2004 UNC Softball Season Preview
The University of Northern Colorado softball squad is making a return to the top level of NCAA Division I softball this season.
Although the Bears' softball squad has never been considered a Division I team by the NCAA, head coach Linda Witt knows all about competing at the highest level of softball when she was a player for the Bears back in the late 1970s.
Witt helped lead the squad to numerous appearances in the College Softball World Series. At the time, women's athletics was under the realm of the AIAW and did not fall under the NCAA rules until the 1981 season.
"I love the opportunity to go back to the level of Division I softball," head coach Linda Witt said. "In the short term of things, I think we have the most challenging schedule I could create. I did that for two reasons. One, I think we are good enough to play these teams and secondly, to see what we are up against and play those teams as soon as possible to see where we fit in."
The Bears will have a relatively young look this season as only seven players return from last season and only four of those players saw significant starting time.
"It's a new look and I'm liking it a lot," Witt said. "But it's not just the look, it's what the look is built upon with work ethic and character."
Moon led the Bears in 2003 with a 6-3 record and 1.93 earned run average. Moon has been designated as a co-captain this season and will look to lead the Bears on and off the field.
Miller recorded a mark of 5-8 with a 2.96 ERA in 2003. She started 10 games and tallied seven complete games.
"Stephani was born a pitcher," Witt said. "Her curve and screwballs are her bread and butter pitches. Stephani is a strong contributor regardless of the role or position she plays."
The Bears will bring a newcomer into the circle this season in the form of junior Danelle Sayler (Bennett, Colo.).
"Danelle had a lot of success in high school and is well respected in the Colorado prep softball circles," Witt said.
Heading the list of returnees is senior Erin Peterson (Great Falls, Mont.). Peterson hit .295 with 15 runs scored and 12 runs batted in last season.
"Erin is a skilled catcher, power hitter and co-captain," Witt said. "She fills a critical role for our team."
The Bears are loaded with plenty of numbers at the catching position as they include junior Katie Clark (Lakewood, Colo.), sophomore Lisa Schol (Boulder, Colo.), sophomore Terra Paul (Northglenn, Colo.) and junior college transfer Whitney Platten (Edgewater, Colo.).
"Lisa and Terra are skilled catchers," Witt said. "Whitney is a vocal type of player. She has the verbal skills and tenacity to be a good catcher. Whitney just attacks the ball. Katie was the starting catcher at Adams State for two years and she is also a clutch hitter at the plate."
Witt added that freshman Heather Erickson (Cheyenne, Wyo.) could see action in a reserve role as the season goes along.
The Bears will have an entirely new look in the infield this season with the loss of all four starters but Witt said UNC will likely not miss a beat.
At first base, the Bears will lean upon the platoon of Platten and Peterson. But Witt said a couple of newcomers Shannon Lamport (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Astrid Yestness (Colorado Springs, Colo.) along with Paul could see action because "any of the gals can get the job done."
The Bears' shortstop will be determined as the year goes by, but there are three candidates to fill the role as 2004 begins. Witt said it will be difficult to fill the void of four-year starter Kim Kelly, but she expects it to be a three-way battle between Dumler, Miller and Sayler.
Witt is excited about her prospects at third base, including the projected starter freshman Ashley Martinosky (Elizabeth, Colo.).
"Ashley will be an impact player at third right away for us this season," Witt said.
Backup catcher Schol and senior Angela Rangel will be look upon to strengthen the bench at third base.
"There was a huge communication growth for our outfielders in the fall season," Witt said. "As a group they are a complete package."
Witt has a group of six players she expects to contribute in the outfield on a daily basis. Heading the group of fielders patrolling the grass will be freshman Casey Hogue (Loveland, Colo.), freshman Erika Trujillo (Littleton, Colo.), sophomore transfer Aubrey Barnes (Denver, Colo.), senior transfer Brooke Boyer (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Angela Rangel and Lamport.
"Brooke and Astrid will do anything to make a player in the outfield," Witt said. "The accuracy of the throws from the outfield has increased tremendously with this group for this season."
Witt said she expects Clark and junior transfer Monica Rangel to see a lot of time in the outfield in a reserve role.
The Bears will host seven doubleheaders in 2004 for a total of 14 home games.
"This year is the largest home schedule we have had in my four years coaching at UNC," Witt said.
UNC will begin the home season on Feb. 15 against former North Central Conference opponent South Dakota. The Bears will play host to fellow Division I opponent Southern Utah in a pair of doubleheaders on March 6-7.
UNC will also play host to UC-Colorado Springs (April 14), Utah Valley State (April 16-17). The Bears will close the home portion of the schedule against Montana State-Billings (April 21).