Madison Rathburn awaits a pitch during a batting practice session this fall. (Julia Mullins | Col­legian)

Energy and excitement will propel the Hillsdale Chargers into the start of their fall season. 

Senior infielder Jessica Taylor said first-year head coach Kyle Gross has already brought an abun­dance of enthu­siasm to the team during prac­tices. 

“I’m excited that Coach Kyle is putting every­thing he has into coaching our team already,” Taylor said. “One of our strengths as a team is def­i­nitely gonna be that energy, because we’re gonna be bringing that to our fall games for sure.” 

The Chargers will play a dou­ble­header against Bowling Green Uni­versity on Sept. 23, giving them the oppor­tunity to face a Division I program on the road to begin their season.  

Gross is eager to get on the dirt and watch the team play in live games for the first time. 

“I can’t wait to get started. Bowling Green is a great opponent for us out of the gate,” Gross said. “It’ll really give us a mea­suring stick to see where we stand.” 

Sophomore infielder Emma Johnson said she thinks the team has come together in the past few weeks under Gross’s lead­ership. 

“Everybody is super enthu­si­astic about playing, and we’re having fun,” Johnson said. “We’re really together right now, and everybody is pushing each other to get better.” 

The Chargers have eight freshmen on their team and will use the fall season to help them adjust to com­peting at the col­le­giate level. 

“All of the freshmen seem like they’re pretty moti­vated and excited to play,” Johnson said. 

Freshman infielder Kasidy Carson said she is thrilled to be playing the game she loves and be a part of the unique culture of Hillsdale softball. 

“The envi­ronment Hillsdale softball has created is unlike any other, and I firmly believe that, com­bined with hard work and deter­mi­nation, it will help push us toward victory,” Carson said. “Every day we step on the field or in the weight room, our goal is to be better than we were when we walked in the door.” 

As the freshmen tran­sition into their new roles, the team as a whole will also be adjusting to new systems at the plate and in the field. Gross will be imple­menting new strategies throughout the fall season. 

“We have a new system for pitch-calling, and not a whole lot of time to work on it before we start, so that will be a chal­lenge for our pitchers and catchers, and myself,” Gross said. 

Even with the new changes, Taylor said the team has a strong pitching staff this year. 

“We have four pitchers — three of them are returners — and being able to see our pitchers develop over the fall is gonna be big,” Taylor said.

In addition to solid pitching, Gross said the team has a dis­ci­plined lineup. 

“We don’t strike out a lot, so we’re con­stantly putting the ball in play,” Gross said. 

Throughout their fall season, the Chargers will face both Division I and II oppo­nents. After playing Bowling Green, the team will travel to Columbus, Ohio for a tour­nament, and also host a series of exhi­bition games in Hillsdale. 

“Since we have some games against Division I oppo­nents, I wanna see that we compete with them and that we’re exe­cuting what we’re sup­posed to be doing, regardless of our com­pe­tition,” Gross said.