No. 16 Softball Opens Season At UC Santa Barbara Tournament On Friday

Feb. 1, 2005



Friday, February 4
OSU vs UC Santa Barbara - 2 p.m. PST (UCSB Tournament)

Saturday, February 5
OSU vs New Mexico - 9 a.m. PST (UCSB Tournament)
OSU vs UC Santa Barbara - 11:30 a.m. PST (UCSB Tournament)

Sunday, February 6
OSU vs New Mexico - 9 a.m. PST (UCSB Tournament)

SEASON OPENER: Oregon State has compiled a 14-16 all-time record in season openers and the Beavers are 6-4 under the direction of head coach Kirk Walker. OSU has won back-to-back season openers, including a 6-0 victory against Santa Clara last year at the UC Santa Barbara Tournament.

BEAVERS AND GAUCHOS SERIES NUMBERS: The all-time series between UC Santa Barbara and Oregon State is tied, 3-3. The Beavers hold a 3-2 edge in games played with Kirk Walker at the helm, and OSU swept a pair of games (4-3; 4-0) against UCSB last year. Lisa Allen blasted a 3-run home run in the third inning and Ta'Tyana McElroy picked up her first career victory when the teams met on Jan. 31 in Santa Barbara. OSU recorded a 4-0 shutout behind Brianne McGowan's 1-hitter against the Gauchos on Mar. 5 at the Cal State Fullerton Worth Tournament.

BEAVERS AND LOBOS SERIES NUMBERS: Oregon State holds a 3-1 all-time advantage in the series against University of New Mexico. The Beavers and Lobos last met on Feb. 26, 2000 at the Troy Cox Classic. OSU recorded a 6-1 victory behind seven strike outs from hurler Crystal Draper. OSU All-American Tarrah Beyster belted a home run - her third in as many games.

THE PRESSURE'S ON: Oregon State junior Vanessa Iapala belted a grand slam home run in her first collegiate at-bat in the 2003 season opener against Brigham Young. Iapala sent a 2-run shot over the fence in her first at-bat as a sophomore in last year's season opener against Santa Clara. The San Diego, CA, native became just the third player in Oregon State history since 1987 to receive All-America honors, after garnering second team accolades last season. Iapala led the Beavers in batting average (.333), hits (71), doubles (14), slugging percentage (.540), and on base percentage (.394) as a sophomore.

THE WORD ON WALKER: Head coach Kirk Walker is in his 11th 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 six consecutive NCAA Regional Tournament appearances. The winningest coach in program history, Walker, has an overall coaching record of 335-292-3 and a 68-171 mark in the Pacific-10 Conference. He earned his 300th career victory when Oregon State completed a perfect game in an 8-0 victory against Saint Mary's on Feb. 8, 2004. Walker was selected as one of just 12 coaches named to the USA Softball National Team Coaches Pool, and serves 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.

2005 softball outlook - by Melody Stockwell
With 12 returnees to the team this year, Oregon State head softball coach Kirk Walker is ready to build on last season.

'Right now I think we have a lofty and realistic goal of making the College World Series,' Walker said. 'I think we return a team that has all the tools to be successful, and I think defensively we will be stronger than we have ever been. Offensively we have both power as well as speed, and we've got hitters that have seen Pac-10 level pitching.'

The Beavers are continually turning heads, making six consecutive postseason appearances and posting 36+ wins per season spread among the last six years.

The team lost two seniors, Monica Hoffman and Dena DuBois, from last season's squad that reached the NCAA Regional Championship game before falling just innings short of an inaugural trip to the College World Series. The departure of Hoffman, who ranks in the Top-5 in six different Oregon State career record book categories and was the mainstay in the pitcher's circle, will provide a hole that the Beavers must adjust to.

'Monica's a hard person to replace not just because her pitching ability but also because of her mental toughness and her ability to step up in crunch time,' Walker said. 'She was our go-to person for quite a while and so I think those are definitely big shoes to fill.'

But despite the loss, Walker is extremely optimistic heading into the 2005 season opener at UC Santa Barbara on February 4.

'I think the strength of this team is really our experience. Other than in the pitching circle,' Walker said. 'I think it's probably the most experienced team we've ever had with returning players.

'I think our second strength is going to be our depth - every player on this team could start on numerous squads across the country. That strength could also hurt us, if we're having a hard time keeping people happy and motivated when they're on the bench.'

