College Softball: Mangia anchors North Central lineup
BY PAUL JOHNSON For Sun-Times Media March 20, 2013 2:12PM
Updated: March 26, 2013 9:00PM
It can be hard to figure out exactly what kind of softball team you have when there is still snow on the ground.
But North Central College softball coach Jim Kulawiak is finding plenty of answers this past week in the sun of Fort Myers, Fla.
The Cardinals opened the season last Friday in Fort Myers against Curry College and are playing 10 games before heading back to Naperville. The team heads back to Florida after spending the past several years traveling to Arizona for spring break. The Cardinals have gotten off to a great start in Florida, winning their first eight games.
“It will give us a much better feel for what we have coming back north,” Kulawiak said prior to the trip. “It’s real hard to tell. We practiced in the fall, but our conference doesn’t allow games.”
In a rare occurrence, the Cardinals don’t have a senior on the roster this year. Junior Vlasta Mangia is the top returner. Mangia earned all-conference honors as a hitter in 2011 and as a pitcher in 2012. She went 16-14 with a 2.17 ERA in the pitcher’s circle and hit .385 last year. She is the lone returning all-conference player in a season that Kulawiak described as a down year.
North Central went 21-18 overall, the 24th consecutive season the Cardinals had a winning record, but went 5-9 in the CCIW. In the preseason coaches’ rankings, the Cardinals were picked tied for third with Augustana behind powerhouses Illinois Wesleyan and Carthage.
“Wesleyan has everyone back and Carthage lost two players; they’ll be the heavy hitters,” Kulawiak said.
Kulawiak is hoping for some depth in the pitching game from freshman Andrea Starr. She was expected to get plenty of action in the condensed schedule in Florida.
Junior shortstop Taylor Ryan and junior Ashley Guest, a Neuqua Valley graduate, return with some experience. Sophomore outfielder Carly Trenhaile led the team with three home runs and 30 RBI last year and returns. Fellow sophomores Jordyn Beck and Kayla Antle saw plenty of time as freshmen as well.
Two sophomore transfers, Cecie Portillo from Wisconsin-Parkside and Kiersten Tinkoff from Wisconsin-Whitewater, figure to get right into action for the Cardinals. Kulawiak is also hoping for immediate contributions from freshmen Olivia Goethals and Amanda Walker.
“I think Andrea is going to make our pitching staff better,” Kulawiak said. “I think we’ll be a little better offensively than we were last year. Defensively, I think we’ll be OK. We’re really not going to know until we start playing. I definitely think we’ll be better than we were a year ago. We were a little down last year.”