Jan. 30, 2014
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - A deep and balanced Western Washington University softball team enters the 2014 season with a sense of optimism.
The Vikings were 23-23 overall a year ago, finishing fifth in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with a 12-12 mark. Thirteen letter winners return from that squad, led by two first-team all-GNAC selections - sophomore pitcher/first baseman Alexie Levin (Everett) and sophomore designated hitter Jordan Walley (Maple Valley/Tahoma) - and senior outfielder Meghan Carrillo (Sr., Prunedale, CA/North Monterey County), who has twice earned second-team all-GNAC honors.
"I'm looking forward to the season," said coach Amy Suiter (4th year, 76-75). "We have a lot of young talent and some great leadership in our upperclassmen. The team has done a great job in the off season in adopting a philosophy and really coming together as a team."
Walley had an immediate impact as a freshman, hitting .314 with six home runs and 25 RBI. She'll see action primarily as a designated player, but might also see time at first base. Levin will also see time at first base when not pitching. She hit .333 with two home runs and a team-high 26 RBI last year, with 16 of her 42 hits going for extra bases. They were a key element of the batting order a year ago, with Levin hitting third and Walley clean up.
Two other starters also return in the infield for WWU. Slick-fielding junior third baseman Cheyenne Best (Sedro-Woolley) has been a starter the last two seasons, hitting .250 with one home run and 16 RBI in 2013. Senior shortstop Haylee Baker (Poulsbo/Bainbridge) started all but one game a year ago, hitting .228 with a homer and 13 RBI.
Freshman Kali Patterson (Bonney Lake), who was MVP of the South Puget Sound League, has the inside track to start at second base; and sophomore Emma Blauser (Federal Way/Todd Beamer) provides depth at second, short and third.
Carrillo is a three-year starter in right field, and was a second-team all-GNAC pick in 2011 and 2012. She hit .272 with a homer and 10 RBI in 2013, and has reached base via being hit by a pitch 16 times in her career.
Also returning in the outfield is senior Kaleigh Keating (Salinas, CA/Notre Dame), who moves to center field after starting 30 games in left field last season. She hit .275 in 2013 and led the Vikings in stolen bases, nabbing 20 in 21 attempts.
Junior Autumn Isaacson (Lake Stevens), a junior college All-American at Bellevue CC last year, is the likely starter in left field. Sophomore Arianna Barrio (Stanwood/Lakewood) and junior Allie Crowe (Auburn/Thomas Jefferson) may also see time in the outfield. Crowe made 12 starts last year, hitting .229, and Barrio stole six bases in seven attempts.
The only returnee behind the plate is sophomore Taylor Clark (Tacoma/Wilson). Also available to catch are freshmen Lynsey Amundson (Arlington) and Mackenzie Hughes (Ellensburg). Amundson will also see time at first base, as will senior Amanda Flores (Ferndale), who was limited to six games last season but had a team-high five home runs in 2012.
The depth this year in our roster is our biggest strength," Suiter said. "We have some speed in the top of the lineup that should cause some havoc, followed closely by some power and great situational hitting in the middle and bottom of the line-up. Our defense has worked hard in the off-season and is looking to pick right back up where it left off last year."
WWU led the NCAA Division II nationally in double plays with 27 in 46 games, 59 percent.
The Vikings return their top two pitchers, as Levin and senior Jenna DeRosier (Kelso) combined to make 38 of the 46 starts last season. Levin was 10-7 with a 3.77 earned run average, and DeRosier was 8-10 with a 3.42 ERA. A three-year letter winner, DeRosier enters the season seventh in school history in career innings pitched (300) and tied for ninth in complete games (23). Also back is sophomore Lauren Bennett (Tustin, CA/Beckman), who saw action in five games and had an 0-1 record.
Joining the Viking pitching staff are freshmen Aspen Ison (Gig Harbor/Peninsula) and Shayna Adelstein (Tucson, AZ/Marana Mountain View). Ison was a three-time South Puget Sound League Pitcher of the Year, and Adelstein was a second-team Southern Arizona all-region selection.
"We have five quality pitchers on our staff, which is such a luxury," Suiter said. "They complement each other well in power, movement, right and left handed pitching, and best of all they work together so well and have all accepted their role as a staff and not as individuals."
The Vikings, who are seeking to reach the NCAA II post-season for the first time in the last three seasons, open the campaign with games in Hawaii and a tournament in Las Vegas. GNAC play begins March 7, when WWU hosts Simon Fraser in a doubleheader.
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