Softball Opens Season On Friday At UC Santa Barbara Tournament
Jan. 28, 2004
CORVALLIS, Ore. -
Friday, January 30
OSU vs Santa Clara - 9 a.m. PST (UCSB Tournament)
OSU vs Long Beach State - 11:30 a.m. PST (UCSB Tournament)
Saturday, January 31
OSU vs Illinois-Chicago - 9 a.m. PST (UCSB Tournament)
OSU vs UC Santa Barbara - 11:30 a.m. PST (UCSB Tournament)
Sunday, February 1
OSU vs Long Beach State - 11:30 a.m. PST (UCSB Tournament)
THAT'S ODD, OR EVEN: Oregon State has won its season opener three of the past five years. The Beavers have christened the new campaign with a 'W' during the 1999, 2001 and 2003 seasons, while dropping season openers during 2000 and 2002.
THE NUMBERS BREAKDOWN: Oregon State returns nine players from last season's squad that finished with a 36-31 overall record and made its fifth consecutive NCAA Regional Tournament appearance. Senior hurler Monica Hoffman is the lone player to see action in three postseason appearances, while 13 underclassmen dot the youthful roster.
A GLANCE AT THE BRONCOS: Oregon State opens the 2004 campaign against Santa Clara University at 9 a.m. on Friday. The Beavers swept a double-header against the Broncos last season by scores of 5-2 and 15-9. OSU broke the record for runs in a single game with 15 on a then season-high 16 hits. Oregon State holds a 14-2 advantage in the all-time series with the Broncos and the Beavers are a perfect 6-0 against Santa Clara with Kirk Walker at the helm.
THE REST OF THE FIELD: Oregon State holds a 5-2 record under the direction of Kirk Walker against the remaining teams in the field of the UC Santa Barbara Tournament - Long Beach State (2-0), Illinois-Chicago (2-0), UC Santa Barbara (1-2).
MILESTONE MOMENT: Oregon State head coach Kirk Walker enters the 2004 season needing just nine victories to amass 300 in his career. Walker, in his 10th season at OSU, is the winningest coach in program history with a record of 291-264-3.
PAC-10 COACHES POLL: In a preseason poll voted on by the Pac-10 coaches, Oregon State was tabbed to finish eighth in the conference. Last year's regular season champion, UCLA, was picked to finish first.
PAC-10 POSTSEASON: All eight Pacific-10 Conference teams reached the NCAA Regional Tournament for the third time in the last five years. The Pac-10 has sent seven teams to postseason in five consecutive seasons. Four squads reached the Women's College World Series and last year marked the 20th time in 22 years that the Pac-10 sent at least one team to the WCWS championship game and the 10th time that two Pac-10 teams faced each other for the title. The Pac-10 has won 16 NCAA softball championships since 1982 - more than any other conference.
FACING THE BEST: Oregon State finished the 2003 season with a 12-23 record against opponents ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Poll Top-25. Of Oregon State's 67 games on the season, the Beavers faced ranked opponents on 35 occasions. Forty-three percent of OSU's opponents (17-of-40) were nationally ranked a year ago.
PAC-10 POWER: Seven of the eight Pacific-10 Conference squads finished the 2003 season ranked in the final May 27 USA Today/NFCA Poll, a listing follows: 1. UCLA, 2. California , 3. Arizona, 6. Washington, 16. Oregon, 20. Arizona State, 23. Stanford. For the third consecutive year, the Pac-10 had a pair of teams compete in the Women's College World Series (UCLA and California). UCLA turned away the defending champion Golden Bears by a 1-0 score in 9 innings to earn its ninth NCAA softball title.
IN THE DUGOUT: Sixth-year assistant Jenny Condon was promoted to associate head coach during the summer of 2002. Condon helped lead the Beavers to their first NCAA Regional Tournament appearance in 1999. After a one-year stint at UNLV during the 2000 season, Condon rejoined the Beaver staff. Crissy Buck ,a former player for the 1999 NCAA Champion UCLA Bruins, returns to the Beavers for her second season as assistant coach. A four-year letterwinner, Buck graduated from UCLA in 2002. Former Beaver standouts Shelly Prochaska and Steph Adams join the team as student assistant coaches.
THE WORD ON WALKER: Head coach Kirk Walker is in his 10th season at the helm for the Beavers. Walker, a graduate of UCLA, has turned around Oregon State's softball program to make it a contender on a national scale. Walker has led the Beavers to five consecutive NCAA Regional Tournament appearances. The winningest coach in program history, Walker, has an overall coaching record of 291-264-3 and a 64-154 mark in the Pacific-10 Conference. Walker was selected as one of just 12 coaches named to the USA Softball National Team Coaches Pool, and will serve as an assistant coach for the USA Elite Team. Prior to his arrival at Oregon State, Walker spent 11 seasons at national powerhouse UCLA as a manager and assistant coach. During his time in Westwood, the Bruins won six NCAA titles and made 10 appearances in the College World Series.
