2003 UCLA Softball Outlook

Jan. 17, 2003

The 2003 Bruin softball team will have a new look this season as five freshmen will step into the lineup to replace the five graduated seniors from the 2002 squad. 'We lost an incredible senior class,' said head coach Sue Enquist, 'but the group we have this year has a sense of energy that is very exciting. It will be critical that our freshman class is a group of fast learners because we're going to rely on a lot of them.'

Junior Keira Goerl will lead the Bruins in the circle in 2003. A first-team All-American as a sophomore, Goerl had a 0.48 ERA to go along with 319 strikeouts and a 32-5 record last season, then spent the summer with USA Softball as a member of its World Championship team. 'Keira loves the role of leading this team,' said Enquist. 'She has a drive and a desire to continue to get better, which makes coaching her very enjoyable. I think she will do great things for us this season.'

Joining Goerl in the circle will be freshman Michelle Turner. 'Michelle has all of the pitches and has a great attitude of pushing her game to the next level to become a better pitcher for UCLA,' said Enquist.

Behind the plate will be a trio of catchers: senior Tairia Mims and freshman Emily Zaplatosch along with senior Toria Auelua.

During her Bruin career, Mims has fielded four defensive positions, playing primarily at first base and catcher, while also playing third base and right field. An All-American as a sophomore at third base, Mims spent the summer of 2002 with the U.S. National Team that won the World Championship and qualified for the 2004 Olympics. She will be looked to for leadership both offensively and defensively this season and should see a great deal of time behind the plate for the 2003 Bruins.

'Tairia demonstrates her leadership through execution,' said Enquist. 'Throughout her entire career, Tairia has delivered. A team needs players like Tairia who can rise to the occasion.'

Incoming freshman Emily Zaplatosch spent a portion of the December academic break with the U.S. Junior National Team, which won the inaugural Junior Pan-Am Championships. Zaplatosch, like Mims, will see time at both first base and catcher. 'Emily has been a quick study learning our system,' said Enquist. 'The game doesn't scare her. She has excellent presence and is a highly motivated player who will be relied upon both offensively and defensively.'

Auelua will fill in behind the plate on occasion, but will primarily play third base.

There will be many times that you will see UCLA's entire senior class in the Bruin infield during 2003. Around the horn, that group includes Auelua at third base, Natasha Watley at shortstop, Monique Mejia at second base and Mims at first.

Auelua should continue to be a very steady presence for the Bruins at the hot corner. She fielded the position for much of last season, recording 61 putouts and 112 assists for a .945 fielding percentage. 'Toria's presence on the field is a positive one because she is mentally tough,' said Enquist. 'The ups and downs of the game don't affect her. She stabilizes the infield with her strong arm and quick reactions.'

A three-time first-team All-American at shortstop, Natasha Watley looks to build upon a stellar junior campaign for her final season in a UCLA uniform. Last season, Watley hit .485 and recorded a UCLA-record 112 base hits, while extending her UCLA career stolen base record with an additional 39 steals. Last summer, Watley joined Mims as a member of the U.S. National Team. At the World Championship tournament, Watley led the U.S. squad with a .516 batting average (16-for-31) and 10 runs scored.

'The challenge for Natasha,' said Enquist, 'is to come out every day and play the type of softball she's capable of playing. Tash is an anchor in the infield and will ignite our offense in the leadoff spot.'

UCLA's next senior middle infielder, Monique Mejia, took over second base for the majority of the Pac-10 season last year before dislocating a finger and returning to the lineup in right field. A .320 hitter in the bottom third of the lineup last season, Mejia stole 18 bases, second on the squad only to Watley's 39.

'Monique does a lot for us in many different ways,' said Enquist. 'She is athletic, dedicated, and brings experience to the infield.'

Both Mims and Zaplatosch will see time at first base when they aren't catching, joining Claire Sua as part of Enquist's pool of players to fill that defensive position. Sua was second on the team with 58 RBIs last season en route to third-team All-America honors at designated player. Although she was primarily in the lineup as UCLA's designated player last season, Sua has played defensively both at first base and at pitcher during her Bruin career.

Several other players may see time on the dirt, including junior Julie Hoshizaki, sophomore Allison Chislock and freshmen Alyssa Eno and Caitlin Benyi.

There will be just one familiar face in UCLA's outfield this season, that of junior Stephanie Ramos. Ramos had 13 doubles last season and a .418 slugging percentage while playing both left and center field. This season, she will anchor the Bruin defense in centerfield. 'We will rely on Stephanie a lot for her defensive leadership in the outfield and her offensive production in the lineup,' said Enquist.

There will be a host of candidates to join Ramos in the grass, none with extensive collegiate experience.

Four of UCLA's five freshmen may see time in the outfield, including Caitlin Benyi, Andrea Duran, Alissa Eno and Michelle Turner, who is likely to spend time in the outfield when she is not pitching.

Enquist continues to have the luxury of two outstanding pinch-runners in Amanda Simpson and Julie Hoshizaki.

Last season, Simpson appeared in 59 of a possible 64 games, all as a pinch runner. She stole five bases on the season and scored 21 runs on the season. 'Amanda is one of the smartest baserunners we have on this team,' said Enquist.

Hoshizaki played in 38 games in 2002, earning a defensive appearance at second base, and scored 14 runs on the season. 'Julie has been a wonderful addition to the program,' said Enquist. 'She has great anticipation on the bases and is sneaky quick. Her versatility will enable me to use her in the infield and outfield.'

The Bruins will play in two home tournaments, three road tournaments and two road doubleheaders prior to the start of Pac-10 play in the upcoming season.

'We're going to be tested from the minute the season starts,' said Enquist. 'There is no gearing up time. We're going to traverse the country a little bit and get road tested, which will be good for this club. I think it's going to get us even more prepared for Pac-10 play.'

'I like what I've seen in fall ball,' said Enquist. 'I like the talent that we have on the field. We have experience in critical positions, both defensively and offensively. Our challenge will be to transition our freshman class and get them ready as quickly as possible.'



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