PHILDELPHIA – The Penn softball team is opening their season this week at the Rebel Spring Games in Orlando, Fla. They will play ten games before they return to Philadelphia to open their home season.
Some things to think about as the Quakers look forward to their 2007 season…
•Last season, the team went 18-26, tying an all-time record for wins at Penn.
•The team led the Ivy League in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, doubles, triples, walks and RBI’s.
•Three players, junior Christina Khosravi, junior Annie Kinsey and senior Stephanie Reichert broke the team records for hits, runs scored, and RBIs.
•Reichert also broke her own doubles record with 13.
•Khosravi and Kinsey tied the home run record of five, while Khosravi’s batting average of .407 was good for fourth all-time, and Kinsey’s average of .393 was good for seventh all-time.
•During the 2006 season, the team’s batting average went up 37 points, to .298, and the slugging percentage improved 90 points, to .424.
•The team had 99 more hits, 19 more doubles, three more triples, 18 more home runs and 178 more total bases then the previous season.
•The team also shattered almost every existing offensive statistic: Most Runs Scored:188, Most Hits: 363, Most Doubles: 59, Most Homeruns: 26, Most RBI’s: 169, Most Total Bases: 516, Highest On-Base Percentage: .358 and Highest Slugging Percentage: .424.
•The Quakers are returning eight starters this year, including the Ivy League Player of the Year, Khosravi, and five other All-Ivy selections: Kinsey, Brandi King, Kaelin Ainley, Reichert, and Julia Cheney. Kinsey, Khosravi and Reichert were also named NFCA All-Region.
Quoting Coach Leslie King
What does your team’s depth look like this season?
“We are carrying 18 athletes, and have depth at every position. The main difference this year will be the added speed of freshman outfielder Keiko Uraguchi, and the depth of our pitching staff. We are carrying a staff of six pitchers this year: Erin Boyle, Emily Denstedt, Casey Hare, Olivia Mauro, Susan Miller and Justine Wilson. The addition of Erin and Susan gives us two lefty pitchers, which we have not had in my time here at Penn. Justine is a freshman with a ton of potential. We now can show some different ‘looks’ to other teams.”
What are your team’s strengths this year?
“Our strength will definitely be our offense; we have our entire line-up back from last year. Those players should be even more experienced and capable this season. The addition of some speed to our line-up will give us the ability to run a bit more than we have. That should be exciting for everyone involved. From a defensive standpoint, we looked very good in the fall. We made a lot of good plays in the outfield, and the infield was very solid. We turned more double plays this fall than I think we turned all last season! There is a cohesiveness that comes with playing together for a few years that is very evident in this squad.”
How are you going to follow up your record-breaking 2006 season?
“I expect my athletes to continue to improve as they progress through their four years at Penn. We broke every offensive record last year, but these athletes get stronger, smarter and technically better each season. I haven’t lost anyone from last year, so I expect that we will break a few more records this year!”
What did your team take away from last season?
“This team knows it can score runs and can hit just about any pitcher – they are very confident in their ability to hit. What we need to do is contain the opposition’s scoring to give ourselves a chance to win each and every game. I believe our pitchers came away from last season understanding that much better. We scored a lot of runs late in games to come back and win, and that was huge for us – to know we can come back from behind. I think we also learned a lot about not letting a team back into a game – being a little more ruthless when we do get ahead, and not sitting back. We also learned a great deal about mental toughness and determination our last weekend of the year last season, when, on the road, we took 3-of-4 games from Dartmouth and Harvard the weekend before beginning final exams. That was huge for us.”
What are your expectations for this season?
“I expect this program to have its first winning season in 26 years! The three seasons I have had here have been a steep and sometimes bumpy climb, but I believe with the senior-heavy team we have, that their determination and leadership will take this team far. I am so proud of this group of ten seniors, and how they have stuck it out for four years and are ready to lead this team. I believe this season will set the tone for future teams. 26 years is a long time, and the habits and beliefs take some time to change. I know this team is ready to win and expects to win. I believe we can take the League title. Why not us?”
Talk about your lineup
“I have so many options available to me offensively. I have four of the best hitters in the League. My goal in the early season games is to find a line-up to best utilize them and protect them. A lot of teams will pitch around Christina Khosravi (the 2006 Ivy Player of the Year), but we have Annie Kinsey, Steph Reichert and Julia Cheney that they will have to contend with. I have the one of the best sacrifice bunters in the country in Teresa Leyden to move runners. I have solid bats in Kaelin Ainley, Melissa Haffner and Brandi King that will do plenty of damage. The most exciting part of this year’s lineup will be the returning speed of Susan McIlvaine and Anna Puglisi, as well as Uraguchi. I definitely want to inject more speed into the lineup so we can run more and do more fun things offensively.”