Walker enters his 11th season, continuing his reign as Oregon State's all-time winningest coach with a record of 335-292-3. Third year assistant coach Crissy Buck was promoted to first assistant in September and has broadened her role in recruiting. Heather Smith rejoins the Beaver staff after a two-year hiatus, entering her fourth year in the OSU dugout. Her husband, Mikiah Smith, will serve as a volunteer assistant coach.

The pitching rotation this season, although still strong, will be the youngest aspect of the softball team.

The loss of Hoffman opens up the starting rotation with two pitchers, Brianne McGowan and Ta'Tyana McElroy vying for the spot. Junior Amy Klever will also add depth and experience to the pitching rotation.

'What we have, obviously, are two great athletes,' Walker said. 'It's now going to be who's stepping up at any given time, and if they both are great; we're that much better. We'll also count on Amy Klever to give us some good innings in relief.'

'Overall our pitching staff is going to need to be a real staff. We're not going to be able to rely on just one person, and I'm anxious to see how they do.'

After playing in nearly every game last season and leading the Beavers with 11 home runs, junior Lisa Allen will return behind the plate. Junior All-American Vanessa Iapala will also share the catching load in 2005. Iapala spent most of last season at first base.

'I think behind the plate, obviously Lisa Allen returns having caught in virtually every game last year, but we're going to see a little difference there,' Walker said. 'I think we're going to see more of a 50-50 split there, certainly early on with Vanessa Iapala and Lisa Allen.'

Iapala was one of just two Beavers to start in every game last season, leading the team with 71 hits, 14 doubles, 46 RBI, and a .333 batting average. Allen played and started 70 games. She ranked third on the team with 37 RBI and held a .289 batting average.

The first base position is up for grabs. But Iapala and Allen will be doing double duty between catcher and first base.

'At first base, similarly, since Vanessa will be spending a little more time behind the plate, we're going to see some different faces,' Walker said. 'Obviously Lisa Allen can be in that spot, Alana Mendoza is doing a tremendous job right now and looking solid defensively as well as Brianne McGowan.'

Senior Alana Mendoza, who saw action 70 games a year ago (mostly at second base), will be the main utility player for the Beavers as she can fill first, second, and third base. Also fighting for bases are senior Kelly Petersen and sophomore Mia Longfellow.

Petersen, who ranks in the Oregon State Top 10 in five different career batting categories (home runs, RBI, bases on balls, sacrifices, runs scored), has started 202 career games at shortstop. Petersen will share duties in the middle infield, finding action at short or second base.

Freshman Stephanie Wagoner of Ridgefield, WA, will vie for playing time at shortstop.

'At short stop, it will probably be a combination of Kelly Peterson and new incoming freshman, Stephanie Wagoner,' Walker said. 'Steph has tremendous range, very good instincts as a short stop and played for a number of years.'

Sophomore speedster Mia Longfellow, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick, has the versatility to see action in both the infield and outfield. Longfellow started 70 games as a freshman, playing third base, shortstop, and left field. Fellow sophomore, Sherina Galvan, was the mainstay for the Beavers at third base. Back to full strength after shoulder surgery, Galvan is poised to continue her defensive dominance at the hot-corner.

Depth is spread throughout the outfield positions as seven different players will be competing for playing time in the grass.Junior second team All-Pac-10 pick Adrienne Alo heads the list in center field. Alo broke the Oregon State single season record for runs scored a year ago, after crossing the plate 45 times. She started all 72 games and ranked third on the team with 63 hits. Sophomore Natalie Johnson could also see action in the middle after making 62 starts as a freshman.Longfellow, Mendoza, and Wagoner are all vying for a spot in left field, while junior Ingrid Lochelt who played in 67 games last season and came up with clutch hitting will compete for a spot in right field. Freshman Cambria Miranda has performed well in early season practices and Walker has liked what he's seen.

'Cambria Miranda is probably a projected starter at this point,' Walker said. 'She's a very aggressive player that hustles.'

Playing time for the outfield positions will likely depend upon who's an offensive threat.

'The outfield will often come down to who's hitting the ball well,' said Walker. 'We need to keep our hot bats in the line-up.'

Designated Player
One bat that will be seen for the first time in 2005 will be that of designated player Lisa Hill. Hill, a graduate of North Mason High School, finished her four years as the school's career record holder for eight different batting categories.

Unity will be a strong point for the team this year as they work towards postseason play.

They hope to continue to build on the strengths of the team as well as continue to respect one another.

'They're a very close team and they understand the value of working together as a unit even if they're not necessarily best friends, they certainly respect each other at a very high level and understand the value of that,' Walker said.

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