2008 Softball Season Preview
Jan. 18, 2008
In all sports, having a team with great depth is something that a coach relishes. Being able to plug in different players at several positions is an option that few coaches receive. This year's UCLA softball team has just that, great depth, and it is something that second-year head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez is going to employ in the Bruins' effort to make a return trip to the College World Series.
'It's a great thing to have depth in your lineup,' Inouye-Perez said. 'My goal is to find that lineup that gives us the best opportunity to win.'
Despite the loss of eight seniors from last year's squad, the Bruins bring back a talented group of nine returners and bring in a stellar freshman class that has hopes high for this and coming seasons in Westwood. With an outstanding fall campaign under their belts, the UCLA softball team enters the 2008 season with its sights set on Oklahoma City.
Possibly the greatest amount of depth on the team comes in the circle with the return of three pitchers, senior Anjelica Selden and sophomores Megan Langenfeld and Whitney Baker, along with the addition of freshman Donna Kerr.
'They give me the ability to go at opponents four different ways,' Inouye-Perez said. They each have a variety of strengths and I look forward to watching them compete and lead our Bruins in the circle.'
Selden, the school's all-time strikeout leader is back after earning second-team All-Region and honorable mention All-Pac-10 accolades in her junior season. A two-time All-American, Selden led the Bruins last year in wins with 17, strikeouts with 213 and innings pitched with 171.
'I look forward to seeing how she will finish out her career. She had a strong fall campaign and she will do great things in her senior year. Jelly is very focused and determined and with that comes a great amount of passion in what she brings to the field.'
Langenfeld, with her prowess at the plate and at first base, became the go-to pitcher at the end of last season and looks to continue her success following her freshman campaign and her outstanding summer, where she helped the USA Softball Junior National Team to gold at the World Championships in June and her ASA squad to the Gold Nationals title in August.
'Megan is not afraid to put the team on her back and give it everything she has. She has a great competitive spirit and I look for her this season to come in and lead and be a big part of this team's success.'
A healthy Baker looks to bounce back in her second season after pitching well as a freshman, going 4-3 with 45 strikeouts in just 37 innings.
'Whitney Baker is an explosive pitcher with several weapons in the circle,' Inouye-Perez said. 'Whitney has worked hard this fall and is ready to compete.'
Kerr is also expected to step in and compete for the number one spot after a successful summer in which she did not allow a run in five appearances in helping Team USA to a gold medal at the Junior Women's World Championships.
'Donna has great championship experience and is a fierce competitor. She is going to be a key player in the future of this program.'
Flashing the signs for the Bruin hurlers will be sophomore Kaila Shull and junior Jennifer Schroeder. Shull, who can also play the outfield, displayed great power in her freshman campaign with seven home runs, hitting .274 with 26 runs batted in. She can also play small ball, placing second on the team with seven sacrifice hits.
'Kaila will be back in the lineup with her powerful bat. Her athleticism will allow her to help us both behind the plate and in the outfield on defense.'
After taking a redshirt year in 2007 following two injury-ravaged campaigns in '05 and `06, Schroeder will see her playing time increase significantly this season, splitting duties with Shull.
'Jen is a great talent behind the plate for our team. Her knowledge of the game allows her to be a strong leader for our pitchers and the defense behind them.'
The Bruins employ a great deal of flexibility at the infield position, with several players having the ability to play on both the dirt and the outfield grass.
Replacing Legaspi at short will be freshman Monica Harrison, yet another of the Bruin freshmen who starred on the USA Junior National Team during the summer, hitting .520 with nine runs batted in.
'Monica has tremendous range and great accuracy with her arm,' Inouye-Perez said. 'She is the kind of player who makes tough plays look like routine outs.'
Kamekona joins the Bruins after transferring from Cal State Fullerton, where she was an All-Big West Conference first-team selection as a sophomore.
'Amanda brings experience and maturity to our Bruin softball team,' Inouye-Perez said. 'Her athleticism will allow her to be a leader in the field.'
DiSalvatore, who can play numerous positions on the diamond, hit .385 during this summer's Junior World Championships with Team USA.
'GiOnna's greatest strength is her versatility. She can play any middle or corner spot in the infield and will also make an impact in the lineup with her powerful swing.'
Langenfeld will see most of the time at first base when she is not in the circle. The All-Region selection hit .315 with seven home runs and also brings back 41 runs batted in, the most of any returning player.
'Megan had a tremendous freshman year. She has the experience both in the circle and at the plate that will carry us to the end,' Inouye-Perez said.
When Langenfeld is in the circle, DiSalvatore and senior Ashley Herrera also have experience at first base. Herrera's primary position is third, where she started the first game of the 2007 season, but suffered a torn left ACL in her second at-bat and was lost for the year. The fifth-year senior is healthy again and will be a great defender at the hot corner, having committed just five errors in her previous three campaigns.
'Ashley is our most seasoned player,' Inouye-Perez said. 'She has played multiple positions in both the infield and outfield in her first three seasons and she will be a strong leader for this 2008 squad.'
