A solid pitching staff should carry team with nine newcomers.
YOUNGSTOWN -- When the 2005 season begins today, the Youngstown State softball team will have quite a new look. Of the 20 players listed on the roster, nine are in their first season.
Sixth-year coach Christy Cameron, however, is no stranger to large recruiting classes. In 2001, she added eight players to the squad, which included 2003 Horizon League player of the year Amanda Berry, and began the resurrection of the softball program.
Although almost half of the 2005 team is comprised of newcomers, 11 letterwinners return from last year's team which finished 29-22.
"It is a good thing that we have a good mix of veterans and newcomers," Cameron said. "The older kids are really helping the younger ones become acclimated to the college game."
Cameron, who has won 65 games over the last two seasons, also plans to take advantage of the squad's versatility and depth.
"We have more options than last season," Cameron said. "They've had enough work at other positions that we can bump people around or shuffle the lineup if needed."
Strong on the mound
The pitching staff is arguably the most fortified and talented group in the program's history and will be a key to the team's success.
"We have four solid pitchers this season, but they all bring something different to the team," Cameron said.
Leading the staff is 2003 Horizon pitcher of the year and 2004 all-league second team selection Kelly Murphy. The junior right-hander from North Olmsted is YSU's all-time strikeout leader and posted 14 victories with a 1.46 earned run average a year ago.
Sophomore Karlie Burnell, who was named to the Horizon all-newcomer squad, collected nine victories and a 1.88 ERA.
Cameron has also been impressed by senior Ashley Lockmiller and sophomore Tricia Hilbish. Lockmiller was 3-2 last spring and Hilbish was 3-0.
The Penguins' middle infield remains intact with two-time All-Horizon first-team selection Tiffany Patteson (.352) at shortstop and three-year starter Char Kudlock (.255) at second base.
Big shoes to fill
However, there are voids to fill with the departure of Amanda Berry at first base and Lacey Reichert, a second-team all-region selection, at third base.
"We have some talented players that will fill those spots," said Cameron.
Senior Kiisha Warfield and freshmen Becky Hibner and Sarah Conklin are battling for the time at first base. Warfield batted .227 last season.
Freshman Kelli Sheibley and junior college transfer Lacy Hess have also been working out at second base. Hess, who may also see time at third base, was a two-year letterwinner and an all-region selection at Odessa (Texas) College.
Hess, freshman McKenzie Bedra and Sheibley are competing at third base.
Four players are competing for the starting catcher's spot. Sophomore Codi Bise, who redshirted last season, freshmen Sarah Berry, Jamie Fornal and Bedra could all see time.
Bise belted five home runs during her freshman campaign in 2003 while batting .216 with a .402 slugging percentage.
Leading the way at the designated player position is Warfield, who started all 51 games at the DP in 2004. Freshman Shauna Barry, who also could see time in the outfield, and any of the catchers could fill the role.
Junior Lacy Bronson, who started all 51 games last season, is penciled in as the starter in left field. Bronson batted .235 overall but hit .333 against Horizon opponents. Senior Erin Moore, who can also play in right, and sophomore Megan Bricker, will compete for playing time. Freshman Bethany Hafley gained experience in center field during the fall. Barry, Moore and Bricker, may see time in right field.