2005 Husky Softball Season Preview

Jan. 11, 2005

The Washington softball team will have a new look this season as head coach Heather Tarr takes the reigns of a solid Husky program. Tarr, a former assistant and associate head coach at Pacific, is more than familiar with the storied traditions of Washington softball. The Redmond, Wash., native was a four-year letterwinner for the Huskies from 1994-97 and a student assistant in 1998 when Washington advanced to the national championship game. Joining Tarr on the coaching staff are assistants Eve Gaw and Robert Wagner and both also have strong ties to the Washington softball program. Gaw is a former UW All-American pitcher and designated player, and Wagner, also a UW graduate, is married to former Husky pitcher Nancy Wagner.

'The Husky tradition is important to all of us,' says Tarr. 'We know and believe in the values of this program and intend to carry on those traditions as coaches. We believe in outworking and outsmarting your opponent and in overcoming adversity. We are equally committed to academics and we want to insure that student-athletes come to Washington for the right reasons, and that they graduate and are prepared for a career when they leave.'

While the Husky coaching staff has a new look, the goals of the 2005 team are the same as ever.

'The team sat down this fall and came up with their own list of goals, their list mirrored ours,' says Tarr. 'We want to be in the national championship game this year and we want to win it. We are going to focus on the little parts of the game and treat them as big parts. We are offensively, emphasizing hitting with runners in scoring position, putting the ball in play with two strikes. Defensively, we will rely on a strong pitching staff and a consistent defense.

'The team has been working hard this fall and every player has improved, which is exciting to see. People have jumped on board and have realized what we are about and that we all want the same things. We are on common ground and we are going after that national championship.'

Leading the Huskies' run toward the national title are 10 returning players, including seven starters. Three-time All-American Kristen Rivera and all-conference hurler Ashley Boek represent one of the strongest batteries in the country. UW also returns three of its starting infielders and two outfielders for the 2005 campaign. Nine of Washington's starters have held primary positions for at least two years and experience and depth will be a big advantage for the Huskies this season.

To prepare Washington for the strenuous Pac-10 season and NCAA Tournament, the Huskies will participate in five pre-conference tournaments. The Huskies will face a host of softball powerhouses, including fellow 2004 Women's College World Series teams Oklahoma and LSU as well as Tennessee and Nebraska.

'The tournament portion of our schedule is going to be tough,' says Tarr. 'We are going to be challenged from the very first weekend when we face Oregon in Hawaii. Our plan for those pre-conference games is to get better each time we take the field. We need to be ready to battle each weekend when the Pac-10 season arrives because every game is going to be a dogfight. We are going to take the season one game at a time and will look for consistency. Consistency is what it's going to take to return to the World Series.'

INFIELD

The Huskies return three starting infielders for the 2005 season, including first baseman Sarah Hyatt, second baseman Dominique Lastrapes and third baseman Kathy Fiske.

Hyatt, a junior, led the Huskies with 49 runs batted in last season. She hit .232 and her power was evident by her six doubles, 12 home runs and .489 slugging percentage. Hyatt ranks ninth on the UW all-time home run list with 19 home runs and was a Pac-10 All-Conference honorable mention selection last year.

'Sarah is a great athlete,' says Tarr. 'She has great footwork around the base. Sarah knows how to get the job done. She's a hard worker and is a tough kid. I think she is going to have a breakout season this year.'

Lastrapes returns for her sophomore campaign after a standout freshman season. Last year, she earned All-America honorable mention honors after hitting .371 with a team leading 75 hits and 41 runs scored. The Huskies knew they had someone special as the leadoff hitter when she opened her career with an 11-game hitting streak. She peaked in the postseason, opening the NCAA Tournament with 10 consecutive hits to set a NCAA record, while her .565 (13-for-23) postseason batting average set a Washington record.

'Dominique had a great freshman year,' says Tarr. 'She has been working on her short game and is going to keep opponents guessing with her ability to bunt, slap and hit for power. Defensively, she has great feet and great hands. She works very hard and wants to build upon her success from last year. We look for Dom to be a rock for us at second base.'

