KU Season Outlook: The Pitchers
Jan. 23, 2007
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
About the Jayhawks
Coming off its first-ever Big 12 Conference Postseason Championship and second-straight NCAA Regionals bid, Kansas softball is no stranger to recent success. However, with six departed seniors — including All-American Serena Settlemier — and eight newcomers, the Jayhawks will have a new look in 2007.
KU began spring practice on Jan. 15 — but without three Jayhawks who were delayed by travel due to severe winter weather throughout the country. The Jayhawks soon got back on track and are making the best of practicing indoors. With less than three and a half weeks to practice together as a squad, KU opens the season Feb. 8 at the Campbell-Cartier Classic in a warmer San Diego, Calif.
The Jayhawks return 10 letterwinners this season, which consist of six underclassmen, two juniors and two seniors. KU’s top returner, senior pitcher Kassie Humphreys (Glendale, Ariz.), had a breakthrough season in 2006 and comes back as one of the top hurlers in the Big 12.
“It’s going to be fun to watch this group evolve,” KU head coach Tracy Bunge said. “They have great chemistry. Our strength is going to be our pitching staff and we are very solid at that position.”
Leading Kansas in the circle is Humphreys, a 2006 All-Big 12 First Team selection who led the Jayhawk staff with a 1.19 ERA and 262 strikeouts through 234.2 innings last year.
“We need Kassie to pick up where she left off and continue to get better,” Bunge added. “For her to be one of the elite pitchers in the Big 12 this season, she’ll have to work on her consistency and dealing with adversity.”
The No. 2 spot on the pitching depth chart will be filled by either sophomore Val George (Tucson, Ariz.) or freshman Sarah Vertelka (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.). Of the right-handers, George is a rise-ball pitcher who threw 29.1 innings as a rookie in 2006 and Vertelka, a drop-ball ace, brings solid summer ball experience from 43 feet. Both will contribute quality innings and will be matched up with different opponents as needed.
“We are excited about Val George because she has come back as a sophomore with a great attitude and work ethic,” Bunge said. “I think Val made some necessary adjustments last year and is going to give us some great innings and surprise a lot of people who don’t know who she is.”
“Sarah is more of a down-ball pitcher and her strength is locating pitches really well,” Bunge continued. “She doesn’t miss much over the plate and can throw a good changeup in any situation.”
Adding depth to the pitching staff is freshman Caitlin Kenney (Valley Park, Mo.).
“Caitlin has worked extremely hard and I am pleased with her progress as an incoming freshman, but she has a ways to go,” Bunge said. “I really like what she brings to the pitching staff as far as work ethic and attitude.”
Coming soon: Behind the Plate