Jan. 26, 2007
Hang out for just a moment with the 2007 Baylor softball team and it immediately becomes clear what the theme for the upcoming season is for this group of Lady Bears: 'It's time.' The theme, created by head coach Glenn Moore at the end of last season, resonates throughout the program.
It can be seen on the locker room walls, on the t-shirts the players wear to and from practice and can even be heard when the players cross paths on campus throughout the year.
Although there might be several question marks heading into the upcoming season, there is one thing players in this program know for sure: Moore and the rest of his staff believe 'it's time' for the Baylor softball program to take the next step.
The optimism heading into the 2007 campaign comes from the fact Baylor returns several key players from last year's 38-22 squad that advanced to the NCAA Corvallis Regional and ended the year in third in the Big 12 Conference standings.
With Baylor advancing to NCAA Championship play for the last three seasons and increasing its win total in conference play in each of those years, it is no wonder Moore and the rest of the coaching staff believe this squad can turn the corner and capture a Big 12 Conference title and advance to the Women's College World Series.
"It is a theme we came up with at the end of the year," Moore said. "We have the talent to do a lot of great things and we just wanted to come up with something the players could buy into. They understand the types of things they can accomplish and the theme just became sort of a rallying cry for the team during the off-season. They have really caught on and all realize this season is a great opportunity to accomplish some things that have never been done before at Baylor."
If the fall season is any indication, Baylor may be prepared to take the next step on the field. For the first time in school history, the Lady Bears went undefeated throughout fall practice and gave Moore a good idea of what this team is capable of in the spring.
"We had a great fall," Moore said. "I was really surprised at how mature this team was even with the number of newcomers we had to the program. Throughout the fall, the team was consistent and everybody did a great job of making sure each practice we had throughout the fall season was productive."
One explanation for the consistent play of everyone during the fall; and, a key reason as to why Moore believes this year's squad could possibly go down as the best in school history, is the role the returning players have taken in helping bring along some of the newcomers.
"Each returning player was assigned to take a newcomer under their wing at the start of the year," Moore said. "The returning players bought into the concept and I really think it helped build some strong team chemistry. Without a doubt, the leadership role they took at the start of the year could go a long way in determining how we finish the season."
With so many positives coming out of the fall season, it is easy to see why Moore and the Lady Bears are so positive about the upcoming year. Toss in the fact Baylor, on paper, appears to be more stable at every position than a year ago and it is no wonder the Lady Bears are excited about the 2007 campaign.
"We are extremely excited," Moore said. "We have a lot of young players; but, for the most part, everybody is playing at their natural position. We had to patchwork a lot of positions a year ago; but, this season, we have more stability at every position and that has everyone thinking this team can accomplish a lot of great things this year."
Although the future for the 2007 season looks bright, Moore recognizes it will take a focused effort by everyone on the team in order to accomplish the goals of capturing a Big 12 Conference title and advancing to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.
"We have to make sure we take it one day at a time," Moore said. "We focused a lot of our time talking about regret. I think the team recognizes the talent we have in place and they want to make sure they do not look back on this season and possibly regret some of the opportunities they might have passed up. I think this has the team extremely focused and ready to take the program to the next level."
It is the kind of approach, if Moore and the Lady Bears have their way, which might point toward the clock ticking down to a date at the Women's College World Series for the first time in school history.
Heading into the 2007 season, Baylor's pitching staff is one of the most experienced in the Big 12 Conference as the Lady Bears' top three hurlers return from a year ago to lead the team in the circle. Toss in one of the nation's most highly sought after recruits and Baylor has one of the Big 12's deepest and most talented staffs in the heading into the year.
With a deep staff heading into the 2007 season, Moore knows each one will play a key role in determining how the season will play out.
"We have a tremendous amount of depth in the circle," Moore said. "Although we do not have a sure-fire ace who is capable of shutting an opposing team entirely down such as Cat (Osterman) was able to do at Texas, we do have four pitchers who are capable of going out and beating anybody in the country on any given day."
The role of staff ace will go to senior Lisa Ferguson heading into the 2007 season. The most consistent pitcher on the staff last year, Ferguson earned second-team All-Big 12 Conference and second-team NFCA All-Midwest region honors a year ago after finishing 20-15 with a 1.96 ERA while facing some of the nation's toughest competition.
Ferguson tossed 23 complete games, including a one-hit victory at No. 15 Texas A&M, and recovered from a shoulder injury that plagued her throughout her sophomore season. For the season, the right-handed hurler tossed nine shutouts to rank fourth in the conference.
"We are expecting big things from Lisa (Ferguson) this season," Moore said. "Although she had to carry a majority of the load, she should be able to stay fresh throughout this season with the amount of depth we have. She is a consistent pitcher and is extremely focused and hungry as she heads into her final year."
Although Ferguson had to toss 221.1 innings last year, it is not likely the senior will have to duplicate the feat in 2007. The reason is due in large part to three talented pitchers backing up Ferguson in the circle. Ashley Monceaux and Brittany Turner return from a year to go along with newcomer Kirsten Shortridge, the 2006 Gatorade National Player of the Year.
