2003 Softball Season Outlook
Jan. 23, 2003
CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Oregon State softball team gets off to its earliest start in program history when the Beavers take the field against BYU on Friday, Jan. 31 at the Southern Utah Tournament.
OSU finished the 2002 season ranked 24th in the country and returns nine players with postseason experience for this year's campaign.
A season outlook follows:
Four consecutive postseason appearances. Four straight 40-plus win seasons. Four top-25 finishes. Oregon State's softball program reigns as one of the nation's elite. The one thing missing from the Beavers' recent success is a trip to the Women's College World Series.
The 2003 squad opens regular season action in January in hopes that a World Series berth doesn't remain a dream, but becomes a reality in May.
Oregon State's journey doesn't start at the end of the month, but began in the offseason. The blue-collar Beavers have put in the hard work needed to succeed, and now it's time to step to the plate.
'Every year brings its challenges,' said OSU head coach Kirk Walker. 'We are a smaller team, but we are by far a harder working team than we have ever had. This team is a definite blue-collar team. They take a lot of pride in their work ethic so I'm very positive and very hopeful that all the intangibles fall in to place for us to be sitting as one of those final eight.'
Five seniors bring experience and knowledge to the squad and will be relied upon not only for their offensive and defensive capabilities but also for their leadership.
A total of nine players have made the trip to the NCAA Regionals and seven newcomers will be thrown into the mix.
'It's an unusual rebuilding year,' said Walker. 'We still have a tremendous senior class, almost everyone of them will most likely be starting, but when you go to a program of having 21 athletes to one with 15 athletes competing, it's a rebuilding year.
'We graduated some tremendous experience in the circle and some leadership behind the plate that will be difficult things to replace. From that standpoint, I think we're bringing in some freshmen that are going to make a huge impact.'
Walker enters his ninth season at the helm as OSU's all-time winningest coach with a record of 255-233-3. Associate head coach Jenny Condon bolsters the staff along with the addition of UCLA grad Crissy Buck as an assistant. Former Beaver catcher Traci Feldt will remain in the Oregon State dugout as a student assistant.
In a sport that is dominated by pitching, the Beavers have a good arm to lean on with the return of 2002 Pac-10 honorable mention hurler Monica Hoffman.
'Returning Monica for her junior year is going to be the basis for our entire staff and entire team,' said Walker. 'She comes back with a ton of experience in both the Pac-10 and postseason. We are going to look to her to be the go-to player.'
Last year Hoffman became the first pitcher in OSU history to throw three no-hitters in a season. She led the Beavers with a 1.42 ERA and boasted a 14-9 record.
'Her strengths are in her composure and her ability to not get flustered or stressed out in pressure situations,' said Walker. 'I think those are great characteristics for a pitcher to have and she exemplifies that.'
'Against the Canadian National team this summer I was impressed most by Dena's determination to get outs, not necessarily strikeouts, but she worked the strike zone and the corners very well,' said Walker. 'She's made some tremendous strides physically and I look for her to provide great support for our staff.'
Klever, a graduate of Rex Putnam High School, was named Three Rivers League Player of the Year in 2002 and earned second team All-State honors.
'Amy is a pitcher that is going to get a lot of ground balls and potential put-outs for us,' said Walker. 'She is going to put the ball in play to make the defense handle it. She may not get a lot of strikeouts but she is going to control the momentum of the game.'
'Great catchers are hard to come by and we're extremely fortunate because we have four people in our program that could all be a full-time, catching every game, type of catcher,' said Walker.
Senior Shelly Prochaska heads the list of catchers and has seen action in more games at OSU than any player on the roster. Prochaska ranks in the Oregon State career top-10 in seven different batting categories, and is the only Beaver player to have four hits in two different games during her career.
'Shelly's physical skills are getting better and better...we are a very solid team with her behind the plate,' said Walker. 'I'm looking for her to become a bigger contributer offensively than even the strong performances she has given us in the past.'Erin Bequette will make her first appearance for the Beavers after redshirting last season.
