2006 Softball Preview
Having lost seven seniors, including four All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference performers and the reigning NCAA home run record holder, many expect the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball team to take a step backward in 2006. That notion brings a smile, or maybe more of a smirk, to Mountain Lions' coach Scott Peterson's face.
"No question, we lost some great players, but if that's what people want to think, that does nothing but help us," said Peterson. "If people are saying that (UCCS) lost all these players and are going to be down, that does nothing but help us. I like that."
But the losses cut deep. Gone are Crystal Krebs, who set a new NCAA Division II record for home runs with .52 per game. Out are pitchers Amber Colton and Brenna Pool, who were the RMAC's past two pitchers of the year. Graduated is the conference's best middle infield - shortstop Jennifer Dykstra and second baseman Kara Rainey. Also gone are outfielders Charlene Berg and Sarah Wodniak.
It's impossible to replace that much talent, isn't it? The answer is a wishy-washy yes and no. In other words, you can't replace the amount of raw power the Mountain Lions graduated. But you can change gears.
"We're not going to hit 61 home runs," said Peterson, referring to his team's school-record total of 2005. "We're still going to hit a lot of home runs because of the way we swing and the way we practice."
With the inevitable dip in power, speed will be a much bigger factor for UCCS in 2006. And the Mountain Lions will have a lot of speed.
"We're going to be much faster," said Peterson. "This year, I wouldn't be surprised if we set the stolen base record."
A big part of that speed will be provided by center fielder Brianna Workman. The sophomore stole 13 bases in 14 attempts a year ago despite being hindered early in the season by a sore hamstring. Healthy, Workman could threaten the UCCS record of 30 stolen bases set by Theresa Turner in 1996.
To do that, Workman will have to improve upon the .286 batting average she posted a year ago. The good news in that respect is that over the past four seasons, UCCS players have improved an average of 23 points between their first and second seasons as starters.
"(Workman is) moving the ball a lot more and reading the defense a lot more," said Peterson. "She's getting out of the box a lot quicker. I think she understands that she's got to get us going in the first inning."
Workman's job is to get on base and get into scoring position for Lindsay Shandera, Brittni Carlson and Sarah Cleland to drive home. Shandera hit .372 with five home runs and 42 RBIs last year. The slick-fielding first baseman was at her best in the clutch, hitting .444 with runners on base and a team-best .625 with the bases loaded.
Carlson (.362/8/34), who will play left field, hit .392 with runners on base and .389 with runners in scoring position. The senior also hit .636 with runners on third and less than two outs.
"Brittni's had big years every year. She's very, very consistent," said Peterson. "They're great RBI producers. I think the middle of our order is going to be very, very consistent."
Cleland will be looking to improve upon her .269/3/20 freshman season. The sophomore possesses perhaps the best bat speed on the team and is primed for a breakout season. Whatever she does at the plate, she'll be pivotal in the field and could see action at catcher, shortstop and the outfield.
Also figuring into the outfield mix will be Janine Ota and Megan Cushman. Ota, a two-year starter for the Mountain Lions basketball team, has shown impressive power and speed.
â€œJanine isnâ€TMt really a surprise,â€ said Peterson. â€œShe was an All-Colorado player in high school two years in a row. She has a big bat.â€
Cushman is a rare commodity â€" a slap hitter with power. The junior from Anchorage, Alaska, also has the best outfield arm on the team.
Freshman catcher Nicole Link, who was on the Rocky Mountain News Class 4A All-Star Team, will start when Cleland isnâ€TMt behind the plate. Two more freshmen, shortstop Savannah Ledford and second baseman Rachel Hancock, both have tremendous speed.
â€œI think itâ€TMs exciting,â€ said Peterson, who likened the situation to when Dykstra and Rainey were freshmen. â€œI think itâ€TMs like having Jen and Kara again and building upon what they did. Both of those kids are very athletic, so theyâ€TMre going to be fine.â€
Anchoring the infield will be veteran Sonia Reyes, who hit a solid .293 and is also arguably the best defensive third baseman in the RMAC.
