Apr 302009
Authors: Sean Star

Freshman year of college: The best of times, the worst of times or somewhere in between. Whichever the case, one thing is for sure. It’s an experience like none other.

Everything is new. The living space is uncomfortable, the food is unlimited and the freedom is unprecedented.

All of a sudden, Thursday becomes part of the weekend, and going to class becomes optional.

No doubt, it’s a lot to take in. Too much to take in, in fact, as 20 percent don’t come back the next year.

For athletes the adjustment is even more difficult, as time management takes on an entirely different meaning. The transition is so severe, that oftentimes freshmen sit out of competition all together. Instead they redshirt, sit on the sidelines and learn from the veterans.

But for this year’s crop of freshmen on the CSU softball team, there’s been a lot less sitting and a lot more hitting.

As many as six freshmen have made an impact for the third-place Rams, which were picked to finish fifth before the season.

Offensively the young group is led by first baseman Christine Thomsen and outfielder Jenna Krough, whose batting averages rank second and third on the team, respectively.

Krough has been on a tear at the plate recently, and she enters Saturday’s game at New Mexico with a 13-game hitting streak. (Though, it appears to be a sensitive subject, so knock on wood for her.)

In the circle, Kelli Eubanks has been the team’s best pitcher, leading the Rams in wins, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts.

Collectively their success is shared. But individually they’re as different as the color of hair on their head.

Thomsen, a blonde, is relaxed and confident. Krough, a red head, is outspoken and full of energy. And Eubanks, a brunette, is always focused and ultra-competitive.

“I just think that they’re very eclectic,” junior Ashley Munoz said. “Each one of them has their own personality.”

If anyone on the team can relate to first-year success, it’s Munoz. Two years ago she bashed what was at the time a team-record 14 home runs on the way to being named the conference’s freshman of the year.

Now a junior, Munozsays things have changed dramatically. No longer does she have the luxury of playing in a conference where no one knows her strengths and weaknesses, which is still the case for this year’s freshmen.

Surely by next year, scouting reports will be available on Thomsen, Krough and Eubanks. Throw in a little pressure of repeating their success, and once again everything will be different.

But for know, it’s all about letting the frosh have their fun, Munoz said, “letting them think it’s all easy.”

It sure appears that they’re having fun, and as their coach, Mari Yori says, they’ve brought a new sense of energy to the program.

“We kind of brought a fresh breath of air to the team,” Thomsen said. “Kind of lightened things up.”

Lightened things up, sure, but not necessarily mixed things up. Yori and her players agree that, although a lot of at bats are going to freshmen, team chemistry has remained strong.

Instead of causing a divide among themselves and older players, the freshmen have relied on the upper classmen for guidance.

“Maybe some of us had that concern about that coming in, that we were going to be a really divided team, but we meshed really well,” Eubanks said. “We look to those (veteran) girls not only for leadership on the field, but off the field just in general.”

Sports columnist Sean Star can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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