Indiana Softball Readies for 2007 Campaign

    Go Hoosiers! 2005 All-Big Ten selection Tory Yamaguchi returns to the IU lineup after missing last season with illness. A team captain, Yamaguchi and the Hoosiers will attempt to build on last season's success.
    Go Hoosiers!
    2005 All-Big Ten selection Tory Yamaguchi returns to the IU lineup after missing last season with illness. A team captain, Yamaguchi and the Hoosiers will attempt to build on last season's success.
    Go Hoosiers!

    Feb. 7, 2007

    After leading the Indiana softball team to its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 10 years, third-year head coach Stacey Phillips enters the 2007 campaign with optimism and high expectations. Following a remarkable season that saw both offensive and defensive records shattered, Phillips and the Hoosiers look to return IU softball to national contention.

    "Last year, we set the bar for where we always want to be," Phillips said. "This year, we have a very similar outlook. We look at where we set that bar last season, and we want to raise it even higher. We need to get in a position where we can make things happen. This team has tasted success, and they are hungry for more."

    The Hoosiers return seven starters from last season and welcome eight impressive newcomers that are expected to make an immediate impact in 2007. Senior Rachel Terry and redshirt junior Tory Yamaguchi will serve as the team's captains, while seniors Heather Hohs, Kim Richards and Christy Wahl will play their final seasons in the Cream and Crimson.

    Here is a position-by-position look at the 2007 Indiana softball team:

    Despite losing outfielder Lauren Hines, who led last year's squad with a .393 batting average and a team-high 10 home runs, the Hoosiers return a solid group of outfielders in three-year starters Hohs and Richards and junior Julia Hamilton. Indiana has also added a pair of newcomers in Jennifer Glueckert and Kelli Ritichison, who will both compete for time in the outfield and at the plate.

    Hohs appeared in 51 games last season, seeing time in left field but primarily serving as Indiana's top choice to pinch run. The Morton Grove, Ill., native registered 12 runs and pair of stolen bases.

    "Heather has come such a long way in her career, and she is in place to compete for a starting position this year," Phillips said. "Heather will be looked to as a vocal leader in the outfield."

    Richards started 50 games in center field last season, while accounting for 44 hits, including a team-high 32 RBIs. The 2006 Florida State Invitational MVP enters her senior season ranked eighth all-time in home runs with 13 career knocks.

    "Kim is our anchor in the outfield," Phillips said. "She has the ability to throw someone out from the fence and hit the ball a long way at any given point in the game. I look to Kim to have the best year of her career this season."

    Hamilton, who made 40 starts in left field last season, has emerged for the Hoosiers as both an offensive and defensive threat. The Lincolnshire, Ill., native swiped a team-best 17 bags on 18 attempts last season, while sparking the Hoosier offense as a lefty slapper, recording four multiple-hit games in 2006.

    "Julia has emerged as one of the better outfielders in the Big Ten," Phillips said. "She will see a lot of playing time with her speed and athleticism. Julia is one of the fastest players in the Big Ten, and her speed will get her on base a lot, and if she gets on base, we are going to win a lot of games."

    IU returns a wealth of talent in the infield, an area unfazed by loss. Last season, the Hoosier defense committed an all-time low 51 errors and set a program-best .968 fielding percentage. A veteran infield anchored by Terry, coupled with several newcomers who are in contention for playing time, will make for a solid defense for the Hoosiers this season.

    A three-year starter at first base, Terry is fresh off a season in which she tallied 46 hits, including 10 doubles and four home runs.

    "Rachel is a proven leader," Phillips said. "She is a talented hitter, and she can be that go-to player for us."

    Junior Anna Olson is expected to see some time at first base, but her primary impact will be made at the plate. The 5-10 power hitter will be looked to as the Hoosiers' top choice at designated player. Last season, Olson notched 14 hits, two home runs and 10 RBIs.

    "Anna has the potential to change the face of the game with one swing," Phillips said. "She could be a consistent power hitter. Anna has the ability to hit any pitch that's in the zone."

    Across the diamond from Terry is junior Jennilee Huddleston at third base. Huddleston returns as one of the Hoosiers' biggest threats on both offense and defense after starting all 56 games of last season at third base and driving in 20 runs and hitting three home runs.

    "Defensively, Jennilee is very quick to the ball and gets rid of it in a hurry," Phillips said. "She is a line-drive hitter and has the potential to be the clutch hitter. When Jennilee is up in a critical situation, everyone feels comfortable."

    Sophomore Sarah Padove will look to build on her breakout season last year at second base. The Hammond, Ind., native started 51 games at second, while tallying 32 hits, including three home runs and 15 RBIs. Additionally, Padove led the club in sacrifice bunts with 10.

    "Sarah's hitting looks really good, and I think we are going to see her emerge more offensively this season," Phillips said. "She has a great sense of the game and will no doubt have a good year."

