A Sneak Peak At The 2008 Kansas Softball Team
Jan. 31, 2008
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
Experience Is Key With Eight Returning Starters
After posting its fourth consecutive 30-plus win season in 2007, the <?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>University of Kansas softball team returns 13 letterwinners, eight of them starters, to its 2008 squad.<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>
“Our coaching staff is excited about the prospects of 2008,” said 12th-year coach Tracy Bunge. “We feel like our overall level of talent is up and we have more depth than we had last year. This team has worked extremely hard during the fall and off-season and they are ready for the year. Their commitment to this team and to each other has the coaching staff eager to see what they will bring to the field.”
“There are a lot of positives going into 2008,” Bunge added. “We are not looking at the year as one of rebuilding, but we do feel that last year’s experiences give us a lot to build on this year. We are starting 2-3 steps ahead of where we were last year.”
Leading the 2008 team are captains senior Addy Lucero and juniors Elle Pottorf and Stevie Crisosto.
“Our leaders will be the key to this team’s success,” Bunge said. “We don’t have a ton of seniors but the ones we do have along with the captains really need to set the tone. Our seniors and captains together have the tools necessary to take us down a championship path.”
“Offensively we’re going to be able to score runs,” Bunge said. “We have a little more speed than we’ve had the last couple of years. We will have a more balanced attack this year. More pop has been added along with better overall team speed. We will push this team to become a much more aggressive offensive team.”
The Kansas lineup returns three of its top four offensive threats from 2007 led by All-Big 12 Second Team selection Crisosto who led the team in six offensive categories last year. A junior shortstop from Palo Cedro, Calif., Crisosto batted a team-best .302 last season with 51 hits, including 11 doubles. A smart and speedy base runner, Crisosto also stole 13 bases in 14 attempts.
Right behind Crisosto was Amanda Jobe who hit .295 from the batter’s box in her inaugural season with the Jayhawks and led the squad in conference play hitting .279. The Shawnee, Kan., first baseman is a disciplined player with great patience who also had a team-high 30 walks in 2007.
Elle Pottorf is another important piece to KU’s offense. The Topeka, Kan., catcher returned to the lineup last year after redshirting the 2006 season for shoulder surgery. Pottorf showed few signs of rust as she batted in 37 runs for the Jayhawks, seventh in KU’s single-season record books. Pottorf smashed a team-high nine home runs along with six doubles for a .459 slugging percentage. Her threat from the batter’s box also earned her 20 walks for the season.
Three Up, Three Down
Defensively Kansas returns virtually its entire starting lineup from 2007 and has options in a number of positions giving the Jayhawks the most depth it has seen in recent years.
The infield will, for the most part, look the same as it did a year ago. In one corner, junior Val Chapple will entrench herself at third base for the third straight year where she has started every game but one in the last two years. Chapple, a 2007 Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection, was a consistent defender tallying a team-high 123 assists and recording a .957 fielding percentage. The in-state product from Overland Park, Kan., was equally important on offense as she smacked 10 doubles and scored 18 runs for the Jayhawks last season.
Opposite Chapple, fans will find Jobe at first. Jobe split time with graduated senior Nicole Washburn last year and also played in the Kansas outfield when not at first. An All-Big 12 Second Team honoree, Jobe recorded a .992 fielding percentage to complement her impressive offensive output.
Senior Addy Lucero has seen some playing time at first during preseason practices and will be a key pinch hitter off the bench as well. Lucero also gives the team depth at third.
Second base is a true competition between sophomore Sara Ramirez and newcomer Kolby Fesmire. The two have excellent speed and good fielding abilities. Ramirez started all 58 games at second last year and made a big impact on offense with six home runs, the third-most by a freshman in school history.
Fesmire, one of two newcomers out of Texas, wins the title of fastest player on this year’s squad and will bring a lot to the Jayhawks’ base running. Fesmire has also proven to be a talented shortstop, but her main responsibilities will be at second.
