Lions Open Up Season This Weekend

Lisa Abbott and the Lions hope that weather does not interfere with their opening weekend of play.
Lisa Abbott and the Lions hope that weather does not interfere with their opening weekend of play.

Feb. 17, 2005

Briefly: The LMU softball team will open its season this weekend at the Commercial Capital Invitational, hosted by UC Santa Barbara. Weather permitting, the Lions open up on Friday morning against Southwest Missouri State at 11:30am at Girsh Park.

Also in the six team field is host UC Santa Barbara, BYU, Cal Poly and Drexel. LMU's game schedule is below:

Friday, February 18th
11:30am - LMU vs. Southwest Missouri State (Girsh Park)
2:00pm - LMU at UCSB (UCSB Field)

Saturday, February 19th
11:30am - LMU vs. BYU (Girsh Park)
2:00pm - LMU vs. Cal Poly (Girsh Park)

Sunday, February 20th
11:30am - LMU vs. Drexel (UCSB Field)

Season Outlook:

As the best offensive team in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference last season, the Loyola Marymount University softball team had no problem scoring runs. The Lions had the second highest batting average in the nation, and their 5.83 runs per game was sixth in the nation. The Lions finished second in the PCSC last season with a 33-13 overall record, and lose just two starters from last year's team.

Senior third baseman Danielle Kaminaka, the 2004 PCSC Player of the Year, headlines the talented returners who are ready to take the Lions to the postseason. The 2005 LMU senior class includes some of the most talented players in LMU history, and is ready to make more history in 2005.

"Our strength is our veteran senior class. We lose two great players in Sami Strinz and Trisha Gomes, but I am confident that our strong hitting combined with much improved pitching will allow us to overcome those losses," said LMU head coach Gary Ferrin.

In 2005, the stakes in the PCSC are higher. Now in the third year of existence, the PCSC earned an automatic qualifier for NCAA postseason play, and the Lions are ready to grab that bid. Picked to finish first in the preseason coaches' poll, LMU has the talent and the experience to be the first team to represent the PCSC in the NCAA tournament.

LMU's stellar infield is where you will find the most experience on the field. Kaminaka enters her fourth year as a starter at third base. Already LMU's career home run leader, Kaminaka has established herself as one of the most prolific hitters in the country. Her .888 slugging percentage in 2004 led the nation, and she ranked in the top-25 in the NCAA in seven different categories. She led the team in almost every offensive category over the last two seasons. Defensively, she is also a stalwart at the hot corner, recording a .957 fielding percentage last season.

"There is not a third baseman in the country that is better than Danielle. She is an All-American caliber athlete," said Ferrin.

Senior co-captain Emily Foltz will begin her fourth season as a full-time starter at first base. The 2004 second-team All-PCSC selection hit .293 last season with eight home runs. Caylin Hornish will be behind the dish for the second season. The senior led the PCSC in hits during conference games en route to earning first-team All-PCSC accolades. "We need Caylin to have a career year. If she stays focused, she has unlimited potential," said Ferrin.

Brittany Bassett will return to the shortstop position after missing the final 28 games of the season due to injury. The PCSC Freshman of the Year in 2003, Bassett hit .333 in the first 18 games of the season, and will be back to full strength in 2005. "Brittany is critical to our hope for success this season. Losing her hurt us last season because she does so much for our defense," said Ferrin. Rounding out the infield, senior Casie Phillips and sophomore Margo Pineda will share time at second base. Phillips will remain as the starter, having started 43 games last season, hitting .279 with five home runs. Pineda saw action in 36 games last season, mostly as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.

"Casie is our starting second baseman, and is a strong clutch hitter. Margo will challenge her for playing time, especially with her improved hitting," Ferrin said.

The Lions return experience and talent to the outfield in 2005. Lisa Abbott ranked in the top five in the conference in seven offensive categories and will start in left field for the fourth year. A first-team All-PCSC selection in 2004, Abbott has recorded 15 career home runs, including nine last season. The strong all-around athlete will return to the leadoff spot.

Jessica Grassi moves from shortstop back to center field. A first-team All-PCSC selection in 2003 at center field, Grassi played the final 28 games of 2004 at shortstop, and hit .279. She led the team with four triples, and also recorded three home runs. "Having Jessica return to center field will strongly bolster our defense in the outfield. She is a great center fielder," said Ferrin.

Senior Tiffany Lawson has secured the starting right field job. She played in 39 games last season and recorded a .279 batting average. A strong defensive player, Lawson solidifies an experienced outfield. Sophomore Kirsten Whitt is coming off of an injury and could challenge any of the outfielders when she returns. The 5'10" outfielder made just one error in the field last season, and hit .267 with three home runs.

Freshmen Tracy Cook and Kayla Meeks will find their way into the lineup, as both are talented hitters and pitchers. Cook has tremendous power, and Meeks has improved enormously since arriving at LMU.

Senior Lauren Hiramoto plays an important role as a pinch runner, and will be the difference in close games. Megan Julian is a true utility player, and is capable of playing at any position on the field. Ashley Doolittle adds depth to the outfield.

The Lions return their top two pitchers from a year ago, and add a talented crop of newcomers to create a much improved pitching staff. Junior Krystal Kehr is recovered from injuries that hindered her last season, and has returned to her freshman year form. "Krystal has made a remarkable comeback, and will be our opening day starter," said Ferrin.

Joining Kehr is talented newcomer Tiffany Pagano. She is an outstanding pitcher that will contribute immediately. Junior Samantha Lavino has changed her pitching style due to injuries, but the Lions are hoping that she will use her competitive spirit to contribute as she refines her game. Cook and Meeks could also see time in the circle.

To prepare for their run for the PCSC championship, the Lions are playing the toughest schedule in school history. In addition to facing powerhouses like California, Texas and Long Beach State in early tournaments, the Lions will play 16 games against teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament a year ago.




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