The Bowling Green State University softball team begins the 2023 season this weekend, heading to Rosemont, Illinois, to play five games in the DePaul Dome Invitational.
BGSU coach Candace Fenton-Bockbrader and the Falcons open the season with a pair of games today, meeting Detroit Mercy along with the host school.
On Saturday, the Falcons will face Eastern Kentucky and Valparaiso. The Falcons’ tourney action concludes with a Sunday contest vs. Western Illinois.
BGSU opened last season at the DePaul Dome Tournament as well, posting a 4-1 mark.
Candace Fenton-Bockbrader will make her collegiate head-coaching debut. She assumed the helm of the Falcons in July of 2022 after two seasons as an assistant coach.
Fenton-Bockbrader and assistant coaches Erinn Gankosky and Jacob Jeffries are joined by 13 returning letterwinners from last year. The 2022 Falcons went 34-21 (.618) overall and 16-11 (.593) in Mid-American Conference play, good for fourth place in the 11-team league.
BGSU’s 34 victories were the program’s highest in a decade, and the Falcons’ overall and league-only winning percentages also were the best since 2012.
The Falcons qualified for the 2022 MAC Tournament and advanced to the championship game.
BGSU participated in national postseason play, heading to Fort Collins, Colorado, and winning two games in the National Invitational Softball Championship. Those wins, over Stephen F. Austin and George Washington, were the first national postseason victories in BGSU softball history.
In the classroom, a school-record 13 Falcons were named to the Academic All-MAC Team, while 15 team members were named Easton/NFCA All-America Scholar Athletes for the 2021-22 academic year.
Returning letterwinners include Greta L’Esperance, who was named to the All-MAC First Team. L’Esperance hit a team-leading .374 last season, and also paced the Falcons in hits (71), stolen bases (32) and runs scored (44). She now has two of the top-four single-season hits totals in BGSU history, along with two of the top six stolen-base totals in program annals.
L’Esperance enters the 2023 season ranked third in career stolen bases, with 61, and the is tied for 16th in career runs scored (83). She is batting .374 in her career, good for sixth place on that BG chart.
BGSU’s top-four hitters all return, as Reagan Williamson, Sophie Weber and Peyton Dolejs all are back after finishing second, third and fourth in batting average a year ago. Williamson hit .310 with BG-best totals of eight homers, 16 extra-base hits and 35 runs batted in last season. She was named to the MAC All-Tournament Team.
Weber joined Williamson on the MAC All-Tournament squad. Weber batted .282 last season, and her total of 19 RBI included all five in BGSU’s 5-3 win over Ohio in the league tourney.
Dolejs, one of three Falcons (along with L’Esperance and Williamson) to start all 55 games last spring, batted .275 and was second on the club in RBI (27) and runs (30), while ranking third on the Falcons in walks (23) and extra-base hits (12).
In the circle, three of the five hurlers to see action last spring are back. Payton Gottshall, the 2022 MAC Pitcher of the Year, and Kiara Hurley are gone, as Gottshall transferred to Tennessee and Hurley completed her collegiate eligibility. Gottshall was 27-13 with a 1.63 ERA a year ago, while Hurley went 4-3 and had a team-high four saves.
Hannah Davies and Sydney Stepp each saw action in 11 games in the circle last season. Davies made six starts and was 2-1 with a 5.54 ERA. Stepp went 1-3 with a 5.68 ERA, while Madi Young returns after appearing in six games as a freshman in 2022.
BGSU also welcomes a pair of transfers to the pitching staff, as sophomores Scarlet Anderson (Univ. of Rhode Island) and Ellie Price (Univ. of Toledo) have joined the team.
Also on the team this season is freshman middle infielder Mackenna Fry, a Bowling Green High School product.
The Falcons finished with a 12-4 record at Meserve Field last season, and BGSU went 7-11 in true road games and 15-6 in neutral-site contests. The last two neutral-site victories came against Stephen F. Austin and George Washington in the NISC.
Detroit Mercy went 6-36 overall and 6-21 in Horizon League play last season, while DePaul was 29-24 overall and 16-8 in the Big East Conference.
Eastern Kentucky finished with an overall mark of 13-36 and an Atlantic Sun Conference record of 9-15 in 2022, while Valparaiso was 14-33 overall and 5-22 in Missouri Valley Conference action last season. Western Illinois was 8-37 overall and 4-17 in the Summit League.
BGSU leads Detroit Mercy, 45-10, in the all-time series, and the Falcons swept a pair of games from the Titans at Meserve Field last season, winning by 3-0 and 6-4 scores (April 12, 2022).
The Falcons are 0-3 all-time vs. DePaul, and the teams have not met since the Blue Demons swept a doubleheader in Chicago in the 2006 season.
BG holds a 3-1 lead over Eastern Kentucky in that series, with the most recent meeting being an 8-7 Falcon win in 2017.
The Falcons trail Valparaiso, 5-4, but BG captured the most recent meeting, a 6-1 triumph in Huntington, W.Va., two years ago.
Western Illinois leads the Falcons, 6-2, in that series, but BGSU picked up a 6-0 win in the teams’ last meeting, which came a year ago at the DePaul Dome Tournament (Feb. 11, 2022).
Following this weekend’s action in Rosemont, the Falcons will head to Gainesville to take part in the University of Florida Tournament (Feb. 17-19). BGSU is scheduled to play two games against Connecticut and one each vs. Delaware State and the host school, Florida.