Monceaux and Shortridge are penciled in to share the No. 2 spot heading into the 2007 season, although Turner will also see a significant amount of innings during the year.
Last season, Monceaux finished with a record of 5-3 and a 2.99 ERA in 22 appearances and 72.2 innings of work. However, if the final 30 games are any indication, Monceaux will be a force to be reckoned with in 2007. Over the final 30 games in 2006, Monceaux led the team with a 3-0 record and 1.55 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .178 batting average.
"Ashley (Monceaux) has the talent to be one of the best pitchers on the staff," Moore said. "She grew more confident as the season went on and I believe she is going to have a great year. If all goes well, she is capable of being one of the most dominant pitchers in the league."
Shortridge enters Baylor as the most decorated recruit in school history. The two-time Texas Gatorade Player of the Year in high school, Shortridge finished her stellar prep career with a 112-11 record with 86 career shutouts, the second highest total in national high school history while leading her team to the state title and national No. 1 ranking as a junior. Throughout her career, Shortridge struck out 1,544 batters (No. 9 all-time) and recorded more no-hitters (28) during her career than runs surrendered (22).
"Clearly, Kirsten (Shortridge) is one of the most naturally gifted athletes I have ever seen," Moore said. "Throughout the fall, she was one of those players who were at their best against the best competition. She will play a huge roll this season and should accomplish some great things for Baylor in the future."
Shortridge is also solid at the plate as the incoming freshman hit .523 with 47 runs and 27 RBI as a senior.
Out of all the pitchers on the Baylor staff, perhaps the one who had the most successful fall season is Turner. The sophomore returns after tossing only 44.0 innings last season; however, she provided glimpses in the fall about what the future may hold for the right-hander. Turner finished with a 5-4 record and combined with Monceaux for a no-hitter against Northwestern State.
This season, Turner will likely see more time in the circle after improving her control and velocity throughout the fall.
"Brittany (Turner) probably had the most successful fall of any pitcher," Moore said. "She did not pitch the way she wanted to last season; but, she turned it around and had a great fall. She has a great work ethic and is just as capable as anybody on the staff of going out and shutting down almost anyone in the country. We are expecting good things from her this season."
Although catcher was one of the big question marks for Baylor heading into the 2006 season, it is certainly not a question heading into 2007 as one of the most decorated players in program history returns for her senior season.
After playing the position for the first time since high school as a junior, Chelsi Lake returns for her final season with a year at the collegiate level under her belt and ready to make an impact as she closes out her Baylor career.
Lake hopes to duplicate and build upon her junior year when she led the team with a .362 average and belted a school record 18 home runs. The numbers were recognized by those who vote for postseason honors as Lake earned third-team NFCA All-America honors while being named to the first-team All-Big 12 Conference and NFCA All-Midwest Region squads.
"Chelsi (Lake) showed great improvement throughout the season on the defensive side of the ball," Moore said. "At the time, we thought the switch to catcher would be only a one year thing. However, Chelsi showed what a competitor she is by the way she was able to adjust. We all know what she can do offensively; but, this season, we are expecting some great things from her defensively as well."
Although Lake was without a primary back-up at the position a year ago, Courtney Oberg joins the squad to provide some depth at the position. Oberg joins Baylor after a standout career at A&M Consolidated. As a senior, Oberg hit .468 with three home runs and 35 RBI as she earned first-team all-state honors.
"Courtney (Oberg) will rotate some with Chelsi throughout the year," Moore said. "She is an extremely talented player who should provide the team with some stability at the position."
When Monceaux is not in the circle, the senior makes her living at first base where the right-hander excelled a year ago. After earning first-team All-Big 12 Conference honors a year ago, one of the most talented defensive first basemen in school history returns for her final season.
A transfer from Pima (Ariz.) Community College in 2006, Monceaux hit .336 with eight home runs and 29 RBI last season. In addition, the left-handed hitter ranked second on the team with 11 doubles and finished the season with a .425 on base percentage, the third-highest on the team.
As good as she is at the plate, the senior is even better in the field as the mobile senior made only three errors in 281 chances for a team-leading .989 fielding percentage.
"Ashley (Monceaux) is one of the best in the country at the position," Moore said. "I have never really seen anything like her and we are excited about having her back for one more season at first. She should do some great things for the program this season."
Although Monceaux will see a majority of the time at the position, a number of players could fill in at the spot when she is in the circle, including Oberg or Lake who both have extensive experience at the position.
With the departure of Kylie Conroy from last year's squad, second base is one of four positions that will likely be filled by a newcomer to the Baylor softball program. With Conroy gone, the role of second base will likely fall in the hands of Maritza Martinez, a junior college transfer out of Midland (Texas) College.
An extremely gifted defensive player, Martinez hit .370 with 54 runs and 21 stolen bases as the sophomore earned 2006 All-WJCC honors. Although more than capable at the plate, her ability to excel in the field is where she is expected to make a significant impact during the upcoming season.
