All Eyes on Redhawks Newcomers as They Start the 2009 Season
Feb. 11, 2009
2009 Softball Outlook
After failing to make the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament the last two seasons, Head Coach Lana Richmond has begun anew with hopes that fresh faces and the excitement that youth brings to a program will restore the Redhawks proud tradition of winning that included five OVC titles in their first 16 seasons in the conference.
The Redhawks will rely heavily on the newcomers after losing four starters from last year's team that finished 24-28 and eighth in the OVC standings. Among those lost were infielders Michelle Summers and Megan McDonald who each garnered All-OVC honors their four seasons as Redhawks and whose names are found throughout the record books. Also gone is three-year ace and workhorse Elaine Fisher who left as the Redhawks career record holder in appearances and starts in the circle.
The Redhawks do return five position starters (two seniors) and one pitcher from last season but will need help from the seven newcomers. How quickly the newcomers and the returning players learn to play with each other and adjust to two new coaches will tell if the seventh place preseason finish that the Redhawks were predicted to come in will hold up or will they start a new run of OVC dominance with this young and dynamic team.
The Redhawks return one of the top defensive catchers in the OVC in junior Alex Ramirez. Last season she started all 52 games from behind the plate where she showed poise and endurance, two qualities that will be valuable with the Redhawks young pitching staff. She committed just two errors on the year in 259 total chances for a .992 fielding percentage. Her strong arm again was on display as she threw out 21 out of 57 would-be base stealers.
Ramirez again improved at the plate as a batter as she became one of the team's most important offensive weapons down the stretch. She batted .260 but her knack of reaching base and her patience is what helped her team out the most. Her 25 walks led the team and ranked fourth in the OVC. She was also hit by a pitch seven times giving her a .405 on base percentage.
Junior college transfer Ashlee Hebel will have a back-up role and give Ramirez some much needed relief. Hebel comes to Southeast after playing one season at San Diego Mesa Junior College.
The Redhawks will have to replace their No.1 pitcher and workhorse over the last three seasons in Elaine Fisher who is now an Assistant Coach at Maryville College. Hoping to replace her is a very young pitching staff. Sophomore Whitney Dupuis served as the Redhawks No. 2 pitcher last season appearing in 28 games including 18 starts. She compiled a record of 4-8 and an ERA of 4.76 in those outings. Dupuis saw most of her success in the circle in relief as she pitched 26 innings in those 10 relief appearances allowing just seven runs for a 1.88 ERA in a relief role.
A pair of freshmen will compete with Dupuis for innings and starts in the circle. Giana Zimmerman and Stefanie Barnes come to Southeast with impressive prep credentials and have the ability to be very successful at the Division I level. Zimmerman was a two-time All-State selection from Colorado who led the state with a 0.31 ERA. Zimmerman averaged over 12 strikeouts per game during her four-year prep career including striking out 242 batters her senior season.
Barnes was an All-State selection from California her senior season. She finished with a record of 25-3 and a 0.50 ERA. Her final two years of high school she averaged 260 strikeouts each year.
All three pitchers have the ability to help the Redhawks with their bats as well. Dupuis served as the team's designated player towards the end of the season when she wasn't pitching, collecting three RBIs. Zimmerman and Barnes were amongst the Redhawks leading hitters during the fall season.
The Redhawks will have to replace three starters in their infield including two four year starters on the left side of the infield in Michelle Summers and Megan McDonald. Lauren Bradley returns as the team's starting first baseman. Last season she started in all 52 games at first where she led the team in putouts and finished fifth in assists. At the plate she batted .237 and collected four homeruns and drove in 16 runners.
Last year's starting second baseman Allie Borowiak will sit out the season due to offseason shoulder surgery. In her first season as a Redhawk she finished third on the team with five homeruns.
Freshman Tiffany Blanco and Boston College transfer Nicole Troncoso will compete to fill the void. Blanco was a four-year letterwinner All-League selection for California prep powerhouse Paloma Valley.
Troncoso played in 21 games last season including 15 starts in the infield for the Eagles. Troncoso's versatility allows her to play a number of infield positions and she is expected to be on the field defensively at all times.
The tall task of replacing Summers and McDonald will fall in the hands, gloves and bats of Troncoso, Carmen Fowler and Renee Kertz. Fowler started every game in the outfield for the Redhawks in 2008 as a freshman and showed defensive promise as a future infielder. The Redhawks hope her flawless play in centerfield and live arm will translate well as she splits time at shortstop and the outfield. At the plate she hit six doubles, one triple, two homeruns and drove in 17 runners. She was the team's lone base stealing threat last season as she led the team with four stolen bases.
