2008 WWU Season Preview
Jan. 17, 2008
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The Western Washington University softball team enters 2008 with high expectations, following last season's record-setting campaign which saw the Vikings capture their first Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship and advance to the NCAA Division II West Regional for just the second time in school history.
Western, which finished 34-22, rebounded from a slow start to win 21 of its final 26 games en route to a school-record 34 victories, including a 15-5 conference record.
"We had a strong finish last season, winning the league title and advancing to the West Regional, and hopefully we'll carry that momentum into this year," said Western coach Lonnie Hicks (7th year, 156-130). "I think we have a real strong team capable of achieving all the goals they have already laid out for themselves. I'm really excited to get started and see this group competing out on the field."
Seven letter winners and five starters return from the 2007 team, which set single-season offensive records with 258 runs scored, 448 hits, 227 runs batted in, 638 total bases and 34 home runs. The Vikings have the bulk of their run producers back, while a group of talented freshmen will give them unprecedented speed and versatility.
"One through nine, we'll be very strong," Hicks said. "We have a lot of complimentary pieces and we'll be able to score runs in a lot of different ways."
On the mound, a talented stable of arms looks to replace the 2007 GNAC Pitcher of the Year and second-team National Fastpitch Coaches Association West Region all-star Jackie Quint.
"We'll miss Jackie, but I think we've got the arms to replace her innings," said Hicks. "We'll have more depth this season than we've had in past years."
Junior Jessica Rosencrants (Sequim), a transfer from Peninsula CC, assumes the role of staff ace. Rosencrants earned first-team NWAACC all-star honors with the Pirates last season, leading the team to a 27-19 record. She spent her freshman season at Division I Southeast Missouri State, appearing in 12 games as a reliever. During a standout four-year prep career, Rosencrants fanned 567 batters while walking just 16 and posted a 61-9 record.
"Jessica has the ability to step in and make an immediate impact," Hicks said. "She moves the ball and changes speeds very well."
Sophomore Sarah McEnroe (Woodinville/Woodinville) made 19 starts as a freshman, posting a 12-3 record with a 2.43 earned run average and 77 strikeouts. She also hit .295 in 78 at bats and earned second-team All-NFCA West Region and honorable mention All-GNAC honors. She will not be eligible winter quarter, but hopes to return spring quarter to give the Vikings a solid one-two punch at the top of their rotation.
"Sarah's return will give us a big boost heading into the conference season," said Hicks. "She had a tremendous freshman year. Her velocity is a huge asset and really sets up her other pitches."
Sophomore Jen Jorgensen (Bellingham/Meridian) and freshman Emily Hardin (Bothell/ Inglemoor) round out the pitching staff and both are expected to see plenty of innings, particularly early in the season. Jorgensen missed the 2007 season with a wrist injury but made nine appearances and four starts as a freshman in 2006, posting a 4.20 ERA. Hardin was an All-KingCo League selection and earned Class 4A All-State honorable mention last year at Inglemoor High School. She struck out 118 in 109 1/3 innings as a senior, finishing with a 16-1 record and a 1.66 ERA.
"Jen and Emily give us a lot of depth on our pitching staff," Hicks said. "They'll both be expected to pitch a lot of innings and I'm very confident in their ability to handle that responsibility."
With her 2007 platoon partner Hannah Becker out for the season with a lingering knee injury, senior Liza Teichler (Sammamish/Skyline) will bear the bulk of the responsibility behind the plate. Teichler enjoyed a stellar junior campaign, leading the team with a .368 batting average, a .525 slugging percentage, sharing the team lead with 40 runs batted in and ranking second with 33 runs scored. For her efforts, Teichler was named GNAC Player of the Year and earned first-team Daktronics and second-team NFCA West Region all-star honors.
Two former high school teammates, freshmen Samantha Rutherford (Bothell/Inglemoor) and Michelle Wrigley (Bothell/Inglemoor), are expected to share the back up duties. As seniors at Inglemoor High School, Rutherford and Wrigley hit .397 and .411, respectively. Wrigley added six doubles and 13 RBI to earn first-team All-KingCo League honors. Rutherford hit three home runs and drove in 13 runs of her own, garnering second-team league all-star honors.
