Lady Eagles take depth, focus into 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Posted by: Katy Watson
Click here to watch a video interview with Coach Tom Heath previewing the 2009 season.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (Feb. 19, 2009) – The Oklahoma Christian University softball team opens its 2009 schedule Friday at home against Oklahoma City University looking to build on its best season in five years.
NAIA All-America shortstop Tracy Washam, first-team All-Sooner Athletic Conference centerfielder Christin Dobbs and proven pitchers Linzi Farris, Caitlin Matthies and Sophia (Johnson) McKean are back in the fold. Around that core, the Lady Eagles will shoot for big things this season.
Last year saw a 22-point spike in team batting average, a jump in run production of 82, and an 0.71 runs-per-game improvement in team ERA. Those factors and more resulted in a 10-win improvement from 2007.
To continue the upward trend, OC will need more of the same from the experienced players on this year's squad.
Washam and Dobbs were the Lady Eagles' offensive leaders last season. Washam batted .391 with 48 RBIs and 21 extra-base hits. The Edmond, Okla., product continued her steady play at shortstop with a .943 fielding percentage. She became just the fourth Lady Eagle to earn first-team All-America honors.
Dobbs came to OC from NCAA Division II Central Oklahoma and didn't skip a beat. She led the team with a .418 average on 82 hits. The Oklahoma City native was a run-scoring machine, touching home 60 times and getting on base at a .455 clip. A rangy outfielder with good arm strength, Dobbs anchored the Lady Eagle outfield with 86 putouts and just two errors.
Pitching was perhaps the biggest reason for OC's turnaround in 2008. Both Farris (12-10) and Matthies (12-6) were consistent performers who proved they could consistently record outs.
Farris – now a senior – had her best collegiate season last year. She struck out a team-high 100 batters and led the squad with 148.2 innings pitched. The lefty from Edmond, Okla., also posted a career-low 3.53 ERA.
Matthies baffled opposing hitters after coming in under the radar as a true freshman last season. She recorded three shutouts with a team-low 2.84 ERA. A right-hander from Littleton, Colo., Matthies beat eventual national champion Lubbock Christian (Texas) 2-1 with a three-hitter.
More pitching depth comes from McKean (Longmont, Colo.), who went 5-9 last year with a 3.63 ERA in 79 innings. The junior – an experienced player with 224 career innings pitched – hurled a no-hitter against York (Neb.) last year. She struck out 25 and allowed just one home run.
First base will be in good hands with senior Casey Brady (Norman, Okla.), who was third on the team with a .330 average last year. She swatted three home runs and drove in 59 runs.
Another secure position is catcher, where sophomore Amy Urbanovsky (China Spring, Texas) played well last year as a redshirt freshman. Urbanovsky batted .286 with four home runs while platooning between catcher and designated hitter.
Joining Dobbs in the outfield will be sophomore Deidre Chatigny (Cherry Valley, Calif.) and junior Tiffany Sherman (Billings, Mont.). Chatigny displayed outstanding speed in right field while batting .234 with a home run. Sherman, who spent most of her time in left, hit .230 with 16 RBIs.
Sophomore Brittany Rice (Denison, Texas) is capable of playing any outfield spot or filling in on the infield. Junior Cara Miller (Mukwonago, Wis.) is a strong backup at catcher who can pinch hit when called upon.
Heath signed five players in the offseason to bolster his already deep team. Joining the ranks in 2009 are freshmen Ashley Noles (Broken Arrow, Okla.) and Kayla Jennings (Ft. Worth, Texas) and transfers Amber Canady (Tulsa/Carl Albert JC) and Leigh Leonard (Benton, Ky./Southeast Missouri State).
Leonard was 1-0 in five appearances for NCAA Division I Southeast Missouri State last year. She went 14-3 with a 1.20 ERA as a senior at Marshall County High School (Ky.). Leonard projects to contribute right away in the circle.
Canady played multiple positions at Carl Albert (Okla.), where she was named a NJCAA All-Region II performer. A 2006 Berryhill High School graduate, Canady was an all-stater in her prep career.
Noles was a three-time all-conference pick at Tulsa Union High School while Jennings earned Texas District 6-4A Defensive Player of the Year honors at Brewer High School.
Between Canady, Jennings and Noles, the Lady Eagles should be able to fill the gaps left by the graduation of second baseman Alyssa Hejl and third baseman Rachel Smith.