    The Hoosiers have several strong options at shortstop. Sophomore Stephanie Pellerito, who started 53 games last season and drove in 12 runs off 33 hits, and newcomer Emily Bergeson, a transfer from Bradley, will both see plenty of playing time this season.

    "Stephanie has come back in great shape this year and she is someone we want to have in the field at some position because she has a tremendous amount of talent," Phillips said. "She has become a much stronger hitter, and we will see a lot of singles and doubles out of her. When she gets on base and moves some runners, we are going to win a lot of games.

    "Emily has been a great addition and has emerged as one of our best defensive players. We need her to be able to cover a lot of ground defensively and throw some people out. Emily is agile and has a great arm."

    Freshmen Stephanie Turner and Kristin King, junior Kari Bettenbrock and sophomore Julie DiNallo will add depth to the Indiana infield and will no doubt be called upon for the Hoosiers this season on both offense and defense.

    Without a doubt, the biggest loss for the Hoosiers from a season ago will be in the circle. After losing standouts Mariangee Bogado and Megan Roark, who combined to set the school record for the most strikeouts in a season (461), IU will look to a pair of newcomers to take over the bulk of innings.

    "With the loss of two great pitchers, we are going to have to pitch the ball well and keep it in the park," Phillips said. "We have to give ourselves the opportunity to win from the plate."

    The Hoosiers will look to do so with junior transfer Jennifer Moore (Volunteer State Community College) and Northern Iowa transfer Monica Wright.

    Moore, a second team NJCCA All-American, boasts a career ERA of 0.93 and has sat down an impressive 620 batters in two seasons of work.

    "Jen's transition into being one of our top pitchers in our staff is key," Phillips said. "We had to replace Mariangee and Megan with someone who is going step up, and Jen is very capable to doing that. Jen impressed us this fall and will continue to do so as the season progresses."

    Wright comes to Bloomington after an impressive freshman season in which she struck out 91 batters in 169.2 innings of work.

    "Monica is another great addition to our program and to our pitching staff," Phillips said. "We needed to find a pitcher that wanted to be that anchor pitcher, and I think Monica is it. She is going to surprise a lot of people because of her size, but when she throws that ball, it's very impressive."

    Senior Christy Wahl, the veteran on the staff, will also be called upon to give the IU pitching corps even more depth.

    After sitting out last season due to illness, the Hoosiers return a familiar face behind the plate in 2005 All-Big Ten selection Tory Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi led the team in 2004 and 2005 in batting average, hits, home runs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

    "We are thrilled to have Tory back, and she has come back in better shape than when she left," Phillips said. "I am excited she is back on our pitching and catching staff. Tory is a tremendous hitter, and she keeps getting better."

    Yamaguchi will be backed up by junior Janetta Deaven. Last season, Deaven recorded 410 putouts on defense and tallied nine RBIs and scored 11 runs for IU.

    "Janetta has come a long way," Phillips said. "She has worked a lot on her hitting, and I think she will be a lot more consistent at the plate this year."

    Freshman Emily Crohn or Bergeson can step in at catcher if needed.

    The Hoosiers' schedule in 2007 is arguably one of the toughest in the country. A grueling non-conference schedule, along with the always-strong Big Ten slate, will put the Hoosiers to the test early and often.

    This season is highlighted by a 12-game home slate, a 10-day spring break trip to Florida and the IU Classic, a three-day tournament in Bloomington (March 23-25).

    The Hoosiers will take on 13 teams that made the NCAA Division I Softball Championships (University of South Florida, Michigan, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Massachusetts, Southern Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio State, Princeton, LSU, Iowa, Long Island and Penn State), including five that advanced to the round of 16, and the national runner-up, Northwestern.

    Six of IU's opponents this season closed the year ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Top-25 poll. Northwestern (No. 2), Michigan (No. 10), LSU (No. 11), Louisville (No. 17), South Florida (18) and UMass (No. 24) all earned recognition in the season's final rankings.

    "You try to schedule so that come time for conference and post-season play, you are ready to play at that level, and I think that's what we have tried to do this year," Phillips said. "The early games are critical, and they will be important in our development. With our schedule, I think we will see a lot of these teams again late in the season. We have nine players who have not seen the NCAA Tournament yet. In order to make sure they are ready to play at that level, we need to have that kind of competition early on."

    With a solid core of returners and a talented and hungry group of newcomers, the Hoosiers will try to build upon the momentum gained last season to propel Indiana softball back into the national spotlight.

    "I think the biggest asset this team has right now it its unity," Phillips said. "Winning with a unified group is absolutely contagious. We learned how it felt to really win last season. They know how it feels and they want it again, and best of all, they know how to get it. This season, every single game matters."

    The 2007 campaign kicks off on Feb. 16, when the Hoosiers will face Centenary and Southern Illinois on the first day of the University of Houston Tournament in Houston, Texas.




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