Talk about your defense
“We return our entire starting lineup, so we should only get better. Our entire infield was All-Ivy last season. Christina Khosravi and Annie Kinsey will continue to anchor the middle of the infield. We return Julia Cheney at third base and Brandi King at catcher. One of the most exciting things to come from fall ball was the defensive play of Addy Crocker at shortstop. She was phenomenal, and brings a lot of personality to the infield. Kaelin Ainley is a tremendous athlete behind the plate and gives us that option if needed. Freshman Cristina Mullins also can play the infield, as can Anna Puglisi. We have the flexibility and athleticism to accommodate whatever batting order we put out there.
“In the outfield, we return starters Teresa Leyden, Kaelin Ainley and Melissa Haffner. They will be challenged by returners Susan McIlvaine and Anna Puglisi, as well as freshman Keiko Uraguchi. With the outfield particularly, whoever gives us the most offense will play.”
Talk about your pitchers
“We have a deep staff of six pitchers. I expect Emily Denstedt to be one of starters along with either Olivia Mauro or Justine Wilson. Emily got better and better as a freshman last season, and with that experience under her belt, she should come back stronger this year. Olivia is in her senior year and wants to go out on a high note. She works very hard and is great at pitching around hitters and to our defense. Justine is a freshman with very sound technical ability – she knows how to throw all the pitches. We expect her to come on board and learn a lot this season. Erin Boyle and Susan Miller are both left handed pitchers we plan to use in middle relief. Having the ability to mix up righties and lefties will be a nice option for us. Casey Hare will be the pitcher we call on to get us out of jams – she is very composed on the mound and handles pressure very well.”
What does this year’s freshman class look like?
“We have three freshmen this year. Keiko Uraguchi is a freshman outfielder from California. She has outstanding speed and gives us a lefty slapper at the plate. We are working hard at her becoming a triple threat to slap, bunt or hit away – and she is looking very good. She covers a lot of ground in the outfield and has outstanding fundamentals out there. Susan Miller is a LHP/1B from Maryland. She comes to Penn Softball in her sister Erica’s footsteps. While Susan plays a very good first base, we are looking at her primarily as pitcher this season to give us the depth and the left hand arm. She is a strong athlete that has shown terrific improvement since she arrived on campus. Justine Wilson is a RHP from New York. She has all the tools now to impact our staff and the potential to get stronger and smarter as she learns college softball. She is also an outstanding fielding pitcher. She is one of our best athletes and has a big future in front of her.”
What does having ten seniors on your roster mean for the team in 2007?
“To have ten dedicated seniors leading your team on and off the field is huge. They have been loyal to me and the team for four years, and that has been absolutely invaluable to the rebuilding of this program. The future successes that await Penn Softball will be due to the solid foundation these 11 young women laid down. They want to win so badly and want this season to be a memorable one; they have put in hours and hours of conditioning and skill work to make that happen. They are leading by example and inculcating the younger players about what it takes to be successful and to win. As an added bonus, they are all wonderful people!”
How tough is your schedule this year?
“I think our schedule has nice balance. We face some strong teams down in Florida over spring break that will give us a tough challenge, as well as teams we should beat. Both Lehigh and Maine went to the NCAA Tournament last year, and Western Carolina won over 40 games - we will see all three of them in Orlando. When we return, we’ll face strong local opposition in Delaware, St Joseph’s, Villanova, Lafayette and Lehigh. It is a schedule against some solid teams that will prepare us well for the Ivy games.”
What does the Ivy League look like this year?
“The Ivy League has adopted the same league format as baseball beginning this season. There will be two divisions, one with Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale; the other with Columbia, Cornell, Penn and Princeton. We play the teams in our division four times and the other division twice. The winner of each division will have a playoff at the end of the season to determine who goes the NCAA Championships. If you go by recent history, we are definitely in the tougher group. Princeton has been a perennial powerhouse along with Cornell. Princeton has graduated its dominant pitcher of the last four years, so the Tigers might not be the force they have been in the past. Cornell is always solid and Columbia plays a fast pressure style of play that can be tough to beat. In the other division, I think it will be between Yale and Harvard. It will be a tight league this year with a lot of parity – I believe there are six teams that could possibly win it. It will be about playing well on the day, and coming up with clutch performances when your chances come. The team that comes up clutch consistently will win the League.”