2012 WWU Softball Preview
Jan. 30, 2012
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - A year ago, the Western Washington University softball team was charging into the unknown with new head coach Amy Suiter. But the Vikings adapted well, setting a school record for victories with a 36-16 season and reaching the NCAA Division II post-season for the first time in four years.
With that successful year of experience behind them, the Vikings and Suiter have a better idea of what to expect in 2012.
"Last year, I had no idea what to expect from the Division II level," said Suiter. "We were preparing the players for the season with nothing to reference their performance to. Now we've had the opportunity to play a good majority of the top teams in our region, giving me a much better idea of what to expect."
Thirteen players return from last year's squad, which was second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with a 24-11 record and earned a berth in the NCAA II West Regional, being knocked out in two games. They'll be joined by a large and talented recruiting class.
"It was a great year to set our foundation for the program and set a standard for Western Washington softball," Suiter said. "We have seven newcomers, and they've bought in to what we do, as well, which gives this team the potential to go as far as they wish to go."
Leading the returnees are four seniors, all of whom have seen extensive playing time throughout their careers - first baseman/designated player Krista Bickar (Hoquiam), outfielder Jessica Carey (Everett), second baseman/pitcher Stephanie Fox (Sammamish/Eastlake) and third baseman Jordan Emmil (Colville).
Bickar, a two-time honorable mention all-GNAC selection, has been a threat at the heart of the batting order for three seasons, hitting 12 career home runs, tied for second in school history. She hit .297 with three home runs and 24 runs batted in last season, and was also errorless in 74 attempts in the field.
"Krista provides a lot of power to our lineup," said Suiter. "Her swing has really come together in the last year and we expect her to really contribute."
Carey, a second-team all-GNAC pick in 2010, returns in center field after hitting .271 with two home runs and 18 RBI in 2011. She also had team-highs of 11 sacrifices and four sacrifice flies.
"Jessica is a very natural leader," said Suiter. "She remembers to take care of the little things and will be a large part of our success by keeping the team together as one unit."
Fox has been the regular second baseman the past three years, hitting .250 in 2011. Twice an honorable mention all-GNAC pick, her role will expand this season, as she'll also see time at shortstop and be part of the pitching staff.
"Stephanie will be in the middle infield again, but she pitched all the way through high school," said Suiter. "She wanted an opportunity to get back in the circle."
Emmil will again see time at third base after being platooned there last season. She hit .289 in 2011.
"Jordan is a tough kid," said Suiter. "She has a great worth ethic that has been contagious to the rest of the team."
Three other regulars return, led by junior catcher Jackie Rothenberger (Coquitlam, BC) a second-team all-GNAC pick last year. Rothenberger had a banner season in 2011, hitting .344 with four home runs and 35 RBI, all team-bests, as was her .500 slugging percentage.
Sophomore Megan Carrillo (Prunedale, CA/North Monterey County) returns in right field. She hit .315 as a freshman, earning second-team all-GNAC honors, and was hit by pitches a team-high seven times.
Junior Rachelle Berry (Alger/Burlington-Edison) hit .263 last year and saw the majority of time at first base as Bickar often filled the designated player role.
The other returnees in the field are sophomore Kaleigh Keating (Salinas, CA/Notre Dame Salinas), who was primarily a pinch-runner last year but figures to slot in at shortstop this year; junior middle infielder Melissa Becker (Puyallup/Graham-Kapowsin), who hit .294 in 21 games; and sophomore Amanda Flores (Ferndale), who saw action in six contests in 2011.
There's also experience returning on the mound, with three of Western's top four pitchers from a year ago back. They are sophomore Jenna DeRosier (Kelso), junior Erika Hendron (Redmond) and sophomore Devyn Baker (Montesano). DeRosier saw the most action last year, going 5-2 with a 3.63 ERA in 15 appearances, and completing five of her seven starts.
Fox will also see time in the circle, as will freshman Janelle Kasch (Snohomish).
"We have five pitchers and I plan on using all of them," Suiter said. "They all have different strengths and will complement each other well. The number of pitchers will benefit us - we have numerous times where we play three games in a day at tournaments, and almost all the other days we play doubleheaders."
Kasch is one of five freshmen slated to see action. Left fielder Tayler Blumenfeld (Lake Stevens) and third baseman Cheyenne Best (Sedro-Woolley) figure to play extensively right away. Allie Crowe (Auburn/Thomas Jefferson) will also see time in the outfield, and Matti Tetzlaff (Mill Creek/Jackson) provides depth at catcher, shortstop and the outfield.
Completing the active roster are two transfers from Bellevue CC. Junior second baseman Kristen Allen (Arlington) hit .575 with nine home runs and 45 RBI there last year after spending her freshman season at NCAA Division I Purdue, and junior catcher Nicole Rogers (Monroe) hit .351 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI.
"Depth is our greatest strength," said Suiter. "From freshmen to seniors, we have players that have the ability to contribute to our success. This team expects more of themselves than last year and that expectation can go a long way."
Western opens the season at the Best of the West Tournament in Turlock, Calif., on Feb. 4.
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