As a freshman, Kertz will have big shoes to fill at third base as she takes over for the graduated Summers. However Summers will mentor her and help her adjust to collegiate softball as Summers has joined the team as an assistant coach. Kertz is a tall and athletic who has great plate discipline and is a contact hitter. Kertz led the team in batting this past fall campaign.
With the graduation of two-year starter Katie Otterness and Fowler dividing time in both fields, Jennifer Vasquez is the lone Redhawks returning starter in the outfield from last season. Vasquez led the team with three outfield assists and made many highlight catches in leftfield. One of the team's top offensive threats from last season, she led the team in at bats and finished second in runs scored and third with 43 hits and nine doubles from the lead-off spot.
Elise Sperakos makes her return to the Redhawks outfield after sitting out last season as a redshirt. As a freshman in 2006 she appeared in 35 games with 26 of those starts in the outfield. That year she finished second on the team with seven doubles while also hitting two homeruns and driving in 14. Elise's return to uniform will help strengthen the Redhawks outfield.
Freshman Shelby Stein looks to be the early favorite to start in rightfield as she is making a smooth transition to collegiate softball in the fall. As a senior she batted .462 at Columbia High School.
Local product Sirena Watkins looks to score runs for the Redhawks with her speed on the basepaths. Utilizing Watkins speed, she has been turned around to the left side as a slapper. Coach Richmond continues a proud tradition of Cape Central High School standouts that have moved on to play collegiately in their hometown college.
Fowler and Blanco will also see playing time in the outfield giving the Redhawks more depth and versatility.
Coach Richmond and her staff have compiled a challenging schedule for the upcoming season. On this year's schedule are four tournaments that will prepare the Redhawks with the tough OVC season.
For the second-straight season the Redhawks start the season with a match-up against Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) school Jackson State for a single game in Jackson, Mississippi on February 12. Last season the Redhawks swept a doubleheader against the Lady Tigers with a combined score of 20-3.
Just like last season the Redhawks will again continue their trip south to the Pelican State to participate in the ULM Mardi Gras Classic in Monroe, Louisiana from February 13-15. Last season the tournament was shortened due to rain and the Redhawks were limited to three games going 1-2 in tourney play. This season the Redhawks will again face host school Louisiana-Monroe as well as Central Arkansas who the Redhawks defeated 5-3 in the tournament opener last season. The Redhawks will also face Centenary in their final two games of the tournament.
After a weekend off, the Redhawks will start the month of March in Memphis, Tennessee to play in the fourth annual Blues City Classic for the second-straight season. Last season the Redhawks went 2-3. Among the teams the Redhawks will face are Evansville, North Dakota, UMKC and the host school Memphis.
The Redhawks continue to stay on the road and head across the Mississippi River to nearby Carbondale, Illinois to face Missouri Valley Conference rival Southern Illinois University for a mid-week affair on March 4.
The weekend of March 6-7 the Redhawks again head to another Missouri Valley Conference school in Missouri State to participate in the annual All-Missouri Cancer Tournament in Springfield, Missouri. The Redhawks are one of five schools that play in the round-robin tournament featuring the top schools in the Show Me State. Last season the Redhawks hosted the event and went 2-0 in the rain-shortened tournament defeating Missouri State and Saint Louis University. The Redhawks will again face those two schools along with nationally ranked Missouri and UMKC.
On March 12 the Redhawks will finally play their first home game of the season as they take on their fourth MVC team of the year in Indiana State. The Redhawks will host the Sycamores for a doubleheader at the Southeast Softball Complex where they went 3-1 against non-conference opponents last season.
For their Spring Break trip the Redhawks will head to Tar Heel State for seven days. They will participate in the UNC-Charlotte Tournament on March 14-15 where they will face UNC-Charlotte and North Carolina Central. The Redhawks then travel to Greensboro to face North Carolina A&T for a doubleheader before concluding their trip at Elon University for another twinbill.
A trip to Morehead, Kentucky starts the OVC season for the Redhawks on March20-21 before hosting Tennessee tech in the OVC home opener on March 28-29. A trip to preseason OVC favorite and 2008 NCAA Tournament participant Jacksonville State (April 4-5) precedes a home doubleheader against the newest member of the OVC, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville on April 8 followed by a road trip to UT Martin (April 10-11).
A non-conference doubleheader against Saint Louis University at home starts a stretch of games in which the Redhawks will play nine of their final 14 games at home including four-straight OVC home games. Three of those games will come against Eastern Kentucky (April 25-26) and one game against Eastern Illinois (April 29).
The Redhawks concludes the regular season the first weekend in May as they travel to Nashville, Tennessee to take on Tennessee State before the start of the OVC Tournament on May 7-10.