The Threshers are ready to get to the heart of the matter this week, when Bethel softball will start the 2017 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference season when York (Nebraska) comes calling.
The team is sophomore heavy, though many of those sophomores started on a team that set a school record for wins a year ago. Bethel finished 6-16 in the conference last year, 11-31 overall. For the record, a strong start has the team poised to break both of those records.
“We need to win the games we are supposed to win, and then sneak a few when we can,” said coach Stacy Middleton. “I think we will sneak up some people.”
They enter the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference season 9-8 overall — not a gaudy record, but just a few wins away from a school record for wins in a season.
The team is also entering the conference slate with confidence — Bethel set a school record for consecutive wins with an eight game streak this spring. Bethel currently ranks in the top 20 nationally for batting average — one of the reasons of early season success.
“They have turned a corner,” Middleton said. “The culture has changed, we are so super positive and everyone is working hard and accepting every role that is given — which is huge. They are ready to go.”
All the while, there was a red-letter day on the calendar: York, at 6-16 overall, comes to town at 1 p.m. March 22 to kick off the conference schedule. York bounced Bethel out of the post-season last spring.
“It is a big game for us,” Middleton said. “This was the game that took us out of the tournament last year. All we needed to do was win one game against York, and we went eight innings in two games and lost. This is a revenge match that the kids are looking forward to.”
York enters the game on a losing streak — dropping five straight. Once that double header is done, Bethel will travel to Southwestern (9-15) for a pair on March 25.
Coming out of the gate at least 2-2 is, in Middleton's words, a needed good start to the sixth season of softball at Bethel — but her sights are set a little higher.
“We could start off pretty good here in the conference,” Middleton said. “Right now they are both ranked below us. We could actually start 4-0 if we keep our heads down and don't get too big for our britches.”
Some more difficult games await as well.
“Ottawa, Friends, Oklahoma Wesleyan and Bethany are always the top three or four teams in the conference,” Middleton said.