February 11, 2005

2005 Softball Preview

The University of Northern Colorado softball team will be looking to rebound this season after a rough 2004 season, which ended with the Bears having an overall mark of 6-32. This season will be the Bears' second season competing at the Division I level.


"The process of reclassification has required us to rebuild in every fact of our program," head coach Linda Witt said. "Although the playing field is not quite even, we will do everything we can with the personnel and resources that we have and then some. The 2005 squad has eagerly taken on the responsibility of laying a solid foundation for the success now and in the future."


Northern Colorado returns eight players from last year's squad and will mix in 10 newcomers to the lineup throughout the year.


"Our athletes have had several months of training in our excellent strength and skill development programs," We are working hard to prove that we belong at the Division I level. We are going to place a team on the field that will have a good mix of veteran players and newcomers."


The Bears will open the home season on March 9 against Regis University in a doubleheader at 12 p.m.



The new year has brought on plenty of changes in the Bears' pitching staff. The Bears return only one pitcher from last year's staff in senior Stephani Miller. Miller went 4-9 last season with a team-best 4.47 earned run average. She struck out 41 and walked only 30 in 87 2/3 innings pitched.


Witt had planned to use transfer Jessica Milligan as one of the Bears' starting pitchers, but Milligan suffered a season-ending injury to her hand over the winter break.


With the pitching problems at hand, Witt then decided to move sophomore infielder Kelsey Dumler into the pitching circle. Kelsey is no stranger to the pitching circle as she had pitched in high school and her sister, Cristen, pitched for the Bears in the 2002 and 2003 seaons.


"Kelsey is steady, has excellent control, has tireless training habits and has a great mental and strategic mind for the game," Witt said. "She works closely with Cristen. Kelsey has been able to accelerate her development by having such a mentor in her family. We are indeed fortunate to have Kelsey's diverse talents in our program."


Witt also added freshman transfer Markelle Decker to the pitching staff in January. Decker attended Western Nebraska Community College in the fall.


"Markelle is a strong, determined athlete who is eager to learn," Witt said.



Although the Bears lost their all-time home run hitter in Erin Peterson (19 career home runs) to graduation, Witt could not be sitting any prettier behind the plate than with senior Whitney Platten. Platten was a first-team All-Independent selection as a junior after hitting .350 with 41 hits, 1 runs, 9 doubles, six home runs and 22 RBI in 2004.


Platten was chosen as a preseason All-Independent pick at the beginning of this season as well.


"Whitney is an athlete that fits the Division I mold," Witt said. "She brings a confident, attack mentality to the program. She was a great team leader in our off-season training, which has brought our team into the spring more fit than ever."


Witt will look to a pair of newcomers to back up Platten in Ashley Geist and Mackenzie Barrett.



The Bears will look to Stephani Miller, when she's not in the pitching circle and sophomore Astrid Yestness to hold down the fort at first base. Miller possesses a solid glove down baseline and her quickness will take away opponents' short games. Yestness worked hard in the offseason and will see plenty of time at first.


At second base the Bears will run out freshman Kati Miller, the sister of Stephani. Kati was one of the state's strongest hitters in high school and will contribute to the offense right away.


Another newcomer will take the reins at shortstop in freshman Morgan Dahlman. Dahlman is an aggressive contact hitter and a solid baserunner. Defensively, she will help shore up the middle infield with her dynamic play.


Sophomore Ashley Martinosky will start for the second straight season at third base. Martinosky hit .195 with 15 hits, five runs and two RBI in her freshman season. She ranked second on the team in assists last season with 66 on the defensive side of ball.


Witt expects newcomers Heather Beffert, Jennifer Huston and Kassandra Trujillo-Sullivan to serve as backups on the infield.



The majority of the Bears' experience will come in the outfield as the Bears return three players that saw significant time last season.


Sophomore Casey Hogue is lone returning outfield starter in the bunch. Hogue hit .200 with 16 hits, 13 runs, five doubles, a home run and three RBI as she hit from the leadoff spot for a majority of the season. Hogue was scary for opponents on the base paths as she swiped 11 bases in 11 attempts to lead the team.


"A tremendous offensive weapon as a baserunner, Casey has already made a significant contribution to the program and she's just a sophomore," Witt said. "Her mental game has matured tremendously. She will be fun to watch."


Senior Nicole Martinez will move from starting second base to the outfield this season. Martinez hit .212 with 21 hits, 10 runs, threee doubles and nine RBI last season.


"Nicole is smart on the bases and has excellent bat control," Witt said. "She is skilled enough defensively to play on the infield as well as in the outfield. She knows and plays all aspects of the game well."


Junior Aubrey Barnes returns for her second season with the Bears after playing in 25 games last season, while drawing 13 starting assignments. Barnes hit .111 in only 36 at-bats. Barnes recorded seven putouts and was credited with two outfield assists without making a single error.


"Aubrey has an arm that will draw the attention of all of our opponents," Witt said. "She is a solid on the bases and her ability to get on base is improving, especially with her winter strength training."


Witt said freshman Mackenzie Barrett, who walked on this past fall, has shown a lot of improvement and could make an immediate impact this spring.



The Bears will field a full Division I schedule for the first time and the home schedule features games against UTEP from the Western Athletic Conference and fellow Division I Independent Utah Valley State. The home slate also includes perennial Mountain West powerhouse Colorado State.


The Bears' road schedule will include a trip to the Texas State Tournament on Feb. 4-6, UTEP Tournament on Feb. 24-27 and the Charleston Southern Tournament on March 4-6.


Witt's squad will also travel to Orlando, Fla., to take part in the Rebel Spring Games on March 13-17. At the Rebel Games, Northern Colorado will play contests against Butler, George Mason, Tennessee-Martin, Youngstown State, George Washington, Southeast Missouri State, Bucknell, Colgate, Army and Wisconsin-Green Bay.


One of the highlights of the latter part of the schedule includes a doubleheader at the University of Nebraska on April 21.