This past weekend went pretty well for Murray State and its sophomore second baseman, Lindsey Carroll.
The Racers -- posted up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, for the 2020 Doc Halverson Tournament at the UNI Dome -- went 3-2 with wins over South Dakota State, Northern Iowa and Drake, and just missed on an extra-innings affair with South Dakota.
And in that stretch, Carroll punished from the leadoff spot, going 7-for-18 with two doubles, one triple, four runs scored and five RBIs. Her .500 on-base percentage was third-best behind catcher/outfielder Logan Braundmeier and shortstop Sierra Gilmore, and she had only two errors.
For the former McCracken County star and Paducah native, this strong start matters for one clear reason.
After spending her entire freshman season with undisclosed back troubles, and hitting just .238 in 52 starts, Carroll had two offseason surgeries to alleviate chronic pain.
She's looking to rebound in the strongest way possible, and longtime MSU coach Kara Amundson -- who just picked up her 200th win -- is letting it happen.
"I think Lindsey is finally in a space where she feels strong and healthy and ready to rip," Amundson said. "She was in a space last year where she couldn't lift more than five pounds. But she's hitting balls now, and I'm like: 'Man, that kid, that's exactly what we knew we were getting ahold of.' Last year, she became a contact hitter because that's what she could do.
"I think the offseason, for her, became something that was frustrating and liberating -- all at the same time. Because she wasn't who she wanted to be last season, and through no fault of her own. It wasn't because of up here (pointing to her head). Just letting her being able to let it rip a little bit has been liberating for her, and it's been really fun to see her at practice."
Shoulders, other locals in fold
Carroll isn't the only Paducahan and former McCracken County star that'll see considerable time this season for a Racers squad picked to finish fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference. Expect to see sophomore Abby Shoulders in Amundson's outfield rotation, as she started all five games this past weekend (with a .357 on-base percentage) and is coming off of a 2019 in which she spent most of her time as a designated player (where she hit .200).
Former Marshall County star Gracey Murt, former Caldwell County star Mashea Glover and former Christian County star Tyler Shemwell, all freshmen, will get a chance to contribute this season, too -- particularly in the non-conference portion of the season, which has the Racers on the road for every weekend leading up to the March 13-15 Racer Classic at Racer Field in Murray.
A year after finishing 16-6 in the OVC and embracing the concept of "being a shark" -- a stealthy hunter locked in on its prey -- Amudson and her staff have dubbed 2020 in a new way.
"Fortune favors the brave," she said.
Or, in latin: fortis fortuna adiuvat.
"It means being able to work through adversity," she added. "Being able to be the person that's willing to jump into the fire and not be afraid. That kind of thing.
"Being picked fourth, and I say this to my team and anyone who will listen, but that's where we finished (in 2019). That's the seed we were in the tournament. So, to me, that's no surprise. And I don't think that's something we're willing to settle for. And I think if we're approaching these preseason tournaments and going into conference play that way, we might be able to be somebody that's not a 4-seed, and we're No. 1 instead."
Amundson calls this rotation -- reigning OVC Freshman of the Year Hannah James, senior returners Taylor Makowski and Ellison Barrett, and freshman Jenna Veber -- "one of the best pitching staffs" she's had, across the board, during her time at MSU.
And it's off to a good start, after James won OVC Pitcher of the Week behind a 2-1 start with two complete games, 17 strikeouts, 10 walks and a 1.62 ERA; Makowski went 1-0 with a 4.85 ERA and six strikeouts; and Veber went 0-1 with a 3.71 ERA in 52/3 innings.
But it can't be the best part of the team, for pretty specific reasons.
"My gut says 'I hope not,' because it can't be just one thing," she said. "That's my innate response. It can't be just one thing, or we're not going to win. Specifically in this conference. I hope the pitching staff can make it easy for our pitchers, and vice versa."
2020 Murray State Softball Roster
# Full Name Pos. B/T Ht. Cl. Hometown / High School Previous School
9 Ellison Barrett P/OF L/R 5-7 Sr. Florence, Ala. / Florence HS
11 Kristen Bialek OF/U L/R 5-2 Sr. Downers Grove, Ill. / Downers Grove South HS
14 Lexi Jones IF R/R 5-8 Sr. Eldersburg, Md. / Liberty HS
28 Taylor Makowsky P R/R 6-0 Sr. Tomball, Texas / Klein Oak HS Northeastern Okla. A&M/Iowa
8 Logan Braundmeier OF/U R/R 5-8 Jr. Aviston, Ill. / Mater Dei HS
12 Sierra Gilmore IF R/R 5-11 Jr. Williamsburg, Ind. / Northeastern HS
24 Jenna Bleiberg C R/R 5-8 Jr. Kingwood, Texas / Kingwood HS UIW
33 Jensen Striegel OF L/R 5-6 Jr. Floyds Knobs, Ind. / Floyd Central HS
5 Abby Shoulders U R/R 5-3 So. Paducah, Ky. / McCracken County HS
13 Lindsey Carroll U R/R 5-7 So. Paducah, Ky. / McCracken County HS
15 Hannah James P R/R 5-10 So. Nicholasville, Ky. / East Jessamine HS
21 Alie Kennedy C R/R 5-8 So. Plainfield. Ill. / Plainfield North HS Judson
23 Sophie Bingham P/OF R/R 5-5 So. Eddyville, Ky. / Lyon County HS
30 Jordan Childress IF R/R 5-6 So. Peachtree City, Ga. / Starr's Mill HS
1 Tyler Shemwell OF R/R 5-5 Fr. Hopkinsville, Ky. / Christian County HS
2 Mashea Glover U R/R 5-8 Fr. Princeton, Ky. / Caldwell County HS
3 Gracey Murt U R/R 5-3 Fr. Benton, Ky. / Marshall County HS
4 Lily Fischer IF R/R 5-6 Fr. Marysville, Wash. / Marysville-Pilchuck HS
16 Chloe Jacque U L/R 5-3 Fr. Riverside, Iowa / Lone Tree Community School
26 Jenna Veber P L/R 5-10 Fr. Oswego, Ill. / Oswego HS