Jayhawk Softball 2006 Outlook
Jan. 30, 2006
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
About the Jayhawks
After a bid to NCAA Regionals and strong Big 12 Conference finish in 2005, Kansas’ thriving team chemistry and veteran experience call for high expectations again in 2006. KU returns eight letterwinners, including seven starters, and welcomes seven newcomers to its lineup this season.
Among the returnees are four All-Big 12 selections in seniors Destiny Frankenstein (SS), Jessica Moppin (2B), Heather Stanley (OF) and Serena Settlemier (P/DP). Top newcomers include Val Chapple (3B) and Arizona transfer Betsy Wilson (OF).
“We are going to have a balanced game this year,” head coach Tracy Bunge said. “On offense, we have a good mix of kids that can drive the ball out and some that can spray it around the ballpark. In the circle, I’m expecting earned run totals to go down this season because of the veteran experience on the mound and solid defense behind it.”
Senior right-handed pitcher/designated player Serena Settlemier (Kelso, Wash.) is back to lead the Jayhawks in the circle in 2006.
The All-Big 12 selection posted a 14-9 record and led the team with 159 strikeouts while hitting .281 with 41 hits at the plate in 2005.
“Serena will continue to be our leader on the mound and was able to train throughout the off-season injury-free,” head coach Tracy Bunge. “Her bat is also very vital to the lineup.”
Settlemier is joined by junior righty Kassie Humphreys (Glendale, Ariz.), who brings 256.2 innings of experience to the mound.
“I think Kassie is going to have a really good year,” Bunge commented.
Both Settlemier and Humphreys will be in the lineup hitting. Freshman hurler Valerie George (Tucson, Ariz.) brings a long list of high school accolades with her to Kansas and will add depth to the Jayhawk pitching staff.
Senior shortstop Destiny Frankenstein, an NFCA First Team All-Region selection, will be once again looked upon to be the leader both offensive and defensively for KU.
Frankenstein (Broken Arrow, Okla.) hit a blistering .344 last season and set a new KU single-season record with 14 home runs.
Senior Jessica Moppin returns to start at second base for the fourth consecutive season. An All-Big 12 Second Team pick in 2005, Moppin (Olathe, Kan.) is KU’s all-time home runs leader (24) and is coming off her most successful season at the plate and on the field.
New to the starting lineup this season is freshman third baseman Val Chapple (Overland Park, Kan.). The Olathe East product was named the 2005 National High School Coaches’ Association Softball Player of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Kansas. Chapple led the Jayhawks in Fall Ball with a .611 batting and 1.222 slugging percentage through eight games.
First base will be up for grabs this season with juniors Nicole Washburn and Kassie Humphreys and freshman Stevie Crisosto competing for playing time.
Washburn (O’Fallon, Mo.) has the most experience at first (105 games) while Humphreys could see time there when not in the circle. Crisosto (Palo Cedro, Calif.) is a true utility player who will train to play at first or in the outfield this season.
“Stevie is a great athlete who will do multiple things in practice,” Bunge said.
Two freshmen will be catching for the Jayhawks in 2006. Erika Simington (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Tiffany Craner (Paola, Kan.) both have the ability to make an immediate impact to KU’s defense.
Sophomore Elle Pottorf, who caught 53 of the Jayhawks’ 55 games in 2005, will take a medical redshirt this season.
Senior Heather Stanley (Houston, Texas), an All-Big 12 First Team selection in 2005, will start in right field for the third consecutive season and most likely be the lead-off hitter.
“Heather will set an aggressive tone on offense, swing the bat and make things happen as the lead hitter,” Bunge added.
With the loss of starters in left and center, two outfield positions could be filled by new faces this season.
“After the Fall season, we made some decisions about some players and positions in particular in order to help stabilize our lineup early,” Bunge said.
The position changes included moving senior Nettie Fierros (Avondale, Ariz.), who played her first three seasons as a Jayhawk at third base, to the outfield in 2006.
Senior Ashley Goodrich, who was KU’s No. 2 catcher in 2005, will return to the outfield this season. Goodrich (Kewanee, Ill.) saw action in 43 games last season and started 15.
New to the Jayhawk squad is Arizona transfer Betsy Wilson (Salina, Kan.). Although Wilson played infield for the Wildcats, she will move to the outfield at KU.
“Betsy brings a great deal of enthusiasm and is a very hard-working, coachable player,” Bunge added.
Crisosto and sophomore transfer Sara Sidebottom (Hutchinson, Kan.) will add depth to the outfield in 2006. Sidebottom, KU’s only true lefty, played one season at Pratt Community College.
The Coaching Staff
Tracy Bunge, a former Jayhawk pitcher and All-American in 1986, begins her 10th season as head coach at her alma mater. Bunge holds a 282-245-1 record at KU and career coaching mark of 274-312-1 in 12 years. She is joined by second-year assistant Jen Sewell (Ohio, 2000) and All-American outfielder Christi Musser (Kansas, 2003), who returns for her third season on Bunge’s staff.
Despite a sixth-place league finish in 2005, Kansas was picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 this season. Texas A&M is the Big 12 coaches’ preseason favorite to win the league title in 2006, while Texas trailed by just one point in the annual poll.
The Jayhawks, who went 9-8 in Big 12 play last year (sixth place), finished 31-24 overall last season and made an appearance in the NCAA Regional in Athens, Ga.
Baylor (61 points) ranked third followed by Oklahoma (fourth – 55 points), Nebraska (fifth – 49 points), Missouri (sixth – 43 points), Kansas (seventh – 32 points), Texas Tech (eighth – 28 points), Oklahoma State (ninth – 22 points) and Iowa State (10th – nine points).
In addition, KU received votes in the 2006 ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 Coaches’ Preseason Poll released on Jan. 24.
The 2006 Schedule
KU is slated to play 60 regular-season games this year with only 22 of the contests at home. In addition to being road warriors for most of the 2006 campaign, the Jayhawks will be facing some of the nation’s top teams early in the season.
Thirty-two of KU’s games will be against teams that earned NCAA Regional bids in 2006 and 10 will be against opponents that finished in the top 25 last year. In the preseason national poll released on Jan. 24 (see left), 19 of the Jayhawks’ opponents were either ranked or receiving votes.
“We are going to see some very good competition to prepare us for Big 12 play. It may be the toughest pre-conference schedule that we’ve played in quite a while, but with an experienced ball club, we feel like this is the year we can handle that type of competition.
KU opens its 38th season of competition Feb. 10-12 at the Wilson/DiMarini Tournament in Houston, Texas. The Jayhawks will face Florida, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Oregon and host Houston in the three-day event.
Other road tournaments will be held in Las Vegas (Feb. 17-19), Palm Springs (Feb. 24-26), Tulsa (March 3-5) and Hawaii (March 17-19).
“It’s very typical for us to be away from home the first month or so of the season, but the great news is that we’ll be at some great locations that will be fun for the team,” Bunge said.
The Jayhawks will open at home March 8 with a doubleheader against Missouri State and host Minnesota, Eastern Michigan and Portland State in the Jayhawk Classic March 10-12.
KU brings its first league game to Arrocha Ballpark April 1 against Oklahoma State and hosts Nebraska (April 4), Texas Tech (April 15-16), Missouri (April 19), Texas (April 22-23) and Iowa State (May 6-7) in Lawrence.
Jayhawk greats Camile Spitaleri (1989-92) and Sheila Connolly (1983, 1985-87) will be the first Kansas softball players to have their jerseys retired as part of Alumni Weekend festivities on April 22.
Oklahoma City will host the 2006 Big 12 Softball Championships May 10-13 while NCAA Regional site begin action May 19.