoken for the top two places, with the Threshers perhaps holding a slight edge over the Swedes. But little is certain in the chase for third.
?Bethel and Bethany will battle for conference,? Hagen said. ?They?re both really strong, with Bethel having the returning conference player of the year. But third is wide open, so a top-four finish on the women?s side, I?d be really pleased with.?
Hagen is also keenly aware that unnecessarily high expectations can be a burden. But instead of attempting to tamp down the hope of a high finish, he said his players ought to focus on aspects of the game they can control.
?As long as we come out and we play hard, and we bring the right attitude, wherever we finish, we finish,? he said. ?You can?t control it any more than that, so you can?t be mad or sad if it doesn?t work out how you?d hope.?
He added: ?That?s not how it is at our level. We?re not going on to play on the U.S. Open or anything, but we?re definitely going to compete at our level.?
The Bluejays? first conference test comes Saturday against Kansas Wesleyan.
TC softball building strength, but victories still elusive
In the early non-conferece portion of coach Johnny Bassett?s second season at the helm, the Tabor College softball team is significantly stronger than the 2008 edition. But the improvement has not translated into easy victories.
?In terms of wins and losses, I expected to be close to .500 this year,? Bassett said. ?I?d didn?t think we?d quite get there, but I thought we?d be close.
?We don?t have any seniors on the team,? he added. ?We?re a young team, and the learning curve isn?t going quite how I wanted. We?re a little behind learning the college game.?
While the Bluejays have produced a tremendous jump in offensive production from the top of the lineup to the bottom?evidenced by a 20-game total of 55 runs scored, compared to the 2008 season total of 30 runs?the team has been outscored by nearly 100 runs.
?If you look at our statistics, you?ll see a lot of high batting averages,? Bassett said. ?Those stats do not list runners in scoring position batting averages. That?s under .100. The first game against McPherson we had runners in scoring position, one out, and we got one run out of it. That was the only run we got. We had second and third, one out the next inning?so we could easily have been up 5-0 with a couple more hits.?
Bluejay pitchers Danielle Cronauer and Dorene Dodson have combined to hold the opposition to fewer than five runs seven times this season, but have just one win apiece to show for it.
?We?re going to win games,? Bassett said. ?It?s a matter of getting some momentum going.?
Shortstop Kezia Cabrera leads off as the only Bluejay with the speed to swipe second at will.
?She bats both ways, is 9-for-9 stealing bases and plays excellent defense,? Bassett said. ?She gets on base, she steals second. It?s almost a given, nobody is going to throw her out.?
Second baseman Janelle Madrano, third baseman Roxanne Rodriguez and left fielder Megan Wedal have batted second in Bassett?s lineups.
Rodriguez is 5-for-5 on stolen base attempts and Wedal leads the team in extra-base hits (four doubles) and runs batted in (7).
?Roxanne has an excellent defensive glove and hit with power,? Bassett said.
Madrano is a switch hitter Bassett called ?extremely fast.?
Dodson has routinely hit third in the order, and leads the team in batting average (.362), slugging percentage (.447) and on-base percentage (.464).
When not on the mound, Dodson plays first base.
When Dodson pitches, Alyssa Voth or Jessica Klose steps in at first base. Voth alternates at catcher and has posted a .325 batting average in the clean-up spot, while Klose has hit .182 in the bottom half of the order.
Aubrey Whitehorn has not dazzled at the plate, but has started 17 games in center field without committing an error.
Amanda Howe and Jolynn Padilla have split time in right field.
Strengths and weaknesses
The number and quality of non-conference opponents has risen markedly, challenging the Bluejays to raise their game as well. The level of competition will take another step up when Tabor enters the meat of the conference schedule.
Tabor gave up 10 or more runs eight times and forfeited six other games last year, but the Bluejay pitchers have allowed opponents to reach double-digits only three times so far?and only once prior to a spring break road trip to Texas.
?Our hitting in general has been strong, and our pitching is good when we?re healthy?but right now, our pitchers are both dinged up,? Bassett said. ?Hopefully, they?ll be healthy after the trip.?
Bassett indicated that fielding has been strong at most positions, but noted that missed plays in the outfield and on bunt coverages have hurt.
?One other weakness we have is we?re slow,? he said. ?We have some very good players who are very slow?so we don?t have really any small-ball capabilites this year.?
The Cabrera-led offense has scored more than five runs only four times?but Tabor has gone 2-2 when scoring 5-plus.
?When nobody is on, we?re hitting, but with runners on, we?re not hitting,? Bassett said. ?I?m hoping to attribute that to youth.?
As has been the story in recent years, the Bluejays have plenty of room to improve. But this season, the roster is lined with players trying to take the next step.
?We?re frustrated with losing, but the team spirit is up,? Bassett said. ?We know we have a lot of talent, and that it?s just a matter of getting everybody on the same page as soon as we can.?
Tabor (2-16 overall and 0-2 in the KCAC) resumes conference play today (April 1) at Kansas Wesleyan. The Bluejays? next home games will be played April 9 against Sterling.