2008 Season Preview
In 2007, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball team went 28-0 when the opponent scored four runs or less. In 2006, the Mountain Lions went 26-1 under the same circumstances. That's a combined 54-1 over the past two seasons when opponents score four or fewer runs.
You read that right: 54-1.
A stat like that gets anybody's attention and UCCS coach Scott Peterson is no exception.
"It's mind-boggling," said Peterson. "We know we're going to score runs. Keep them under four and we're going to win because of the way we hit and we have a lot of speed."
But stats aren't the only reason for the focus on deepening the pitching staff. In each of the past two seasons, an injury to a pitcher has sabotaged the Mountain Lions in the playoffs. Last year, Libby White started developing shoulder problems late in the season. With White physically limited and Stacy Ortiz badly overworked, the Mountain Lions allowed eight runs or more in 10 of their final 18 games, nine of which were losses. Two of those happened in the RMAC tournament, ending UCCS' season.
The same thing happened the previous year when Amanda Ritchie's injury sent the Mountain Lions on a 6-9 season-ending slide, ending with a loss in the conference semifinal game.
"You have to have depth," said Peterson. "We ran into that last year. Kids get worn out. Last year, Libby was hurting at the end of the season and the year before we went through it with Amanda."
That depth begins with the two returners, both sophomores. White went 18-8 with a 3.75 ERA last season and was at 18-6 with a 3.46 ERA before trying gamely to pitch through the pain in her two final appearances. Ortiz, meanwhile, was 18-11 with a 5.00 ERA. Her ERA was sitting at 4.12 before White's injury forced her to pitch every game over the final two weekends of the regular season.
To that duo, add sophomore transfer Holly Jordan and freshman Sarah McCauley and you have the makings of a tremendous, and deep, pitching staff. Jordan was named the Colorado Class 3A pitcher of the year twice while leading Erie High School to four straight state championships. She comes to UCCS after a year at Division I Iowa State. McCauley posted a 1.37 ERA as a senior at ThunderRidge High School and was impressive in fall play.
"Holly and Sarah are going to give us great depth," said Peterson. "I don't think any of the other teams are going to be able to key in on one kid; they may get any one of the four. They all are a little bit different."
And they're all very good. But the only reason the pitching is so important is because the Mountain Lions are already loaded with hitting. UCCS led the RMAC in batting average at .360, a full 24 points better than second-place Western New Mexico. The Mountain Lions scored 444 runs, 119 better than any other team. They also stole 120 bases to lead the conference by 25 and their .447 on base percentage led the RMAC by 27 points.
"Those numbers are incredible," aid Peterson. "We lost one great player off of last year's team, so the offensive numbers should still be there."
Leading that offense was All-American center fielder Stacy Haney, who led the nation with 1.66 RBIs per game. The senior won the conference triple crown (.497 average, 19 home runs and 93 RBIs). She also led the RMAC in slugging percentage (.959), on base percentage (.578), runs scored (73), hits (84), doubles (17) and walks (36).
Haney is joined in the outfield by speedsters Brianna Workman in right and Sierra Green in left. Workman hit .350 with a team-best 23 stolen bases while Green hit .400 and stole 21 bases. Not only did the trio combine for 65 thefts, they also made the outfield gaps disappear for opposing hitters while committing just three errors in 239 chances.
The Mountain Lions also return three infielders: Rachel Hancock at second, Sarah Cleland at shortstop and Katie Johnston at third. Hancock was a third-team All-American selection by Daktronics after hitting .376 with 12 home runs. Cleland added 13 homers and a .373 average, while Johnston was sparkling in the field in her freshman season and also had a .369 on base percentage.
UCCS' lone loss among the starters was a big one. Lindsay Shandera, one of the best clutch hitters in school history, wrote her name all over the school's career record book while playing brilliant defense at first base.
Lindsay Zastrow enters the season penciled in to take the position. The freshman from Omaha showed some remarkably Shandera-esque plate discipline and big-hit ability during fall ball and has the coaching staff excited about her potential. Jordan may also get some time at first base when she's not pitching since the Mountain Lions need to keep her bat in the lineup.
Another freshman who forced her way into the lineup after a brilliant fall was Amanda Hathaway, who filled in at third while Johnston healed from a foot injury. How she fits into the playing rotation will be determined as the season progresses, but she will be counted heavily upon.
The Mountain Lions found a gem last year in catcher Tasha Pagdilao. The sophomore from Hawaii hit .369 in her first collegiate season with 12 home runs and 17 stolen bases. She also caught 29.4 percent of would-be base stealers and had an RMAC-best 14 pickoffs.
Rounding out the returners is senior designated hitter Sarah Brisky, who hit .283 with seven home runs.
Showing that the depth is not limited to pitching are two reserves that could start for many teams. Power hitting Julie Jenkins plays both outfield corners and first base, while speedy outfielder Cara Newlon is valuable as a pinch runner.
"We've got great offensive numbers and that's why we decided that we had to have more pitching," said Peterson. "The pitching has got to shut the other teams down."
If it does, the Mountain Lions could reach a new level. Considering that the team has posted records of 39-13, 30-18 and 36-16 the past three seasons for a .691 winning percentage, the only way to reach a new level would have to include plenty of postseason competition.
"If we can keep the other team down below that four or five or whatever that number turns out to be, we're going to have a lot more success," said Peterson. "We expect to be there at the end."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
|Additional News Stories|
|November 24, 2008||Peterson Announces 2009-10 Softball Recruiting Class||University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball coach Scott Peterson announced Monday the signing of nine players, including two all-Colorado selections, for the 2009-10 season.|
|October 6, 2008||Mountain Lions Named an All-Academic Team||The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball team was named an all-academic team by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.|
|May 22, 2008||All-American Anastos Transfers to UCCS from Fort Hays State||Under ordinary circumstances, a coach brings in a player and hopes to develop her into an All-American.|
|May 8, 2008||Haney Adds Two More Awards to Her Growing Collection||University of Colorado at Colorado Springs center fielder Stacy Haney added two more awards to her impressive collection Thursday when she was named first-team academic All-District VII (College Division) and first-team Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-South Central Region.|
|May 7, 2008||Haney Named to Daktronics All-South Central Region First Team||University of Colorado at Colorado Springs senior center fielder Stacy Haney was named first-team all-South Central Region by Daktronics, it was announced Wednesday.|