2006 Softball Preview
Jan. 23, 2006
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The Western Washington University softball team enters the 2006 season with high hopes based on a solid core of 10 returning letter winners and a promising mix of freshmen and transfers.
The Vikings were 22-19 last season, finishing 16-8 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. They won 18 of their last 25 games, splitting four games with league champion Humboldt State, after a 4-12 start.
Six regular position players return from a year ago, including two second-team all-GNAC selections, and the top two pitchers also return.
"We have a nice blend of youth and experience, and if everything stays together, we should do well," said coach Lonnie Hicks (5th year, 97-79). "We have good leadership and good team chemistry."
The returning all-league picks are senior second baseman Mandy (Kaestner) Harvey (Coeur d'Alene, ID/Lake City) and sophomore catcher Liza Teichler (Sammamish/Skyline), who earned all-GNAC recognition as a designated hitter.
Harvey, the starter at second base since early in her freshman year, hit .313 last year with a home run and 17 runs batted in. She also led Western in stolen bases (9) and sacrifices (9). She hit .333 and had 21 stolen bases as a sophomore.
"Mandy is in her fourth year at second base," said Hicks. "Last season wasn't an outstanding hitting year for her, but I think she's ready for a great senior year."
Teichler led Western in batting average at .395, ranking third in the GNAC, and drove in 13 runs.
"Liza had an outstanding freshman year," Hicks said. "Not only did she lead us in hitting, she did an outstanding job behind the plate, and is becoming even more mentally solid defensively."
Harvey and Teichler are part of a core that gives Western great strength up the middle. Across from Harvey in the infield is sophomore shortstop Lisa Pendergrast (Burlington/Burlington-Edison), who after a slow start ended up hitting .250 as a freshman.
"In the second half of last season, Lisa took ownership of the shortstop position," Hicks said. "She's really shown great skills, and last year was a real confidence building year for her."
Teichler shares time behind the plate with senior Rachel Ellis (Pleasant Hill, CA/Santa Cruz), an outstanding defensive player who hit .225 a year ago.
"Rachel is as intelligent a catcher as I've ever seen," Hicks said. "She's very astute as to the tendencies of hitters. She just remembers everything about them."
Walker has led Western in earned run average the last two years. She was a hard-luck 7-8 with a 2.79 ERA in 2005, as the Vikings scored just six runs in her eight losses, three of those in one game. Her career ERA of 2.26 ranks ninth in GNAC history, and she had a no-hitter last season in an 8-0 victory over Northwest Nazarene. Walker has also seen time in the outfield, and hit .239 last spring.
"Nicole is a real good spot pitcher and has a very aggressive streak," Hicks said. "She's improved every year. The key for her is to relax, to not try so much to be perfect."
Quint had a 13-6 record and a 2.88 ERA, leading Western in victories, innings pitched (133-2/3) and strikeouts (84).
Junior Ashley Osman (Federal Way/Jefferson), who has seen action mostly at first base the last two years, has developed as a pitcher to the point Hicks believes she could see substantial innings as the No.3 person on the mound. Freshman Jennifer Jorgensen (Bellingham/Meridian) could also figure in, but is more likely to see action in the infield.
Returning at first base is senior Cortney Walton (Chesapeake, VA/Great Bridge), who hit .260 with a team-high four home runs, drove in 15 runs, and had a team-high 12-game hitting streak. Two of her homers provided the winning runs in victories over Humboldt State, the only GNAC losses the Lumberjacks suffered all season, and she also was perfect in 241 fielding attempts, setting a Western single-season record for errorless play.
Freshman Amanda Shiflet (Stanwood) figures to be the starter at third base. She hit .319 for Stanwood High School as a junior, garnering all-Western Conference and Everett Herald all-area honors. Two other freshmen provide depth in the infield. Janae Thomas (Kent/Eastside Catholic) will be a backup in the middle infield and is one of many sources of speed off the bench for Western. First baseman Morgan Parkerson (RAF Lakenheath, England) brings a bat - she hit .740 as a senior to earn first-team all-Europe honors for all US Air Force bases in Europe.
The lone returning regular in the outfield is senior Ashley Barber (Camas), who hit .292 last year and is versatile enough to hit almost anywhere in the order, including leadoff.
"Ashley is a consistent .300 hitter," Hicks said. "She's left handed, and everyone expects her to slap the ball, but she can hit it out of the park."
Also back is sophomore Devin Dykstra (Sumas/Nooksack Valley), who joined the team in mid-season last year and saw mostly pinch-running duty. She'll contend for a spot in right field.
Two transfers bolster the outfield. Junior Misty Britt (Kelso) was a two-year starter for Lower Columbia CC, hitting .365 over that time and stealing 15 bases as a sophomore. She figures to be in center field and could be a leadoff hitter.
Senior Jessica Wilkinson (Seattle/Garfield), a transfer from the University of Washington, could see extensive time almost anywhere in the outfield. She played in 38 games for the Huskies last year, scoring 11 runs, and scored 13 runs as their primary pinch runner in 2004.
"I'm looking forward to a great year," Hicks said. "We have the right mix of players, the right attitudes. They like to work hard, and they're ready to face the challenges of the season."
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