BLUFFTON, Ohio - The weather outside may be frightful, but with a trip to sunny Florida just around the corner the 2019 Bluffton University softball team feels delightful. Offense continues to be Bluffton's calling card as the Beavers hit .308 with 26 home runs in 2018. Head Coach Amanda DeMoine has a year under her belt and she is ready to see the fruits of her labor when Bluffton kicks off the season in Plant City, Fla., on Sunday, March 3.
With seven 2018 seniors having graduated to the next phase of their lives, including all-time greats Josie McElroy and Brittany Huff, Bluffton welcomes three newcomers to its core of 12 returners. Kelsey Reeder (Galion/Northmor), a three-year starter at second base, gives the Beavers speed and experience at the top of the lineup. She stole four bases and was tied for team-high honors with eight sacrifice bunts. A career .288 hitter, Reeder has scored 52 runs while drawing 17 walks in 101 games at Bluffton. Fellow senior Casey Clark saw her first action last season, starting 11 games behind the dish. Clark has also been a mainstay on Bluffton's volleyball team the past three years as a defensive specialist.
An experienced junior class of four will drive the 2019 team. Courtney Jasinski (Englewood/Northmont) made the most of her first year as a starter in 2018, hitting .310 with seven doubles, 28 RBI and 12 runs scored as a sophomore. The outfielder also slugged .372 with just four strikeouts. Versatile junior Caylin Morstadt (Delaware/Rutherford B. Hayes) will transition from catching to anchoring the infield at shortstop. She hit .308 with 10 two-baggers and a .451 slugging percentage a season ago and the Beavers will count on her for even more run production in the middle of the lineup this year. Megan Hill (Arcadia) gives the Beavers experience at first base after playing in 17 games and hitting .278 as a sophomore. Lefty Alexis Montemarano (Brook Park/Berea-Midpark) appeared in 10 games with two starts in the circle for Bluffton in 2018 and she is ready to take advantage of her opportunity this season.
Sophomore Sydney Bowen (Convoy/Crestview) started 14 games for Bluffton in the outfield last year, while Katie McCord (Lawrenceburg, Ind.) tossed 15.2 innings in her 11 appearances on the mound. Brianna Baker (Defiance/Ayersville), Riley Langstaff (Findlay), Annie McCrate (Westerville/North) and Taylor Steinke (Findlay) got their feet wet in 2018 and they will all play key roles for the Beavers when they hit the dirt in March.
Bluffton kicks off the 2019 campaign with 10 contests over six days at the Sunkissed Games in Plant City, Fla. The Beavers will battle teams from around the country in addition to Ohio Northern, Heidelberg and Muskingum from the Ohio Athletic Conference. Following three weeks of non-conference action, Bluffton enters HCAC play with a trip to Rose-Hulman on Saturday, March 30. The Beavers will be at rival Defiance for a twin-bill on Wednesday, Apr. 10, setting the stage for 12 straight conference games to close out the regular season. The Heartland Conference coaches have tabbed Transylvania as the 2019 favorite, with Mount St. Joseph and Franklin pegged second and third, respectively.