Inside the Circle
January 28, 2003
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Despite the graduation loss of Alison Cooke, who is fourth on Indiana's career appearances list with 103, the Hoosiers return two starters who both pitched extensively in 2001-02. Pitching coach Mickey Dean will look to junior Heather Stillians (Atascadero, Calif./Atascadero) and sophomore Katie Witham (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) who return in 2003 and will be joined by freshman Megan Roark (Pleasant Hill, Calif./College Park). Stillians is also expected to contribute offensively.
One year ago, the 5-foot-10 Stillians appeared in 20 games, recording a 6-9 overall record and a 3.71 earned run average. She allowed 112 hits and struck out 38 opponent hitters in 88 2/3 innings of work.
"Heather is hard working and powerful, said Hayes. "She has the potential to be an All-Big Ten athlete as a pitcher and a hitter. We are looking for Heather to make an impact with her strength and power this year."
Despite her size, Stillians is a crafty righthander who has had successfully mixed pitches and kept hitters off balance. One year ago, she proved that she could be successful against some of the nation's top teams. Last spring, she defeated eventual NCAA tournament participant Boston University at the Fresno State Invitational as she allowed only six hits and three earned runs is a 5-4 victory. At the same tournament, she handcuffed a solid San Diego State club as she allowed only seven hits and one earned run in nine innings pitched, despite suffering a 2-1 loss.
Witham will join Stillians in the circle. As a true freshman in 2001, the 5-foot-11 righthander led the Hoosiers with a 3.32 earned run average and tied Stillians for the team lead in victories with six (6-10 overall record). In 28 appearances (21 starts) she allowed 142 hits and 51 earned runs in 107 2/3 innings pitched. She walked 37 and struck out 27. After struggling with her control early in the season, she greatly improved as the season progressed.
"Katie is one of the funniest and hardest-working student-athletes on our team," said Hayes. "She does a great job on the mound, and will continue to increase her level of power and consistency with Coach (Mickey) Dean's program."
After struggling early in her freshman campaign, Witham began to show signs of the pitcher she may eventually become when she held national power Fresno State to only four hits and no earned runs in 2 2/3 innings of relief. The confidence she gained at Fresno State carried over to her next outing when she earned a complete game shutout in a 3-0 win at Bradley. She scattered six hits over seven innings to record the first shutout of her career. Witham's success wasn't limited to non-conference play as she earned the start in the second game of a doubleheader and allowed only one run in 5 2/3 innings pitched. She also saw 5 2/3 innings of relief vs. Michigan State and allowed four hits and two earned runs, while walking two and striking out two. In a complete game 6-3 win over NCAA Tournament participant Evansville as she allowed seven hits and three earned runs in seven innings. She also struck out three Purple Aces batters without allowing a walk.
Hayes on the Indiana pitchers: "Our pitching staff's productivity is going to improve a lot with Mickey's program. We're looking to build their strength. Their goal is to strike everybody out. Obviously, that's not going to happen, but if they are looking to be aggressive, and force hitters to hit their best pitch, most times they are going to be successful. We have a pretty healthy staff, and we have a lot of diversity in what they throw. It just kind of depends on who is good on a certain day. We have to stay healthy and we have to keep increasing our strength. Obviously, I think they are going to do a lot better than they have been doing. We're going to look to all of our pitchers to contribute, maybe every day. We may loosen up two pitchers, and have another on relief. We're going to need to mix and match, depending on whom we are going against."