Splitting time with Herrera at third will be sophomore Julie Burney, who tied for the most home runs by a returning player with seven.
'Julie brings a wealth of experience from last year. Both her and Ashley can go in there and play at any time and have raised the play at third base to another level.'
'Danielle will add an experienced designated player to our lineup,' Inouye-Perez said. 'We also have great versatility and speed with Amy, Lauren and Grace. All of them will add strength to our lineup.'
OUTFIELDERSAnchoring the outfield is senior All-American Krista Colburn, who had her best season in Westwood last year with a team-best .382 batting average to go along with seven home runs and 32 runs batted in. Colburn's name has been penciled in every starting lineup for the last three seasons, a total of 174 consecutive games.
'Krista is expected to lead our lineup offensively,' Inouye-Perez said. 'She has a strong arm and will bring great leadership in left field in her senior year.'
The Bruins lose four-year center fielder Tara Henry, but have a great one to take her place in freshman Katie Schroeder. Another member of the Bruins who played with Team USA at the Junior World Championships, Schroeder can turn almost any single into an automatic double with her stealing ability.
'I'm excited to watch Katie in the Bruin uniform,' Inouye-Perez said. 'Katie is a triple threat at the plate and will be a great leadoff hitter in the Bruin lineup. She has a great instinct for the game and will solidify the outfield as the quarterback in center.'
Numerous players will have the opportunity to patrol the territory in right field during the season, with Camuso and Shull seeing the bulk of the time.
Of Camuso, an All-American at Foothill High School, Inouye-Perez said, 'Samantha is a solid athlete who can play both the infield and the outfield. She will make an immediate impact offensively with her beautiful swing.'
The 2008 UCLA softball schedule features 19 non-conference contests against teams that qualified for the 2007 NCAA Tournament, the traditionally tough Pac-10 Conference slate and an exhibition game against Team USA at Easton Stadium.
The season begins on Feb. 8-10 when the Bruins host the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament at Easton Stadium. UCLA plays Nevada and postseason team Oklahoma on Friday, Santa Clara and NCAA Tournament squad UC Santa Barbara on Saturday and has a rematch with Oklahoma to close out play on Sunday. In all, there will be eight games played over the three days in Westwood.
The Bruins then head out on the road for the next two weekends for more tournament action. At the UNLV Louisville Slugger Desert Classic (Feb. 15-17), UCLA takes on NCAA Tournament teams Missouri and South Carolina, along with Illinois, Portland State and Wisconsin. A weekday contest at NCAA Tournament team Loyola Marymount on Feb. 20 preludes a big weekend at the Palm Springs Classic (Feb. 22-24). UCLA faces five squads that reached the postseason a year ago in Massachusetts, Georgia, Baylor, Hawai'i and Northwestern.
The home schedule resumes on Feb. 27 with a matchup against Cal State Bakersfield, but then its back on the road again for the San Diego Classic (Feb. 29-Mar. 2). Played on both the University of San Diego and San Diego State campuses, the Bruins will play NCAA Tournament team Eastern Michigan, along with James Madison, St. Peter's, USD and SDSU.
On Mar. 5, the Bruins host UNLV before heading to the Long Beach State Invitational (Mar. 7-9). UCLA will travel to Mayfair Park in Lakewood to play postseason teams Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Northwestern, along with Rutgers and host Long Beach State.
UCLA plays its final two non-conference home games on Mar. 12 and 13 when it faces NCAA Tournament teams Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge. Then after taking a break for Winter Quarter finals, the Bruins are back in action for their non-conference finale on Mar. 25, a doubleheader at UC Santa Barbara.
Pac-10 play begins with seven straight home games, starting with Oregon State and Oregon (Mar. 28-30). After a mid-week matchup with Washington on Apr. 2, the Bruins welcome Stanford and California on Apr. 4-6 before heading out on the road for eight in a row.
A trip to Arizona State and Arizona (Apr. 11-13) starts the trip off for the Bruins, who then travel to Washington the following weekend for games on Apr. 18 and 19. A trek to the Bay Area winds things down with games against California and Stanford slated for Apr. 25-27.
In between the trips to Washington and the Bay Area, the Bruins will host the U.S. National Team on Apr. 22 at 6 p.m. at Easton Stadium. The game will part of Team USA's Bound 4 Beijing Tour. Five former Bruins, Andrea Duran, Lisa Fernandez, Tairia Mims Flowers, Stacey Nuveman and Natasha Watley, were named to the team in September as Team USA looks for its fourth straight gold medal next Summer.
The final homestand of the regular season kicks off on May 2 against National Champion Arizona and wraps up over the next two days against Arizona State (May 3-4). UCLA concludes the Pac-10 schedule with contests at Oregon and Oregon State (May 8-10).
NCAA Tournament play starts on May 16 with Regionals through May 18. Sixteen teams advance to Super Regionals (May 23-25) and the final eight squads convene in Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series (May 29-June 4).