Softball team opens season with plenty of promise

With a solid crew of returning veterans who helped set four offensive team records last season, the Willamette University women’s softball team looks to be loaded for the upcoming season.

Add to the offensive firepower last season’s top two pitchers, a pair of incoming hurlers and three community college transfer students, and the Bearcats appear poised to return to the top tier of the Northwest Conference.

Last season, under head coach Damian Williams, the Bearcats finished a respectable 17-14 (11-9 and fourth place in the NWC). In the preseason NWC coaches poll for 2003, the Bearcats are picked to finish third behind perennial power and NWC champ Pacific Lutheran and Linfield.

While always aggressive on the base paths (the Bearcats led the NWC in steals for the third time in a row last season), Willamette set a slew of offensive team records last season including team batting average (.336), slugging percentage (.431), on-base percentage (.394) and home runs (six). The Bearcats also tied the team record for doubles with 42.

The Bearcats’ offensive firepower goes deep this season, beginning with first-team all-conference shortstop, junior Marcie Hagen. Last season Hagen led WU in eight offensive categories, including batting (.419), RBIs (23) and doubles (11). She also stole 14 bases in 15 attempts.

Along with Hagen, the Bearcats bring back Anna Byers (.386 batting average), Jen Hammond (.385), Sherri Mabie (.366), Darcy Hertel (.358), April Greer (.333), and Ashley Keaton (.316, with a team record three home runs).

Hertel, Byers and Keaton were all named to the NWC honorable mention list.

Other returnees from last season include Meredith Runyan, Amanda Lindquist, Meaghan Sussman and Tara Jackson.

On the mound, Hayley Boston returns to lead the Bearcat pitching staff. A former all-NWC performer, the senior left-hander was 13-9 with a 2.69 ERA. Nicole Romero, 4-4 last season with a 4.22 ERA, is also back. Junior college transfer Teren Edgecomb from Highline Community College and freshman pitcher Brittany Dearing joins the pair.

Also new to the team this year are junior Cherise Stumpf, a transfer student also from Highline CC, and sophomore outfielder Valerie Motta from Cascade Community College.

“We’re deep across the board,” said Williams. “We’ll put up plenty of offense. And if our pitching and defense holds together, we should be a force to contend with in the Northwest Conference this season.”