"Maritza (Martinez) is one of the most gifted defensive players I have ever come across," Moore said. "Second base is one of the most difficult positions to play in the game of softball and she is able to make it look easy out there sometimes. A player has to anticipate a lot of things and Maritza is one of the most instinctive players I have ever seen at the position."
Backing up Martinez at the position is sophomore Alex Colyer. Last season, Colyer batted .286 while serving as a utility player. A gifted defensive player who can play a number of positions, Colyer will likely see time at second base as well as other positions throughout the year.
"Alex (Colyer) prepared extremely hard throughout the off-season for the upcoming year," Moore said. "She is a versatile player who is able to contribute to the team in a number of ways. She should do some good things for the team this season."
With the departure of former NFCA All-America selection Harmony Schwethelm, shortstop is another position which will be handled by a newcomer throughout the year. A freshman from Waco, Texas, Kelsey Sage will likely be the one who sees a majority of the time at short during the 2007 season.
After an outstanding career at Midway High School, Sage becomes the latest in a long line of family members to wear the green and gold. Sage, whose parents attended Baylor, is the granddaughter of Cotton Davidson, a former Baylor and NFL quarterback who is now a member of the Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame.
The competitiveness of the Sage family can be seen in the numbers the infielder posted throughout her high school career as the right-handed hitter hit .501 with 52 doubles and 108 RBI while lettering for four seasons. A first-team NFCA South Central Region selection in high school, Moore has no doubts Sage can come in and fill the position left by Schwethelm.
"Kelsey (Sage) is a tremendous competitor," Moore said. "She has a strong arm and is a blue-collar worker. Although she needs to get adjusted to the college game from a defensive standpoint, she has gone a long way in a short amount of time in the fall toward becoming a top-notch shortstop. She should have an extremely successful season and career."
A number of players can step-in should Sage be unable to go at the position, including Martinez, Shortridge and Colyer.
Sophomore Brette Reagan returns for her sophomore season for what is likely to be another solid year at the hot corner for the Baylor softball team. Last season, Reagan became the first player in school history to earn a conference player of the year award as the freshman was named Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year while earning second-team NFCA All-America honors.
"She had a great season last year and it is great to have her back at full strength after she was injured at the end of last year," Moore said. "She is kind of unorthodox in her approach at third; but, with a talent like her, she just does her own thing out there and is extremely good at it. She fits in well with this team and we expect her to have another great year."
If her freshman season is any indication, then Reagan is in for a long and storied career at Baylor. The third baseman ranked second on the team with a .355 batting average while hitting 12 home runs and recording 44 RBI. She led the team with 32 walks and a .463 on base percentage on her way to All-Big 12 Conference honors.
Although the most inexperienced position heading into the 2007 season, the Baylor outfield will be loaded with speed. Despite the loss of the leadership provided by Kelly Osburn, the Lady Bears return their starting center fielder as well as bring in a pair of speedsters in left and right field.
Miriam Romero returns for her senior season to anchor the outfield in center. After hitting .267 and leading the team with 23 stolen bases, Romero looks to build on her junior campaign. After making several spectacular plays in the outfield a year ago, Moore believes she will provide some stability in the outfield.
"Miriam (Romero) is a phenomenal defensive outfielder because she can read the ball immediately when it leaves the bat," Moore said. "This fall, she showed great improvement on the offensive side of the ball as well and should have a great year."
With Romero in center, left and right field will be manned by a pair of incoming twins. Nicole and Tiffany Wesley arrive at Baylor and will likely start alongside Romero in the outfield once the season begins.
Graduates of Parkview Baptist High School in Baton Rouge, La., the Wesley twins come to Baylor after earning numerous accolades and honors throughout their high school careers. Both were named to numerous all-state teams as the pair helped lead Parkview Baptist to the state title their junior season.
As a senior, T. Wesley hit .500 while earning all-state honors as N. Wesley hit .494 with 49 runs and 20 RBI during her final season at Parkview Baptist. As the twins head into their first season at Baylor, N. Wesley will see a majority of the time in right field while T. Wesley will start in left field.
"Nicole (Wesley) is more of a true outfielder and has the capability of being a power slapper," Moore said. "Tiffany (Wesley) has not played a lot of outfield; however, she showed a tremendous amount of ability during the fall season. Regardless, they are two of the fastest players to ever come through the program and they will form one of the fastest tandems in the Big 12 Conference."
Providing depth in the outfield will be Jordan Daniels and Danielle Honnette. Daniels, who is out indefinitely at the start of the 2007 season due to an injury, hit .254 for the Lady Bears last season while starting in 37 games as a sophomore.
Honnette, a walk-on from Jackson, Minn., comes to Baylor after an outstanding career at Jackson Country Central High School. Last season, she was an all-state selection after helping lead her team to state titles during her junior and senior years.
"If she is able to return during the year, Jordan (Daniels) should provide the outfield with some depth during the season," Moore said. "Danielle (Honnette) is a competitor and will provide the team with some speed of the bench during her freshman season and could see some time in the field as well."