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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

Crisosto leads big cast of softball returnees

August 11, 2007

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Will the real Stevie Crisosto please stand up?

As a freshman, Crisosto was a fluid center fielder who fielded virtually without a flaw for Kansas University's softball team, yet she produced a paltry .204 batting average.

On the flip side, as a sophomore, Crisosto was a shaky shortstop with a team-high 19 errors, but the team leader in batting average at .302.

When Crisosto first came to Mount Oread in the fall of 2005 from Foothills High in Palo Cedro, Calif., she knew she would be playing center field for only one season because senior Destiny Frankenstein was entrenched at shortstop.

So Crisosto accepted the shift to center knowing she was Frankenstein's heir apparent.

"I had played shortstop all my life," Crisosto said. "I was comfortable there, so comfortable that I never really had to focus on playing short."

Crisosto figured she wouldn't have any trouble moving back to a position that was as familiar to her as brushing her teeth. But the switch wasn't as smooth as she had expected.

"It was definitely a harder transition than I thought it would be," she said. "It was a challenge. I wasn't doing the fundamental things : looking the ball into my glove, things like that."

On the plus side, her fielding certainly didn't affect her hitting. Or her baserunning. Crisosto also led the Jayhawks in stolen bases with 13. She was thrown out just once.

Curiously, in compiling the .302 batting average, Crisosto hit a robust .462 with nobody on base so, while batting mostly in the No. 3 spot in the order, she mustered only 18 runs batted in while playing 58 games.

"I've always been a picky hitter," she said. "I'd always been a leadoff hitter, so I still have the leadoff mentality, and in the three-hole you can't be that way. It's a different mind-set."

More RBIs and fewer errors could propel Crisosto into first-team All-Big 12 status after she earned a second-team slot last spring, along with teammates Amanda Jobe and Kassie Humphreys.

Humphreys, a right-handed pitcher, concluded her KU career ranked in the top 10 in just about every pitching category. Jobe returns, however, following an impressive freshman season.

A Shawnee Mission Northwest product, Jobe hit .295 and led the Jayhawks with a .425 on-base percentage, thanks in large part to drawing a team-high 30 walks. Jobe was used primarily as a designated player and right fielder, but will move to first base, replacing Nicole Washburn.

Humphreys and Washburn were the lone seniors on the '06 team, so coach Tracy Bunge will have plenty of returning regulars off last year's 33-24-1 club.

Junior Val Chapple will be a fixture at third base for the third straight year despite back-to-back batting averages of .228 and .222. Soph Sara Ramirez, who slugged six home runs last spring, returns at second base.

Junior Dougie McCaulley, who batted leadoff in every game and hit .265, owns one of the outfield spots, but the other two positions are up in the air.

Elle Pottorf, who paced the Jayhawks with nine home runs and 37 RBIs, returns behind the plate along with Tiffany Craner, another junior. Brittany Hile, a freshman from Blue Valley West, may press for playing time, however, because the Jayhawks surrendered more stolen bases than any other Big 12 team in '06.

The 5-foot-10 Hile has such a cannon arm that she also was used as a pitcher during her senior year at BV West.

"Brittany has one of the best arms in the game," Bunge said. "We're thrilled to have one of the most talented players from Kansas stay home."

Allie Clark, a 6-0 right-hander from Hesperia, Calif., will replace Humphreys on the pitching staff.

Clark flung a three-hit shutout in early June to lead Hesperia to a 3-0 win over El Segundo for the California Southern Section Division V state title. She struck out 12 and also went 2-for-3 with an RBI. When she's not pitching, Clark conceivably could be used as the designated player, as Humphreys often was, or as an outfielder.

"Allie has the ability not only to help us in the circle, but at the plate as well," Bunge said. "She has tremendous power."

Bunge has two solid pitchers returning in junior Valerie George (9-4, 2.11 earned-run average) and Sarah Vertelka (5-5, 2.89).

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