Eight Schools in Eight Days: California Softball Season Preview
Feb. 4, 2006
What does a coach do when she graduates two All-Americans and four, four-year starters?
She pulls from a talented pool of players and reloads, including three transfers and five highly-touted freshmen.
That's just what Cal head coach Diane Ninemire did for the 2006 season. Last year, the Golden Bears made their seventh consecutive Women's College World Series appearance, and they expect nothing short of another WCWS trip this season. With veterans Lindsay James, Haley Woods and Kristina Thorson anchoring this young Cal squad, the Bears won't be short of talent in 2006, even with all the new faces in the field.
'We're seeking our eighth trip to the world series in eight years, and we're going to be doing it with a young team,' said Ninemire, who has guided Bears teams to an 807-384 record in her 18 seasons at Cal. 'This year's team is going to have a lot of new faces with a handful of significant starters from last year's team gone. We're going to have a whole different look than we have in the past, but we're excited about the team that we have.'
If anyone can guide a green team to a successful season, it's Ninemire, who is Cal's all-time winningest coach. The 2006 Bears return four starting position players and one pitcher from last year's 52-15 squad that finished tied for first in the Pac-10 and posted a 6-2 record in the Regionals and Super Regionals before being eliminated from the WCWS. The 2006 Bears will feature one All-American and three All-Pacific Region players.
Graduated, though, are center fielder Kaleo Eldredge and third basesman Vicky Galindo - who both earned All-American, all-region and all-conference honors, as well as pitcher Kelly Anderson, second baseman Jessica Pamanian and shortstop Chelsea Spencer, who were All-Pac-10 picks last season.
Thorson returns for her senior season, coming off of her second straight 20-win campaign. She will split time with freshman Lauren Frankiewicz, who has proven herself a solid pitcher in the fall season.
James and Woods will continue to be Cal's go-to hitters. Woods led the Bears in RBI last season (58), while James paced the squad with a .439 batting average and hits (65).
'Haley, Lindsay and Kristina will definitely be the seniors with a lot of playing experience who will help lead this team and get us back to the World Series.' Ninemire said.
Kristina Thorson brings the poise and experience from back-to-back All-American seasons. The senior posted a record of 23-5 and a 1.09 ERA (2nd Pac-10) in 2005 and will be the Bears' catalyst in the circle again this year.
A native of Lake Forest Park, Wash., Thorson is fifth on Cal's career strikeouts list (610). She led the Pac-10 in ERA (1.00) in the regular season and entered the postseason unbeaten in her previous 10 appearances.
Thorson's ability will be complemented by freshman Lauren Frankiewicz. The James Madison HS (Vienna, Va.) grad joined the Bears for fall ball and proved her mettle on the mound.
'Kristina and Lauren are two different types of pitchers that will provide us with the kind of pitching staff we're going to need to go deep into the playoffs,' Ninemire said.
There will be a lot of new faces in the Bears' infield this season following the graduation of third baseman Vicky Galindo, shortstop Chelsea Spencer and second baseman Jessica Pamanian. Galindo, a two-time first-team All-American who competed for the USA national team over the summer, will be working with the Bears as a student assistant this season. Galindo, who also competed for the Chicago Bandits in the National Pro Fastpitch softball league last summer, is finishing her degree.
First baseman Julie Meyer is the only returner in the Bears' infield. Meyer, a sophomore, will bring WCWS experience and the confidence that goes along with that. As a freshman, she started all 67 games, finishing with a .250 batting average and nine doubles (third on the team). Meyer will also see time at catcher, with Haley Woods taking over at first base when that happens.
'Last year, Meyer showed moments where she can be a great power hitter, and we're looking forward to her providing some much-needed offense and punch to our team,' Ninemire said. 'Meyer and Woods will definitely be the cornerstones of the infield, when they're behind the plate or at first base.'
Senior Emily Friedman and sophomore transfer Chloe Kloezeman could both see time at second base. Friedman made 56 appearances for the Bears last year, getting action at third base, in right and left field, and as the designated player. Kloezeman, a transfer from Ole Miss, played shortstop for the Rebels and made the SEC's All-Freshman team.
Sophomore transfer Katie Vickers, freshman Carly Winger and Kloezeman are competing for the starting position at shortstop. Vickers, a transfer from Georgia, was named to the SEC's All-Freshman team. She finished the season with a .324 batting average and played in 59 of the Bulldogs' 70 games. Vickers could also see time at third. Winger may lack collegiate experience but brings a powerful arm and quickness to the position.
Three people are battling to start at third base, sophomore transfer Jessica Moore, sophomore Jeana Gevas and junior Rachel Wilson. Moore joined the Bears after playing last season for Miami (Ohio). Moore has the potential to serve as a utility player for the Cal infield, with possible playing time at shortsop or second base as well. Gevas transferred from Cal Poly before the 2005 season. Last year, she played in 46 games, with time at the designated player and third base positions. Wilson redshirted last season after transferring from West Valley CC.
Senior Lindsay James returns for her final year at Cal. The leftfielder, who earned second-team All-Pacific Region and All Pac-10 honors last season, will provide veteran leadership in the outfield. James led the Bears in batting average (.439) and hits (65) and was second in runs scored (42) and stolen bases (16) despite missing Cal's final 19 regular-season games with a broken hand.
Junior Alex Sutton returns as the starting right fielder after a strong sophomore campaign. As Sutton's hitting has improved, the Bears have begun counting on her offensive production more and more. Ninemire expects this trend to continue. Sutton, who is one of three Bears' who bat left-handed, could also see time at second base.
Filling out the outfield will be sophomore Erika Racklin, freshmen Morgan Siegel and Gina Leomiti and junior Rachel Wilson. Racklin, known for her quickness, saw time primarily as a pinch runner last season. She has transferred from a right hander to a slapper, adding to the Bears' offensive arsenal. Racklin could see time in either center or right. Siegel is a lefthanded slapper who can also hit for power. She can play either center or right. Leomiti, a power hitter, could see time in either left or right. Ninemire is looking forward to the potential offensive punch Leomiti can bring to the lineup as well.
Haley Woods will start at catcher for the Bears. Woods, who was named to the second team for both the Pacific Region and Pac-10 last year, has worked in the offseason to improve her skills as a first baseman. Look for Woods and Julie Meyer to switch off at first and catcher.
'I feel very confident in having either one behind the plate or either one at first base,' Ninemire said. 'Haley and Julie will definitely be in the lineup at all times, which helps because they can provide leadership in the infield.'
Cal will compete in its usual tournament schedule, participating in tournaments in San Diego, Las Vegas, San Jose, Sacramento and Hawaii. The Bears will take part in a number of local matchups with teams such as San Jose State, Saint Mary's, Sacramento State, Pacific and Santa Clara.
The Bears, who last year won a share of the Pac-10 title for the first time since 1987, open conference play on April 1 at Arizona State, followed by a two-day stint against Arizona (April 2-3). Cal concludes Pac-10 play with a six-game home stand, with Oregon State, Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State paying visits between May 6-14.
The NCAA Regionals run from May 19-21, followed by the Super Regionals from May 26-27. The Women's College World Series is scheduled from June 1-7.