VIDEO: Kennedy Richardson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The following is the final part in a three-part series breaking down all of Carson-Newman softball's position. This feature highlights the Eagles' outfield with the help of Kennedy Richardson (Elizabethton, Tenn.).
Carson-Newman's outfield returns four veterans in Richardson, Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.), Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Peyton Bacon (Greeneville, Tenn.) while adding in plenty of depth and pop with freshmen Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.), Valerie Seay (Cross Plain, Tenn.), Kelsey Jones (Rutledge, Tenn.), Haley Kyle (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Madison Mathis (Chattanooga, Tenn.).
"This year I feel like we have a bit more speed to between us all to get to the gaps, especially with Lacie and Val," Richardson said. "Then Haley's (Caldwell) done an amazing job transitioning to the outfield. Our freshmen have brought quite a bit of competition. You're actually competing for the spot in the outfield that you want to be at. It brings more of a drive to all of us."
Rinus split time at centerfield in addition to pitching last year. At the plate, she hit .356, the second highest average among regulars on the team. Her 12 doubles and three triples are both second on the team. She hit an inside-the-park home run against Brevard. She has collected 12 multi-hit games this year, the third most on the team. She has a staggering seven, three-hit efforts, which is tied for the second most in a single season for a Carson-Newman player in the last seven seasons.
Richardson appeared in 50 games and started 44 after being sidelined with an early season injury last year. Primarily used as a flex player, she only saw 32 appearances at the plate. However, her defensive qualities are abundant. Richardson only made one error against 45 putouts.
Cooper provided some of the more clutch moments for the Eagles last year. She drove in all three runs, a career high, in the Eagles' SAC title-clinching win over Lenoir-Rhyne (4/22). Cooper appeared in 39 games with starts in 35 of them. She hit .250 on the year but powered a double, three triples and four home runs to slug .514. Of her 18 hits on the season, eight were for extra bases. She scored 12 runs. She had five multi-hit efforts.
"Coop and Bacon have done a great job with the leadership aspect," Richardson said. "They make sure we never get complacent. And they're great players too. They help push us."
Meanwhile, Seay, Caldwell, Jones, Kyle and Mathis are all pushing to make an impact. Caldwell brings some lumber with her to Mossy Creek.
The state of West Virginia's home run leader for 2016, Haley Caldwell will join former Spring Valley Timberwolf Taylor Scott on the Eagles' roster. Her junior season, Caldwell clocked a .535 average with 53 RBI. She was named first team All-WVSSAC.
"Haley makes it look so effortless when she's hitting," Richardson said. "She makes it look fun. You want to hit like Haley Caldwell."
Kyle, Jones and Mathis all add tons of speed. A two-year varsity captain at Blackman High School for coaches Shelby Hayes and Jesse Messick, Kyle batted .346 for the Blazers as a junior.
As a senior, Mathis hit .320 with a .427 slugging percentage for the Baylor School. She helped the Tigers to a state title in 2015.
Jones led the Grainger Grizzlies in runs scored with 38 as a senior. She hit .340 with a .538 on-base percentage in her final year on the team. As a result of her play, she earned all-district honors as a junior and senior and helped guide Grainger to a district title.
"We've all been working on our range," Richardson said. "I think everyone has a mentality to get balls that we weren't able to get to get last year – if it's in the air, we want to be able to track it down."
Richardson indicated that the Eagles' depth in the outfield should push the Eagles to bigger and better things in 2018.
"You have the drive to want to earn your position," Richardson said. "Then, you know injuries are going to happen. We have someone to cover it while people are recovering across the board. That's nice to have."
Carson-Newman opens its season against Lees-McRae.