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Archive for Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Woodling: Serena simply amazing

April 25, 2006

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Unless this weekend's NFL Draft produces an eyebrow-raiser or two, Serena Settlemier will enjoy a Kansas University distinction this school year.

Settlemier will be one of the highest draft choices among KU athletes eligible for selection by a professional sports league.

Uh, wait a minute. Isn't Settlemier a softball player?

Indeed, she is. In fact, Settlemier, a fifth-year senior from Kelso, Wash., is in the home stretch of the best season a KU softball player ever has had.

Every time Settlemier homers or drives in a run, she adds to her school records. At the same time, she has been one of the Big 12 Conference's best pitchers.

In this era of athletic specialization, Settlemier is an anomaly - sort of a modern Babe Ruth who, I'm sure you know, was a frontline pitcher before he became a legendary home run hitter.

So, you're wondering, who will draft Settlemier?

Surprise. She already has been drafted. In mid-February, Settlemier was a second-round selection in the National Pro Fastpitch League by the Texas Thunder.

If you've never heard of the NPF, you aren't alone. Women's pro softball is virtually ignored everywhere except in the seven areas with league franchises. That's the way it will remain, too, unless ESPN adds a women's network (ESPNW???).

If you know where the Texas Thunder is located, give yourself a gold star. The Thunder's stadium is perched 25 miles south of downtown Houston and 20 miles north of Galveston.

And, if everything works out, Settlemier will be playing for the Thunder this summer.

"Some of the best players in the world are in that league," Settlemier said, "and it will give me a chance to play against the best. Then, I'll look for a job in September."

Settlemier will earn a degree in communications next month. In fact, she was an ESPN Regional intern when the NPF conducted its four-round draft of college seniors in February.

"I knew the draft was coming up," Settlemier said, "but I was working, so some of my teammates followed it on the Internet, and they told me about it."

Texas pitcher Cat Osterman - surprise, surprise - was the first college senior selected when she was tapped by the Connecticut Brakettes. The only other Big 12 player picked in the first round was outfielder Kristin Vesely of Oklahoma.

Settlemier went late in the second round, but I suspect if the draft had been held in mid-April she wouldn't have been available that long. When the draft was held, no one knew Settlemier would put up such astounding numbers this spring.

Headed into her final collegiate season, Settlemier's career batting average was a so-so .261 with 22 home runs and 56 runs batted in. Now, with at least eight games remaining, she is hitting .355 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI. In other words, she has more or less matched the power numbers of her first three years combined.

In the circle, her career record was 26-20 with a 2.38 earned-run average. So far this season, her pitching record is 15-5 with a 1.30 ERA.

"She's been amazing," KU coach Tracy Bunge said. "What else can I say?"

What else, indeed?

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