Softball Opens Season at UCSB on Sunday
Jan. 25, 2005
The two-time defending NCAA Champions open their 2005 season this Sunday afternoon with noon doubleheader at UC Santa Barbara. UCLA opens its season with Sunday's doubleheader and a single game against UC Riverside next week before playing in five consecutive weekend-long tournaments. UCLA's 2005 season outlook is below. The PDF link is for this week's regular release.
2005 UCLA Softball Outlook
After winning consecutive NCAA titles the past two seasons, the Bruins will have a significantly different look for the 2005 campaign. Gone are three seniors from the 2004 squad that started for four years, including center fielder Stephanie Ramos, 1B/DP Claire Sua and one of the best pitchers in UCLA softball history, Keira Goerl.
Stepping in to fill these gaps will be a sophomore class of seven student athletes, and a freshman class of four players, all of whom are expected to make their presence known during the upcoming season.
The biggest difference between the 2004 and 2005 Bruins will be seen in the circle. With Keira Goerl having pitched the majority of the innings last year, the baton will now pass to a pair of Gatorade National High School Player of the Year honorees, sophomore Lisa Dodd and freshman Anjelica Selden.
Dodd, the 2003 Gatorade National Player of the Year, tossed 115-2/3 innings as a freshman in 2004, compiling a 15-2 record with a 0.79 ERA, while holding opposing batters to a .151 average. An offensive threat as well, Dodd earned All-Tournament honors at the Women's College World Series while playing right field last May. 'Our goals for this upcoming season include seeing Lisa lead us throughout the season both offensively and defensively,' said head coach Sue Enquist.
Selden completed an outstanding high school career last spring, including pitching a school-record 10 consecutive no-hitters en route to the 2004 Gatorade National Player of the Year honor. Selden has turned in an impressive fall training season. 'I think her potential is limitless,' said Enquist. 'I admire her physical tools, but I'm most impressed with her mental maturity.'
Behind the plate will be a group of five catchers led by two-year starter Emily Zaplatosch. Zaplatosch has handled all of UCLA's pitchers the past two seasons, and was Goerl's primary backstop for the final two years of her UCLA career. A hitter who recorded five home runs last season, Zaplatosch had an impressive five sacrifice bunts at the 2004 WCWS, more than twice as many as any other player in the tournament. 'Emily has a wonderful combination of experience and confidence,' said Enquist, 'and I believe she'll continue to do great things in our offensive lineup as well.'
Sophomore Jaisa Creps is coming off of both shoulder surgery that prematurely ended her freshman campaign and knee surgery that was performed over the summer months. Creps started four games behind the plate last season, and was perfect on 34 chances. 'Jaisa is an excellent leader behind the plate and is capable of driving the ball offensively,' said Enquist.
UCLA's lone senior, Nicole Sandberg, has played an enormous role for the Bruins during her tenure in Westwood, although it has primarily been behind the scenes. Sandberg earned a .500 batting average last season in a limited pinch hitting role, and came off the bench to catch two innings in UCLA's 2003 regular season finale. 'Nicole is capable of catching any of our pitchers,' said Enquist. 'I can call on her any time we need her.'
Sophomore Shana Stewart is another Bruin whose role is primarily in the bullpen. Stewart played in just two games as a freshman, appearing as a pinch runner and scoring a run on both occasions. 'Shana is very consistent in her work ethic and attitude,' said Enquist. 'Her presence makes other people kick their game up a notch.'
Freshman Jen Schroeder rounds out the group of potential catchers, although she is expected to primarily contribute elsewhere on the diamond.
The Bruin infield will closely resemble the group that finished the WCWS in Championship fashion last May. Around the horn, junior Andrea Duran returns at third base, sophomore Jodie Legaspi will continue to field the shortstop position, and UCLA's lone returning All-American, Caitlin Benyi, remains at second base. The only position that will change from last spring will be first base, which is expected to be filled by a tag-team of sophomore Kristen Dedmon and freshman Jen Schroeder.
Duran not only turned in a spectacular season with a .947 fielding percentage at the hot corner last season, she also was one of UCLA's top offensive contributors, hitting .326 with seven home runs and 22 RBI while primarily hitting second in the lineup. 'I believe Andrea's game gets better every year,' said Enquist. 'She has all the tools to be one of the best ever at her position.'