Rounding out the KU infield is Crisosto at short. The California native is another 58 game starter from 2007.
“Now that Stevie has had a full season at short stop, I expect her to be as good as anyone at that position in the Big 12,” said Bunge. Watching Stevie this fall, she looked like the player that we need her to be. Offensively, she helps us in many different ways and I only see her getting better.”
The infield certainly looks promising but the potential doesn’t stop there. Experience and depth exists in the outfield as well.
Right and left field is still up for grabs but center field belongs to returning junior, Dougie McCaulley. The Victorville, Calif., native transferred to Kansas for the 2007 season and earned playing time in all 58 contests. McCaulley recorded a .961 fielding percentage, while batting .265 and stealing 11 bases on offense.
Senior Betsy Wilson, sophomore Ally Stanton and newcomers Liz Kocon, Amy Farrow and Allie Clark will all vie for time in the outfield.
Wilson is able to play anywhere in the KU outfield and saw playing time in 53 games last season at left and center field. Stanton could be in left or right as well.
According to Bunge, “Stanton has worked extremely hard in the offseason to improve defensively, as well as offensively.”
A native of Katy, Texas, Kocon underwent minor knee surgery in December but is expected to be at 100 percent by the time the season gets underway. The5-foot-7 outfielder also has a lot of potential to provide a great deal of offensive output and adds some pop to the Jayhawk batting order.
Farrow, a transfer from NorthwestMissouriState, is a hard worker who, in addition to the outfield where she has primarily practiced, has the ability to play the infield. Clark is listed as a pitcher, but will also see playing time in the outfield when not in the circle.
“We have a very talented defensive team,” Bunge said. “We’ve solidified some things in the outfield and have added more depth to the infield.”
The area where the Jayhawks are the least experienced is in the circle and that is the biggest question for this year’s team.
Kassie Humphreys was a four-year starter for the Jayhawks and a two-time All-Big 12 performer who graduated last year after leaving her name littered all over the KU pitching record books.
The longest tenured hurler is Valerie George who is in her third season with the Jayhawks. Last year, George boasted a team-best 2.11 ERA in 116.1 innings and amassed a 9-4 record along with three saves.
Sarah Vertelka has also seen time from inside the circle throwing 72.2 innings in 2007. The 5-foot-9 right hander took full advantage of the offseason and has made significant strides in her game.
Clark, from Hesperia, Calif., is the final component of the KU pitching staff. The freshman was a two-time California Interscholastic Federation Most Valuable Player and holds 10 single-season records at HesperiaHigh School in pitching and hitting.
“I’m excited about the direction that our three young arms are headed,” Bunge added. “We can be a very complete staff. They each have different strengths and together they have the ability to surprise a lot of people.”
Sophomore Caitlin Kenney is also a member of the Kansas bullpen, but has been slowed with injury during the fall and will be working to come back from that this season.
Like the rest of the KU lineup, the catcher position also has several options. Pottorf is the Jayhawks’ returning starter and brings a great deal of experience to the team. She proved to be a consistent player behind the plate last season recording a .992 fielding percentage.
Brittany Hile comes to Kansas from BlueValleyWestHigh School. The in-state native out of Olathe has a tremendous arm and brings some great tools to the team defensively. Additionally, Hile proved in fall ball that she has a dangerous swing as well.
Senior Sarah Sidebottom is also a very important element to the program. She practices behind the plate along with Pottorf and Hile and does a great job working with the pitching staff.
“The pitching staff feels comfortable with either one of our catchers behind the plate,” said Bunge. “We have a great one-two punch with these two and we will take advantage of what both of them will bring.”
Kansas softball will open its 2008 season Friday, Feb. 8 in Orlando, Fla. during the Central Florida Invitational. KU will face Central Arkansas at 8:30 a.m. CST Friday morning before going up against North Carolina State at 12:30 p.m. CST.