Fiske returns to third base for her senior year. Last year, she hit .273 with eight doubles, seven home runs and 28 RBIs. She led the team during the conference season with five home runs and 15 RBIs to earn Pac-10 All-Conference second team honors. Fiske's 105 RBIs and .477 slugging percentage rank eighth and ninth, respectively, on Washington's all-time career charts.

'Kathy will play a huge role for us,' says Tarr. 'She is a smart player and is a great field general. Kathy has a tremendous field vision and is able to make big-time plays. Offensively, she has shown a lot of improvement over her three years. She is one of our top returning hitters.'

The Huskies will look to freshman Ashley Charters to step in at shortstop after the graduation of Amanda Oleson. Charters, a two-time Oregon state Player of the Year, was a four-time all-league selection at Southridge High School (Newburg, Ore.). She was the 2004 Metro League Player of the Year and has significant national experience at the club level. Charters was a member of the national runner-up team at the 1998 Little League World Series and won the 2002 16-A National Title with the Oregon Sun Supply summer team.

'Ashley is extremely fast,' says Tarr. She is very raw and has many tools to build upon. Her success will depend upon her ability to learn on the fly and make quick adjustments. I think she will surprise a lot of people this year--maybe even herself.'

Washington's 2005 squad is deep and the Huskies will look to senior Callie Bergan and freshman Torie Coury to contribute to the infield line-up.

Bergan played in 29 games last season, making 12 starts at first base. She hit. 256 with a double and seven RBIs. Bergan also drew five walks and scored six runs for the Huskies.

'Callie has made a lot of improvements this fall,' says Tarr. 'Her range has improved as has her ability to move side-to-side. She has been working on her footwork around the base. Callie brings a lot of leadership both on and off the field.'

Coury is an Everett, Wash., native and was a standout player at Everett High School. She led the team to its first-ever state tournament appearance as a freshman and again as a junior. Coury has a wealth of summer ball experience, winning the 1999 NSA State Championship and placing second at the 2000 NSA World Series and 2003 NFPSA.

'When Torie was recruited, she was a sleeper and not a lot of people knew about her,' says Tarr. 'She is a scrappy kid and will help us out at third base, shortstop, and second base. Torie led the team in hitting in the fall tournament, and we are excited about the contributions she will make this season.'

OUTFIELD

Washington returns two starters to the outfield in juniors Aimee Minor and Dena Tyson.

Minor has been a two-year starter in right field and will challenge for the starting centerfield position after the graduation of Rita Roach. Last season, Minor played in 56 games and hit .275 with a team leading 12 doubles. She scored 27 runs, drove in 19 runs and hit two triples and two home runs. Minor ranks 10th on the UW all-time list with a .448 career slugging percentage. Last year, she peaked in the postseason, earning all-tournament honors at the regional after hitting .455.

'We are looking for Aimee to provide a lot of leadership this season,' says Tarr. 'She has a strong arm, good range and a lot of experience. She played all summer with a competitive women's team and has continued to improve her game.'

Tyson is coming off a shoulder injury that kept her out of the outfield for the majority of last season. She is still recovering and may miss the first few weeks of the 2005 season defensively. Last year, Washington looked to Tyson to fill in as the designated player. She led the team with nine game-winning hits while hitting .223 and driving in 26 RBIs.

'Depending on how fast Dena makes it back from her injury, she is going to be able to play a big role for us this season,' says Tarr. 'She is a fun kid to be around, has a lot of charisma and her teammates want to play with her. Dena has won a lot of games for this team with her bat and has shown a lot of heart playing through her injury last season.'

Joining Minor and Tyson in the outfield is junior Jessica Wilkinson and newcomers Jacki Hansen, Lauren Greer and Kailyn Ellinger.

Wilkinson appeared in 38 games last year, making three starts in right field. She was Washington's first person off the bench to pinch run and scored 13 runs last season.