Legaspi had enormous shoes to fill at shortstop during her freshman campaign, taking over for 2004 Olympian Natasha Watley. Legaspi handled the pressure quite well, putting together a solid defensive season to go along with a .371 batting average, .616 slugging percentage and 35 RBI, all totals that ranked second on the team last season. 'Jodie is the anchor of our infield,' said Enquist. 'She is a true leader for this team in every facet of the game. Her consistent play defensively gives us great stability while she has en excellent eye on offense.'
In a program which relies heavily on its leadoff hitters, Caitlin Benyi has continued that success. Last year, her first in the Bruin leadoff spot, Benyi hit .379 as a sophomore, leading the nation with 24 home runs while leading her team in batting average, hits, RBI (43) and slugging percentage (.864). Defensively, Benyi moved to second base from the outfield and turned in a .973 fielding percentage with just four errors on the season. 'Caitlin exhibits great leadership skills offensively and defensively by her consistent emotional outlook on the game,' said Enquist.
Tag-teaming at the positions of first base and designated player will be sophomore Kristen Dedmon and freshman Jen Schroeder. Dedmon completed her freshman season in dramatic fashion, connecting on a two-RBI pinch-hit single that drove in the winning runs in the 2004 NCAA Championship game. 'Kristen's historic game-winning hit in the World Series was the springboard for her dedication this summer,' said Enquist. 'We will see the benefits of that dedication this season.'
Schroeder is one of UCLA's four freshmen joining the program this season, and it is anticipated that she will alternate with Dedmon at first base and DP. 'Jen has a wealth of potential,' said Enquist. 'She has great versatility and athleticism and I look for her to contribute right away.'
Junior Alissa Eno also could see some spot duty in the infield. Eno started at DP for the second half of the Pac-10 season in 2004, finishing with four RBIs, a double and two sacrifice hits from the eight spot in the lineup. 'Alissa is capable of coming in and playing third base or outfield if needed,' said Enquist.
Freshman Danielle Peterson is another potential replacement at the corners for Enquist. Peterson has gone straight to work since arriving at UCLA, and has shown continued improvement throughout the fall. 'Danielle has a love for the game and is an excellent worker in practice,' said Enquist. 'She is capable of holding down either corner position.'
Two-thirds of UCLA's outfield starters from Championship Monday have graduated, leaving those starting positions wide open to six players competing for the spots. In addition to her pitching duties, Lisa Dodd will also continue to start in right field. Michelle Turner should also see time in right field when not in the circle, leaving center field and left field open for competition.
Sophomore Tara Henry played a good deal of left field last season, particularly early in the year. A slapper at the plate, Henry started 28 games and appeared in 49 contests last season, and is a front runner for one of the starting outfield spots. 'Tara has the experience and talent to be one of our most consistent outfielders,' said Enquist.
Two additional sophomores, Ashley Herrera and Whitney Holum, will also vie for time in the grass. Herrera played in 48 games last season, starting 25 with 17 runs scored and four home runs for a .451 slugging percentage as a freshman. With a year of experience under her belt, Enquist is expecting Herrera to contend for time in the starting lineup. 'Ashley has great skills and I look forward to her production in the lineup offensively, as well as her consistent play on defense,' said Enquist.
Holum saw a more limited role as a freshman, starting 13 games and playing in 20. 'Whitney has made tremendous strides,' said Enquist. 'I anticipate she will increase her offensive production this season.'
Krista Colburn is also in the mix for the outfield, has the versatility to play in the infield or outfield if needed. 'Krista's strength is her athleticism,' said Enquist. 'She will be a strong backup in the middle infield and is capable of playing regularly in the outfield.'
Easton Stadium Renovation
The Bruins will play two 'home' dates this season at Deanna Manning Stadium at Bill Barber Marine Corps Park in Irvine, Calif., and will play the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament in Lakewood, Calif., at Lisa Fernandez Field/Mayfair Park. These off-site home games are necessary due to a complete overhaul of UCLA's on-campus facility, Easton Stadium. The renovation includes the elimination of the previous bleacher-style seating and the addition of approximately 1,300 chair-back seats.
UCLA anticipates returning to campus, and a renovated Easton Stadium, for the March 15 single game against Texas.
'Upon returning to Easton Stadium, fans will find one of the best seating layouts in the country,' said Enquist. 'The facility will be complete with the finest playing surface, a beautiful clubhouse that documents our history and tradition, and a new seating construction that all will be top-notch.'