Archive for Sunday, June 20, 2004

U.S. team awaits all-stars

KU grad Musser ‘excited’ about softball challenge

June 20, 2004

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Christi Musser picked an interesting time to make a comeback.

Musser, a 24-year old Kansas University assistant coach, played her last game of college softball for the Jayhawks two years ago, but she'll suit up for the Kansas All-Stars today when they play host to the U.S. Olympic team for a sold-out exhibition at 3 p.m. at Hummer Park in Topeka.

"I'm excited, but I'm also nervous because I haven't played in a real game in so long," said Musser, a standout outfielder for KU from 1999 to 2002. "It's kind of hard to come back against the best team in the world."

The all-stars face the daunting task of trying to hit U.S. pitchers Lisa Fernandez, Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman and Lori Harrigan.

KU coach Tracy Bunge -- a former KU pitcher -- will lead the all-stars against the two-time defending Olympic champions. Her lineup will include Jayhawk junior infielders Destiny Frankenstein and Jessica Moppin.

While Bunge couldn't work with Frankenstein and Moppin prior to this weekend because of NCAA rules regarding offseason practices, the coach did help Musser prepare.

"I've been working out with coach Bunge and taking batting practice as much as I can," Musser said of the 1986 All-American. "Coach Bunge can still bring it, so it definitely helps. I don't know if she's up there with Lisa, but she was in her day. It's definitely beneficial for me."

The Olympians enter today's game 39-0 during their national tour in preparation's for the Athens Games. They've outscored their opponents 351-11.

U.S. pitchers have shut out 32 of their 39 opponents. In 230 innings, they have struck out 447 batters while walking 24. They've held opponents to a .085 batting average while posting a cumulative earned-run average of 0.24.

Fans fortunate enough to have tickets shouldn't come late today. Many of the Olympic team's games have ended early because of the mercy rule.

"I don't know if nervous is the right word," Frankenstein said. "I have a lot of respect for them. I'm very anxious to face them and see if I can hang with that kind of pitcher. I just hope we can play them well and give them a good practice.

"Getting to play them is a great opportunity because the Olympic coach gets to see you, and if you make a good play he might remember that."

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Noting the Olympians: USA Softball hasn't lost an Olympic tune-up game since a May 3, 1996, loss to a group of California all-stars. ... U.S. coach Mike Candrea is 982-191 in 18 seasons at Arizona. The Wildcats have played in 11 of the last 16 NCAA championship games. ... Six members of the U.S. squad return from the 2000 Games: Fernandez, Harrigan, Laura Berg, Crystl Bustos, Stacey Nuveman and Leah O'Brien-Amico. ... Baseball fans should recognize Finch. She's co-host of "This Week in Baseball." ... The U.S. lineup has a cumulative average of .412. Bustos leads the way with a .542 average, 19 homers and 69 RBI.

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