NWIUNOTES: PUC's new softball program hits the ground running

2014-04-09T18:00:00Z 2014-04-09T21:37:10Z NWIUNOTES: PUC's new softball program hits the ground runningAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
April 09, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

Coach Heather Tarter has this college softball thing down quite well at Purdue University Calumet.

While other local teams are struggling to find the win column, Tarter's first-year program entered Wednesday's action at 17-5.

How'd she do that, you ask.

"The difference right now is I brought in a bunch of transfers, so we have leadership across the board," Tarter said. "I have 10 transfers who all played at winning programs — seven of them having national tournament experience at the JUCO level.

"And we have a big bunch of hitters; one of the top NAIA hitting teams in the country."

Local players include Haley Loden (Lake Central), Samantha Oppenhuis (Illiana Christian), Allyson Leach (North Newton), Karlie McCullough (Crown Point) and Skyler Woods (Beecher).

Woods is PUC's leading hitter (.468) and a transfer from Lakeland College after earning All-America honors there. Junior outfielder Ana Duda, from Cobden, Ill., is ranked 39th nationally in home runs (7) and 43rd nationally in slugging percentage (.763).    

PUC is ranked nationally in 12 NAIA Div. I categories, most impressive being first in RBIs per game (8.5), second in doubles per game (2.3) and runs scored per game (9.4). 

The Peregrines' roster features 18 players, most of whom play more than one position, so depth isn't a major concern.

"All 18 committed before tryouts, so our roster was set before classes began in the fall," said Tarter, who is no stranger to success.

The Illinois native spent the previous four seasons as top assistant for legendary coach Chuck Clutts at NJCAA power Parkland Junior College.

In that time, Tarter helped to guide the Cobras to 168 victories, three straight NJCAA Region 24 titles and a pair of NJCAA National Tournament appearances.

She starred as a catcher at Kankakee Community College and then Northern Iowa.

Tarter's Peregrines made a quick statement by beating Purdue in their first fall game, 2-1, last September.

They have a 50-game spring schedule — all doubleheaders — and practice at Munster's Community Park, where they will play home games until their new Dowling Park facility opens this summer.

"I want good students who outwork people by doing all the little things," Tarter said of recruiting. "I want big hitters. If you can hit, I'll find a spot for you."

She appears to have found her spot in region athletics.

Wiejak adds to PUC arsenal: Purdue Calumet volleyball added another local standout to its 2014 recruiting class, as coach Julie Wiejak signed South Suburban transfer and T.F. South grad Jill Rodriguez.

"Jillian has run a junior college offense for the past two seasons and comes to Purdue with a ton of setting experience," said Wiejak. "Entering as a junior gives her a huge advantage. She is a poised, high energy setter who likes to run fast and work for her hitters."

The 5-foot-6 setter was a two-year starter at South Suburban, leading the Bulldogs to a 30-18 record in 2013. She played in all 38 matches as a sophomore, finishing with 563 assists 157 digs.

PNC lands golf commitment: Decatur Central three-year varsity winner Jake Warren will continue his golf career next fall at Purdue North Central.

Offensive behavior at Prairie State: Sophomore second baseman Julie Kistner wishes she could face Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference foe Oakton every day and twice on Sunday.

The Marian Catholic grad went 7-for-7 and scored five runs in Monday's doubleheader sweep of the Raiders.

Kistner upped her batting average to a team-leading .579 for the Prairie State Pioneers.

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