CANTON, Mo. -- Jordan Bastian has enjoyed how smoothly the Culver-Stockton College softball practices have gone this preseason.
It's one of the benefits of having a veteran club with nine seniors, and nearly all of them will start this spring.
"We've got a very, very, very experienced team this year," said Bastian, who's in her fifth season at C-SC. "That's just been awesome. They know how the program works and what's expected, and it's been fun to see how far they've come."
Bastian hopes that experience helps the Wildcats win the Heart of America Athletic Conference title for the first time since 2003.
C-SC, which had a 29-27 record last year with a 21-17 record in the Heart, will be led by senior outfielder Avery Johnson and first baseman Cassie Burris. Johnson, a Highland product, led the Wildcats with a .399 batting average with nine doubles and seven homers while driving in 45 RBIs. Burris hit .329 and led the team in doubles (14), home runs (13), RBIs (60) and slugging percentage (.683).
Both could end up in the C-SC record book by season's end. Johnson needs 53 hits and 48 runs scored to become the all-time leader in both categories, while Burris needs 13 doubles, 12 home runs and 63 total bases to become the all-time leader in those categories. She already owns the record for career RBIs.
Other seniors back on the roster are outfielder Andrea Rains, shortstop Hannah Hollock and catcher Kirsten Burris. Rains hit .307 with 21 RBIs, and Hollock hit .294 with 14 RBIs. Kirsten Burris hit just .154 but only played in 35 games because of injury.
Junior infielders Sydney Williams and Ashley Havermale, a Quincy High School graduate, also return after hitting better than .242 last spring.
"Right now, we don't see a hole," Bastian said. "Every year, we have a couple of spots where we struggle to hit .200, but this year we have a really strong lineup 1-9. It's going to be a great thing for Avery and Cassie, because we'll be able to protect them a little more."
Senior right-hander McKena O'Donnell is back after going 16-14 last season with a 4.09 ERA in 183 innings pitched. She had 91 strikeouts and 78 walks. C-SC also will have sophomore Bailey Tibbetts, freshman Grace Preston and senior Natalie Rothmeyer as options in the pitching circle.
"This is probably the first year we feel really, really confident in our battery because we feel really experienced and how well they work together," Bastian said. "We have depth, which we've never had in my previous four years here."
C-SC's defense was solid last season with a .955 fielding percentage, tying for fourth best in the Heart.
"I know you really don't know what can happen," Bastian said. "But I think we have a really great chance of being competitive. You go through the highs and the lows and the streaks, and that's nothing new to this unit."
Date Opponent Time
March 1 William Carey^ 2 p.m.
March 1 Bethel^ 7 p.m.
March 2 Coastal Georgia^ 2 p.m.
March 2 Campbellsville^ 4:30 p.m.
March 3 Faulkner^ 11:30 a.m.
March 3 Martin Methodist^ 2 p.m.
March 4 at Thomas 2 p.m. (DH)
March 6 at Lindenwood-Belleville 4 p.m. (DH)
March 12 at William Woods 2 p.m. (DH)
March 15 at Stephens College 2 p.m. (DH)
March 19 Graceland* 2 p.m. (DH)
March 20 Saint Ambrose 3 p.m. (DH)
March 22 at Evangel* 1 p.m. (DH)
March 23 at MidAmerica Nazarene* Noon (DH)
March 27 Grand View* 3 p.m. (DH)
March 30 Peru State* TBA (DH)
April 2 at Clarke* TBA (DH)
April 3 William Penn* 2 p.m. (DH)
April 6 Benedictine* 2 p.m. (DH)
April 7 Baker* Noon (DH)
April 9 Clarke* TBA (DH)
April 13 at Peru State* 1 p.m. (DH)
April 17 at Mount Mercy* TBA (DH)
April 19 at Graceland* TBA (DH)
April 20 at Grand View* Noon (DH)
April 23 at William Penn* 4 p.m. (DH)
April 24 Mount Mercy* 2 p.m. (DH)
April 27 Missouri Valley* 1 p.m. (DH)
April 28 Central Methodist* 1 p.m. (DH)
^Gulf Coast Invitational in Mobile, Ala.
*Heart of America Athletic Conference game