Archive for Friday, February 7, 2003

KU to open softball season with youthful lineup

February 7, 2003

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Nobody is calling them the Magnificent Seven. At least not yet.

Kansas University softball coach Tracy Bunge has seven freshmen on her roster, and what's so bad about that?

"It can be an advantage," said Bunge, now in her seventh season as KU coach. "Freshmen don't know they aren't supposed to be able to do things. Also, opponents don't really know your team. If you have talent, it can be an advantage."

As many as four of those freshmen could be in the starting lineup today when the Jayhawks open the season at a tournament in St. Augustine, Fla.

KU, which lost eight seniors from last year's 33-25 team, is scheduled to meet Mississippi and Bethune-Cookman today and Purdue on Saturday.

Junior Kara Pierce will be on the mound in the opener against Ole Miss and Kirsten Milhoan, the lone senior on the roster, will pitch the second game.

Here's a look at the Jayhawks by position:

First base -- Sophomore Lindsey Weinstein, a left-handed slap hitter, is the incumbent. She hit .268 with 12 stolen bases last spring.

Second base -- Olathe South product Jessica Moppin, named Kansas' Gatorade High School Player of the Year last season, is a lock to replace graduated Amy Hulse, a four-year starter.

Shortstop -- Destiny Frankenstein -- yes, that's her real name -- was Oklahoma's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2002 and, along with Moppin, should give Kansas a solid keystone combination for the next four years.

Third base -- Junior Sandy Smith, a reserve infielder for the last two seasons, will open at the hot corner, but Smith is being pressed by freshman Nettie Fierros who has, Bunge said, "shown glimpses of brilliance."

Left field -- Bunge said she would decide today whether to open with Ashley Goodrich, a walk-on, or Heather Stanley. Both are freshmen. Christi Musser, now Bunge's student assistant, owned this job for four years.

Center field -- Junior Melanie Wallach, a utility player for two seasons, steps in to replace Shelly Musser, a fixture in center for the last four seasons.

Right field -- Bunge was uncertain on Thursday whether to start junior college transfer Sylvia Pfeiffer or Ashley Frazer, a freshman from Shawnee Mission Northwest. Another game-time decision.

Catcher -- Dani May, a junior from Lawrence High, will start the opener, but freshman Melaney Torres is also in the picture.

"I feel good about both of them," Bunge said.

May and first baseman Weinstein, incidentally, are the Jayhawks' only left-handed hitters.

Pitcher -- Pierce, who struggled with minor injuries last season after being named Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2001, will probably be the staff workhorse with Milhoan also ticketed for heavy duty. Serena Settlemier, a 12-game winner as a freshman last year, is out for the season because of an arm injury.

Designated player -- Leah Mountain, a junior who backs up Weinstein at first base, is a possibility, but Bunge has a large pool of candidates and will probably go with whoever has a hot bat.

This weekend's tournament, played host to by Central Florida University, is the first of four tourneys on the schedule. The Jayhawks will also travel to San Diego and Santa Barbara in California, and to Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Kansas has 22 games scheduled at neutral sites, 16 on the road and 14 at Jayhawk Field, KU's spartan facility that will be torn down after the home finale on April 27 and replaced by a new $4 million stadium.

KU's home opener is March 22 against Oklahoma.

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