'Jessica is a great athlete,' says Tarr. 'She can run and she has learned a lot over the last few years by watching people. She is very smart and I think she will be successful when he gets her opportunities.'

Hansen is a sophomore transfer from Stanford. She is a Mill Creek, Wash., native and played for the Lady Gold Hawks summer team under coach Gaw. Last season, she was a member of the Cardinal squad that tied for third at the Women's College World Series. She appeared in 38 games and made four starts in the outfield.

'Jacki is a great athlete with a lot of speed,' says Tarr. 'Offensively, she has a lot of pop. Getting consistent at-bats will be key to her success.'

Greer is a freshman out of Placentia, Calif. She was a three-time all-league selection at Mater Dei High School, the same school that producer former Husky All-American Tia Bollinger. Greer led the team to the state semifinals twice and was a two-time all-county pick.

'Lauren can hit, slap and bunt,' says Tarr. 'She has great speed and is going to help us out offensively. Defensively, she has some catching up to do but I am excited to see how much she can improve this season.'

Ellinger is a freshman from Monroe, Wash. She was a three-time all-league selection at Monroe High School and was a two-time all-area honoree.

'Kailyn has great body awareness and is able to make quick adjustments,' says Tarr. 'I foresee her making a big impact for us as a pinch runner, while she improves her skills in the outfield. She is also interested in pitching and will continue to work to develop that skill.'

BATTERY

Headlining the Husky battery are seniors Ashley Boek and Kristen Rivera. Boek led Washington to its second-consecutive College World Series appearance last season with a 29-13 record and set Husky season records with 43 starts and 34 complete games. She was Washington's only pitcher for much of the season as an injury sidelined Bollinger. She struck out 283 batters and tossed 11 shutouts to earn second team Pac-10 All-Conference honors and was named to the all-tournament team at the NCAA Regional after allowing just two runs in four games.

'Ashley has the experience, knowledge and ability to carry our team this year,' says Tarr. 'Her strength has been her speed. She is a true power pitcher but this season she has added a bit of finesse to her repertoire. It's exciting because she's only been known as a power pitcher. She has added a lot more movement to her pitches and she's going to be able to put some people on their heels and they aren't going to know what's coming.'

Rivera is a three-time All-American and has earned the Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year award for the last two seasons. Last season, she became the first Washington player to be named Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year after leading UW with a .385 average, 17 home runs and 47 RBIs. She also was among the nation's leaders with a .825 slugging percentage. Behind the plate, Rivera committed just three errors in 396 chances for a .992 clip.

'Kristen leads by example,' says Tarr. 'She is a strong kid and is a natural talent. She has a tremendous arm, has good feet and her ability to throw to any bag is second to none. She is one of the most feared hitters in the country and our goal is for her to stay patient and look for good pitches. I don't care if they walk her every time she comes to bat- we'll just steal her.'

Joining Boek and Rivera to the Washington battery are newcomers Caitlin Noble and Kirsten L'Heureux.

Noble is a freshman pitcher from Sammamish, Wash. She was a two-time All-Eastside Player of the Year and led her team to a second place finish at the 2004 state championship. Noble was the 2004 King County Journal Female Athlete of the Year and played for coach Gaw on the Washington Lady Gold Hawks summer team.

Caitlin is a finesse pitcher,' says Tarr. 'She hits her spots, competes and battles to win. In combination with a couple of new pitches and being able to move the ball on every level, she is going to be successful here at Washington.'

H'Leureux is a senior transfer from Western Washington. At WWU, L'Heureux played 48 games for the Vikings, before being sidelined during her sophomore year with a broken finger. She hit .276 for Western with 21 RBIs and a .407 slugging percentage.

'Kirsten has been a pleasant surprise,' says Tarr. 'She is a strong kid with a good arm. She works great with the pitchers and has already developed a great rapport with both Caitlin and Ashley. Kirsten is going to see some time behind the plate for us this year.'

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