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2004 SEASON OUTLOOK
Losing five senior starters doesn't change Oregon State head softball coach Kirk Walker's plan for his team to get to the 2004 Women's College World Series.
'Our goal is to win the national title,' Walker said. 'You don't go out to play for any other reason, and if you aren't trying to win then you shouldn't be out there.'
Lost leadership will give a chance for positions to be jumbled and new leadership to emerge.
'We'll have a lot of new people in new positions,' Walker said.
The Beavers are consistently among the nation's elite, with five consecutive appearances in postseason play and 40+ wins per season spread among the last five. In the midst of a 'youth movement' and rebuilding year, Walker remains optimistic as the season starts in January.
'We're still incredibly young,' Walker said. 'It's hard to pinpoint our strengths and weaknesses at this point because of that. We return four letterwinners from last year, and some of the strengths we return is our clutch play from that sophomore class.'
The departed senior class of 2003 combined to rank in 32 different Oregon State career record book categories - leaving a void that 12 underclassmen will now shoulder, but according to Walker, this group is ready for the challenge.
'Our greatest strength is probably our work ethic,' said Walker. 'We also have great speed, this is the fastest team we've ever had. Not just one or two players, but throughout our lineup. It will be our job to capitalize on this and get the runners on base for when our power hitters are up.'
Walker enters his 10th season at the helm as Oregon State's all-time winningest coach with a record of 291-264-3. Associate head coach Jenny Condon enters her sixth season at OSU, working primarily with the outfielders, while second year assistant coach Crissy Buck will focus on the infielders.
'I'm extremely excited about our coaching staff, ' said Walker. 'I think we are working as a group better than ever - there's a lot of positivity. We've adjusted some of our assignments to suit our abilities, and it's paying off.'
'This is one of our best experiences ever. Both of them have raised the bar, and have put in long hours. They are very well-received by the team, especially their old teammates.'
Two perennially powerful teams in the Pac-10 are without their head coaches this season - Arizona and Stanford, with Washington also facing a staff change.
'We all have great athletes and assistant coaches,' Walker said, 'but things could feel a little different this year.'
In perhaps its deepest pitching rotation in several years, the Beavers have several arms to count on for numerous innings of work.
Senior hurler Monica Hoffman, a two-time All-Pac-10 honoree, will lead the abundant staff. Teamed with the addition of freshmen Brianne McGowan out of Reno, Nev.,who completed a successful tour with the Women's Junior National Team this fall and Ta'Tyana McElroy from Los Angeles, the Beavers bring exciting new faces to the circle. Sophomore Amy Klever, who knocked off four Top 25 teams as a walk-on, and senior Dena DuBois bring added depth and experience to the rotation.
'Obviously Monica brings a lot of experience, and so she will be our go-to girl,' Walker said. 'Brianne and Ty made great strides this fall as freshmen, and will look to jump in right away and play a starting role. Amy will be primarily used in a relieving role, as will Dena.'
New faces will be found behind the plate this season as Shelly Prochaska, who played more games than any Beaver in school history, has moved to the sidelines as a student assistant coach.
'Until one of them steps up and takes the position (catcher),' said Walker, 'the two will be sharing it.'
Iapala saw action in 66 games as a freshman, recording 508 put-outs on the season at first base. She was one of six Beaver players to record 50 hits on the year, while Allen played in 59 games - mostly as the designated player - and tallied a .264 batting average.
Redshirt sophomore Alana Mendoza and sophomore transfer Ingrid Lochelt look to fill duties at second base. Mendoza sat out the 2003 campaign while recovering from elbow surgery while Lochelt saw action in 24 games at third base for University of Kentucky before transferring to OSU.
Junior Kelly Petersen, an All-Pac-10 pick, has started 131 games at shortstop and returns to the line-up as Oregon State's leading batter with a .275 average, 53 hits and 33 RBI in 2003. Freshman speedster Mia Longfellow, an All-CIF standout from Ramona, Calif., could also see action at shortstop.
Fellow freshman Sherina Galvan, of Moreno Valley, Calif., will fill the void left at third base. Galvan teamed with Adrienne Alo, Vanessa Iapala and Alana Mendoza as a member of the Gordon's Panthers squad. Lochelt could also see some action at the hot corner.
Returning All-Pac-10 performer Adrienne Alo will spearhead the outfield. Alo made 65 starts as a freshman - mostly in left field - tallying 50 hits and a .269 batting average.
All-State selection Natalie Johnson, a freshman from Lake Oswego, Ore., is on track to take over the center field position.
'Natalie is on the inside track for center field right now,' Walker said. 'Whoever ends up there, the others will fill in the left and right field positions.'
Trust will be a key factor as the young Beavers make strides towards a sixth straight trip to the postseason.
'We've run up against some great teams, and unfortunately it's been Oklahoma a few times,' Walker said. 'One thing we are looking at is how the new players deal with their failures. One of our goals as a coaching staff is to keep them looking forward, because we all have failures.'
Keeping the focus on what they do on the field and what they've accomplished during the season should keep them on track.
'If we can do this and trust each other, it will happen,' Walker said.