Sophomore Sarah Brisky has worked her way into the DH mix.
â€œSarah Brisky has worked tremendously hard,â€ said Peterson. â€œHer swing looks great and everything she hits is hard.â€
Also competing for playing time will be freshmen Brittany Cusumano, Amanda Clark and Cara Newlon.
But as promising as the offense is, the Mountain Lionsâ€TM success in 2006 will be dpendent upon the pitching.
â€œIn softball, pitchingâ€TMs a huge part of the game,â€ said Peterson. â€œWeâ€TMve gone the last couple of years with two kids pitching most of the innings. This year, weâ€TMre going to see a few more kids throwing.â€
Amanda Ritchie, who posted a 3.69 ERA a year ago, will be the key. The senior showed flashes of brilliance last year but was inconsistent with her control after having been out for two seasons with injuries. Since practices started this season, sheâ€TMs shown vastly improved control to go with her undeniable heat.
â€œAmandaâ€TMs done a real nice job,â€ said Peterson. â€œSheâ€TMs been through the conference one time already. She knows the way it works.â€
Sophomore Kaleigh Beekman has also been through the conference. She will contribute both as a pitcher and a hitter.
Kym Cade and Angie Heronema will likely see more playing time than any freshman pitchers at UCCS since Colton and Jessica Coltrin in 2002. They certainly have the credentials for the job.
Cade, a member of the Rocky Mountain News Class 3A All-Star Team, posted a 10-5 record with a 0.43 ERA, 142 strikeouts and only 20 walks in 97 innings at Faith Cristian High School. Heronema had amazing numbers at Berthoud High School, posting a 17-5 record with a 0.53 ERA, 191 strikeouts and only 27 walks in 144 innings.
â€œI think the pitching is going to be fine,â€ said Peterson. â€œWeâ€TMve got the two young kids with Kym and Angie who were great club pitchers and great high school pitchers.â€
They will need to adjust to the elevated level of competition.
â€œTheyâ€TMre going to have to go through that adjustment that if a home run is hit, shake it off and come back,â€ said Peterson. â€œ(Assistant coach) Don Pettrow does a great job with the pitchers. I think pitching-wise, weâ€TMre going to be OK.â€
So going back to the original question, can you replace so much lost talent? The real answer is that you don't try to replace what you lost, you add talent and adjust your game accordingly. Peterson has done just that.
So where does that leave the Mountain Lions in 2006?
"Our goals always remain the same every year," said Peterson. "Our goal is to win the conference tournament. Can this team do it? I believe they can. We expect to be there in the end."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
|Additional News Stories|
|November 9, 2006||Softball Team Signs Three||The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball team announced the signing of three players to national letters of intent Thursday. The new additions for the 2008 season are Lindsey Zastrow of Papillion La Vista High School in Omaha, Sarah McCauley of ThunderRidge High School and Amanda Hathaway of Liberty High School.|
|October 2, 2006||UCCS, Rip-It Elite Agree to Bat Deal||The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball program announced an agreement with Rip-It Elite on Monday to be one of the few Division II teams to receive the company's equipment for the 2007 season.|
|September 29, 2006||UCCS Softball Tops RMAC in Academics||The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball team was the top academic program in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in 2005-06 and was among the top 50 in the nation according to a National Fastpitch Coaches' Association report that was published Thursday.|
|September 11, 2006||Peterson Home Gets Unexpected Visitors||University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball coach Scott Peterson had a couple of unusual visitors at his home this past week - a pair of bear cubs.|
|August 10, 2006||UCCS Softball Camps Continue to Grow||Southern Colorado's largest softball camp, which took place Aug. 7-10 at Mountain Lion Field on the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus, had another successful turnout with approximately 101 campers in attendance.|