"Samantha and Michelle are athletic, multi-talented players who can play many positions," said Hicks. "They'll provide us with a lot of flexibility defensively and within our lineup. I expect both to develop into consistent hitters at the Division II level."
Junior Katie Barker (Auburn/Riverside) anchors the Viking infield at second base. Despite missing the entire 2006 season, Barker did not miss a beat in her return last year as a sophomore, starting all 56 games. A .294 career hitter, she scored 32 runs in 2007, tied for the team lead with 18 walks and tied for second on the squad with a .363 on base percentage. The sure-handed junior finished the season with a .948 fielding percentage.
"Katie was a consistent and solid fielder at second base last season," Hicks said. "Her hitting should continue to improve and I expect she'll give us another .300 hitter at the top of our lineup."
Flem earned second-team All-GNAC accolades as a freshman posting a .260 average and a .450 slugging percentage with a single-season school record nine home runs. Flem enters the season just three homers shy of Western's career mark of 12, currently held by Carlena Herd (1992-2002).
"Meghan is a natural first-baseman, who will continue to provide significant power to the middle of our lineup," Hicks said. "I expect her home run and RBI totals will only improve in her sophomore season."
Freshman Caitlin Dotlich (Sedro-Woolley/Burlington-Edison) is expected to open the season at shortstop. Dotlich hit .475 as a senior at Burlington-Edison, leading her team to seventh-place at the Class 2A state tournament. Dotlich hit .510 as a junior, earning first-team All-State honors.
"Caitlin will see a lot of playing time at shortstop," said Hicks. "She brings additional power to the middle of our order and a strong and determined attitude."
Senior Lisa Pendergrast (Bow/Burlington-Edison), who has spent the majority of her career as a shortstop, will be at third base. Last year, Pendergrast had a .278 average in 30 games, making 28 starts. She hit .345 (10-of-29) prior to breaking her wrist, including seven-consecutive at bats in which she recorded a hit.
"Injuries have cost Lisa the second half of the last two seasons," Hicks said. "If healthy, her batting average will climb dramatically."
Versatile freshman outfielder Kelsey Anderson (Mount Vernon) is also a candidate to see time at third base. Wrigley and Rutherford also add depth to the Viking infield.
The Vikings outfield will have a decidedly different look in 2008. First-team All-GNAC leadoff hitter Misty Britt graduated after starting 103 of 109 games in centerfield the past two seasons, while sophomore Megan Fowler, who made 39 starts in 2007, will redshirt this year because injuries.
Look for freshman Jenna Mohrweis (Mill Creek/Jackson) to start the season in Britt's place both in center field and atop the lineup. Mohrweis hit .512 and stole a school record 36 bases as a senior at Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Wash.
"Jenna is a slap-hitter with a great deal of speed," said Hicks. "She will see the majority of the playing time in center field and will develop into a base-stealing threat at the top of the order."
Senior Reina Boersma (Ferndale/Peninsula CC) saw action in 39 games last season, making 14 starts. She emerged as a defensive standout during fall practice and should see the bulk of the starts in right field.
"Reina worked hard to transition from community college to the Division II level last season," said Hicks. "She'll only continue to get better. I expect we'll see dramatic improvement in her offensive numbers across the board."
Freshmen Hilary Cosentino (Stevenson) and Anderson will also compete for innings in left. Cosentino was a second-team All-Tri County League all-star two years at Stevenson High School. She batted .525 as a senior earning the team's offensive and defensive MVP awards. Anderson was a first-team All-Northwest League selection as a senior, posting a .440 average, while driving in 21 runs.
Junior Morgan Parkerson (RAF Lakenheath, England) adds depth to the position, but expects to see the majority of her at-bats as the designated player. Despite limited plate appearances, she hit .275 with four home runs and 19 RBI.
Her slugging percentage of .488 ranked second on the team, and she topped the team with a .464 average in conference games and hit .435 with runners on base.
"Morgan was one of the team's more productive hitters last season," said Hicks. "We are counting on her to continue to step up and play an even larger role in our offense this year.
Western's schedule is one of the most difficult in the West Region. During the regular season the Vikings face five of last season's seven other West Regional qualifiers, six California Collegiate Athletic Conference opponents and defending Pacific West Conference Champion Hawaii Hilo.
Western Washington Vikings Sidebar Links
|Email this article||Printer-friendly format|