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Archive for Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Woodling: Slipper fits KU softball

May 16, 2006

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Everybody loves Cinderella, so it's no wonder folks in town are still buzzing about Kansas University softball.

The Jayhawks' climb from a No. 6 seed to the Big 12 Conference tournament championship is arguably the most heart-warming happenstance in KU athletics since the men's basketball team won the 1988 NCAA championship.

You remember the '88 Jayhawks.

They, too, were a No. 6 seed that defied the odds.

And they had Danny Manning, who, like Serena Settlemier, was the conference player of the year.

By now, you surely know the story of how Settlemier bounced back from having a steel plate surgically placed in her right forearm to establish numerous school slugging records while, at the same time, posting the second-lowest earned-run average (1.20) in the Big 12.

The last KU player who was such a dual threat was Tracy Bunge, now in her 10th season as the Jayhawks' coach, and Bunge will tell you her numbers don't approach Settlemier's.

Bunge did have a better circle number during her senior year (1986) when she posted an 0.55 ERA - still the school record - but her nine home runs that season pale in comparison to Settlemier's 22.

And who will ever hit six grand slams in a season like Settlemier did this spring? Think about it. A half-dozen salamis in fewer than 60 games in a sport dominated by pitching. Unfathomable.

Several weeks ago, KU softball retired its first two jerseys. The numbers of Sheila Connolly and Camille Spitaleri are now prominently displayed on the left-field fence at Arrocha Ballpark.

Spitaleri wore No. 11, prompting one press box wag to note that it won't be long before a pair of 11s are hanging on the fence because - you guessed it - Settlemier wears uniform No. 11.

Regardless of how the Jayhawks perform in the NCAA Tournament, this year's bunch will be known as Serena Settlemier's team, and that's fine. Yet Settlemier's ascension to the spotlight has overshadowed the Jayhawks' other comeback story.

I'm talking about pitcher Kassie Humphreys.

Settlemier had a terrific Big 12 tournament at the plate (7-for-13 with a homer and double) and deserved the MVP award, but the Jayhawks absolutely would not have won the first league softball tourney in school history if it weren't for Humphreys.

The junior right-hander from Glendale, Ariz., was the winning pitcher in three of the four games and was credited with a save in the other. Humphreys pitched 22 innings in Oklahoma City, surrendered just six hits and no runs. She fanned 25 and walked only four.

This is the same Kassie Humphreys whose mug shot should appear with every written description of the sophomore jinx. As a freshman, she posted a promising 14-12 record and a 1.57 ERA, but last year she couldn't find home plate with a searchlight. Her record was only 5-6. Worse, her ERA was a catastrophic 4.81.

So as the Jayhawks head for the NCAAs, keep in mind that their two best players both have been on the comeback trail.

Comments

Play3b10 4 years, 11 months ago

Spitaleri wore number 10, try looking at the outfield fence next time. LOL

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