Needing some crucial, end-of-the-season series wins against two top rivals, the Bears couldn't come up with enough wins down the stretch to get a top seed and then got swept in an AMC qualifier.
It's a feeling this year's team doesn't want to forget.
"We had a very good team last year and came up a bit short," assistant coach Rob Appell said. "We have to find a way to win those games at the end."
The Bears finished 22-13 overall in 2007, but 9-7 in the AMC, including splitting the final four games with Rio Grande and Ohio Dominican.
It's a situation that did not sit well with the squad.
"Some of these girls have been around and they know what it feels like to lose those games," Appell said. "There's a bitterness that they have (from last year). They know they didn't leave it all out there on the field and they want to change that. They know what they want to do as a team."
In order not to repeat that same slide, Appell said the team is paying more attention to detail and has become a close-knit group. That's good, considering the team consists of only 12 players and is no more than two-deep at any position.
Though that may scare some teams, the Bears are hoping that the talent on the squad will outweigh the lack of depth, something that shouldn't be a problem ...
"If we stay healthy," Appell said. "That's something you don't want to think about until it happens. You can't worry about it. We have a good starting lineup and three capable backup players that can contribute, so I don't think depth is going to be a problem.
"Most people look at that and say that's crazy," Appell added. "But they are so close to each other that they have been jelling tremendously. They pick each other up and do things together and that goes a long way."
Although the 2008 campaign has been delayed a weekend due to inclement weather, the promise, that was there in 2007, is back in full force and ready to make good this time. The Bears return six starters from last year, including top pitcher Lori Harmon, and the middle of the infield in shortstop Tammie Jo Coleman and second baseman Emily Fuhrmann.
There was no sophomore slump for Harmon last season as the team's ace. The now-junior was named the best pitcher in the AMC, finishing with a 2.24 ERA and a 12-6 record. With her anchoring the 1-2 punch in the circle, it should, almost every time out, give the Bears a solid chance to win at least one game of a doubleheader.
"We've worked on her (speed) in the offseason and she has gotten faster," Appell said. "We have only been outside twice and she hasn't seen much live pitching, but she should pick up right where she left off."
Coleman, a senior, and Fuhrmann, a junior will also grace the top of the batting order for SSU, but more importantly, give the team defensive strength up the middle, along with new centerfielder Katie Wade. The Bears played in 22 games last year decided by three runs or less.
In those types of close games, Appell said, it's whomever comes up with the defensive plays. Those should come easier with the duo manning the infield.
"Fuhrmann has great range and is a hard-nosed player for us," Appell said. "Tammie Jo has solid range at shortstop as well. We have go to have one of the best middle infields in the conference."
Although the Bears will have experience in the middle, the corner infielders will be new faces as the Bears picked up two transfers.
Playing first base will be Katie Daniel, who transferred from Olney Central College in Illinois. Daniel, from Catlettsburg Ky., will also act as the Bears' No. 2 pitcher behind Harmon, taking over for Ashley Keen, who is not back with the team this season.
Unlike the last few seasons, where the power of Harmon was followed by the finesse of Keen, Daniel will be able to provide a similar, hard-throwing and commanding counter against the opposition.
"They are both going to come after you with their best stuff. They're both bulldogs," Appell said. "Katie's a very solid addition to the team."
On the other side of the diamond, at third base, will be another Kentucky native, Lauren Ellis, who played at Boyd County.
Ellis played at Eastern Kentucky University last spring. The sophomore should be able to solidify the hot corner for the Bears this season.
"Lauren's a good third baseman," Appell said, emphatically. "She is going to be a defensive force all season. She's also going to provide a good bat in the lineup."
The outfield will see two changes this season. Gone in centerfield is Ashley Adkins, readily replaced by Wade, who caught the majority of last year's games for SSU. Though playing catcher and center are worlds apart, the senior showed off some of her range playing shortstop in a few games when Coleman went down with an injury.
That, along with some deceptive speed for a catcher, gave the coaching staff the idea to fill the void left by Adkins.
"We first saw it when Katie was at shortstop. She got back quickly and got into the hole. She gets it done," Appell said. "She has that competitiveness and does whatever it takes."
Rounding out the outfield will be sophomore Ashley Speas from Clay in left field and freshman Amanda Avery, from Green, in right field.
Ali Hull-Keaton will take over behind the dish for Wade. The Bears might try different people at different places early this season just to see what the best combination might be, but Appell said if there are chances to switch things up, it might not last long.
One aspect that will look the same will be the lineup when the Bears come to bat. Coleman and Fuhrmann will take the top two spots with the power of Wade, Hull-Keaton and Daniel behind them. Hull-Keaton led the team with a .375 average and Fuhrmann was second at .340, the top two returners.
The Bears had no trouble driving in runs last year, hitting .297 as a team with runners in scoring position. That should carry over to this season as the versatility of the lineup should allow SSU to score anyway they need, whether playing small-ball in a tight game or letting loose in a run fest.
"Our lineup, one through nine ... Where do you take a breath?," Appell said. "(It's good) when you have the ability to mix it up. We are going to be in those games where one or two runs is going to be enough for Harmon, and we'll be able to play small ball, and then there are the other games where we'll have to hit some doubles and home runs."
All that matters for the Bears is getting that bitter taste out of their mouth from last year.
They may have to wait a while for their chance at redemption, however. Like last year's schedule, Shawnee wraps up the season with doubleheaders against ODU and Rio Grande once again. By that time, the ramifications of those games may not matter.
But winning them won't be any less sweet.
'The three seniors that are here want to put a banner up before they leave," Appell said. "(The team) hears about all the past teams that have done well and they want to be a part of that and they are perfectly capable of doing that it if they work hard."
JEFF TAEPKE can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 242.