'Erin's been a great surprise this fall in terms of seeing some good strength and a lot of skill,' said Walker. 'Hopefully with her staying healthy, her bat and her arm will be big contributions for us.'
Freshmen Vanessa Iapala of Bonita Vista High School in San Diego, and Lisa Allen of Canby, OR, could also see time behind the plate or look to be in the lineup at first base.Vanessa and Lisa are two of the strongest athletes in our program,' said Walker. Both of them bring tremendous offensive skills and tremendous offensive power. Between the two of them, they will solidify first base and the designated player spot.
Senior Brynnen Guthrie, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick in 2002, has secured the starting spot at second base. OSU's most consistent batter last season, Guthrie hit .342 from the plate and was named a second team All-Pacific Region selection.'We have a great leader in our second base spot with Brynnen,' said Walker. 'She controls the infield; she communicates well and knows the Pac-10 in and out. She is also a great offensive leader and we will be relying on her a lot this year.'
Kelly Petersen returns at shortstop for her sophomore season after starting 64 games as a freshman.
'Kelly did a great job for us her freshman year and I think her defense is going to be even more consistent for us this year and her bat is going to be far more effective for the entire year,' said Walker.
Second team All-Pac-10 selection Clare Burnum solidifies third base. Burnum, a senior, was one of the most consistent batters on the year with a .296 clip in 2002.
'Clare brings a tremendous amount of energy and intensity to the lineup,' said Walker. 'Her reactions at third are great and her bunt defense is one of the best in the conference. It's exciting to have her leadership in the infield.'
Sophomore utility player Alana Mendoza will redshirt the 2003 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Adams, one of the most versatile athletes on the squad, looks to fill the right field position. Her power numbers have boosted the Beavers in the past and she ranks second in the OSU career record book with 17 home runs.
'Steph is going to be someone that we will rely upon for a lot of RBI's,' said Walker. 'She's an experienced player that's been in the pressure situations before and we will look for her to be coming up with those big RBIs late in the game.'
Maxey has earned the role of starting centerfielder, and has improved her consistency with hard work over the last two seasons. A utility player throughout her career, she could also see time in the infield at second base or shortstop.
'Cara has stepped up her leadership and her consistency,' said Walker. 'We are very confident that she will do a great job for us in center field. Offensively her work effort and focus have been renewed this fall and she will be more of an offensive factor for us. She brings power but also the ability to hit for an average.'
Several different players could see playing time in left field with freshman Adrienne Alo of Carson, CA, leading the way out of fall workouts.
'Adrienne has worked very hard and has become very consistent in the outfield,' said Walker. 'She brings a great offensive threat, great power and great consistency.'
Shannon Sorg is also an outfield contender, returning for her junior season after redshirting the 2002 campaign. Sorg brings added Pac-10 and postseason experience to the lineup.
'Shannon has come out of her redshirt year as a more confident, more consistent and a more focused player,' said Walker. 'Offensively I think she'll make an immediate impact for us. Her long arms and compact swing are a pitcher's nightmare.'
Freshman Sarah Tommasini could see time in the outfield but will most likely have her contributions come on the offensive end.
'Sarah brings a lot of experience and comes from a very athletic family (her brother and sister have played in the Pac-10),' said Walker. 'Her speed will make an impact right away. Offensively she has worked very hard from the left side and has made great improvements.'
On Memorial Day when most people are sitting back and enjoying a three-day weekend, the Beavers hope to by doing what they do best - working hard - in the College World Series.
All of the tools are in place,' said Walker. 'We will be relying a lot of Monica's experience in Pac-10 and postseason but she's ready for that, and I think there's no reason to believe that won't be a formula for success. Given the opportunity with the team to gel and hopefully make some strides, I think we have more than enough talent to make a run at the College World Series.'