Powerful recruiting class bolsters Mountain Lions
If the coaches in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and the Southwest Region thought the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' run to the RMAC title and the regional championship game was a one-time fluke, they'll need to reevaluate that assessment. Not only did the Mountain Lions graduate no seniors, but they also will get back a star pitcher and have signed one of the strongest recruiting classes in school history.
Returning will be the entire starting lineup, which included first-team All-RMAC performers Crystal Krebs, Jennifer Dykstra, Kara Rainey, Amber Colton and Brenna Pool, all of whom will be seniors in 2005. Also back are All-RMAC second teamers Brittni Carlson, who will be a junior, and Lindsay Shandera (sophomore). Also returning will be senior-to-be Charlene Berg, who was named national player of the week in February and RMAC tournament MVP, Sonia Reyes (junior), who was named to the regional all-tournament team, and Sarah Wodniak (senior), who hit a sparkling .330.
Add to that foundation strong-armed slap hitter Megan Cushman (sophomore), quick-handed Stacy Oldham (junior) and versatile lefty Liz Hahn (sophomore). Also add sophomore pitcher Katrina Maestas, who went 10-12 with a 2.77 ERA in 2003 but missed the 2004 season. Her wicked change-up will be a fearful compliment to Colton's raw heat and Pool's breaking pitches.
With all that talent already available, nobody could fault RMAC coach-of-the-year Scott Peterson for standing pat. Unfortunately for Mountain Lions opponents, he did anything but that.
Peterson has assembled his strongest recruiting class since 2002, when he brought in Colton, Dykstra, Berg, Wodniak and Rainey.
That class begins with Sarah Cleland, a two-time Boulder Daily Camera player of the year and two-time All-State selection by the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. A born shortstop who can play any position on the field, Cleland won four straight state titles at Erie High School, two of which she won as a teammate of Carlson.
"I have been watching Sarah play for four years in high school and club ball," said Peterson. "When the official NCAA date to contact Sarah came up last year, we wasted no time. This is a player that we have wanted for quite a while."
If Cleland were his only signee, the 2005 recruiting class would be an unqualified success. But Peterson, realizing he had seven seniors on next year's team, wisely cast his eye to the future, signing six other players who could develop into impact players.
Peterson put his time watching Cleland to good use, adding two of her teammates from the powerful Colorado Stars club team.
Third baseman Anna Berngard is a big (5-foot-10), strong player from Boulder, Colo., with great hands and a strong arm. She's also surprisingly fast.
"(Berngard) had very impressive workout with us last fall," said Peterson. "We expect her to turn in to a power hitter."
With plenty of power to work with, Peterson looked to add speed, speed and more speed. He found it in Brie Workman, a 5-foot-1 jet from Longmont High School. A prototypical lead-off hitter, Workman reminds many of former Nebraska-Kearney All-RMAC performer Rachel Neujahr.
"Brie will come in as a freshman and will probably be one of the fastest - if not the fastest - kid in the conference," said Peterson. "She has very small strike zone and can play outfield and second base. Brie was a player we felt we had to have."
With two seniors among his three returning pitchers, Peterson concentrated on the position and came away with two good ones, both of whom can contribute at other positions as well.
Kaleigh Beekman led Denver Lutheran High School to the state semifinals this past season and was named Denver Post All-State first team the past two years. She played shortstop when not pitching and was named MVP of the Colorado Class 3A All-Star Game.
"While we look at Kaleigh as a pitcher of the future for us, she could step in right away in any other positions that need to be filled," said Peterson. "(She's a) very athletic softball player."
The other incoming pitcher comes from a place that has been very good to CU-Colorado Springs - Littleton High School, which also produced Rainey and Dykstra. Left-hander Erin Selby is a deceptive pitcher with good speed who also plays outfield.
"Selby can give teams fits when she pitches," said Peterson. She's a very smart player and a good base runner who always seems to put the ball in play."
A late signee was Dakota Ridge's Jodi Berghorn, who adds power from the left side of the plate. Another Denver Post first-team All-State performer, Berghorn is a good fielder who can play first, second or third base.
"(Berghorn) is a very hard worker who just can't get enough softball," said Peterson. "She will eventually develop in to a clean-up type hitter because of her power."
Peterson's only non-Colorado addition played for powerful Lincoln-Way Central High School in Mokena, Ill., which is ranked eighth in the state. A tall (5-foot-10) second baseman, Sarah Brisky has soft hands and could contribute at several positions.
"We expect (Brisky) to develop in to a power hitter," said Peterson. "She will love hitting the ball at this altitude."
While all of the newcomers have talent, their first task will be to prove that they belong on a team that could be a national contender in 2005.
"These freshman will come in on August 23rd and we will throw them right in to our shuttle run on the first day and say "˜Welcome to Mountain Lion softball,'" said Peterson. "They are going to learn all about our tradition and what the expectations are from their new veteran teammates, and we haven't been able to say that for a long time."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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