New Season, New Talent, New Hope

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Author: Josh Throckmorton

The recipe for creating a SCIAC softball powerhouse is a tricky one, but members of the 2009 Occidental Softball team believe they have the right ingredients. A core of talented, young players? Check. A group of upper-class anchors to lead the team? Got that. A strong pitching staff? Yep. An explosive offense? Also present.

“Last year was a transition year,” team captain Gabby Chavez (sophomore) said. “We had a new coach and new recruits. We expected a lot more and it didn’t really happen.”

This year figures to be different for the Tigers. With eight returning players and seven new faces in the lineup, Oxy is poised to move up the SCIAC standings in 2009. Along with Chavez, the Tigers are bringing back six starters, including co-captains Alyssa Escalante (junior), Olympia Powell (sophomore), and Alyssa Smith (junior). Last season, Escalante paced Oxy in average (.340), runs batted in (14), total bases (47), and slugging percentage (.485), all while posting a solid fielding percentage (.901). Behind the plate, Powell made an immediate impact in her first year with the team, posting a perfect fielding percentage in centerfield, while Smith finished second on the team with a .356 on base percentage in 2008.

While last year’s standouts look to improve on last years record, a lot of the pressure will be placed on the shoulders of some of the teams newcomers. First-year flamethrower Shanna Yackel will step in immediately for the Tigers on the mound, serving as the team’s ace. “She’s got good movement, and good speed,” Chavez said of Yackel. “She’s going to be good.” Filling out the Oxy rotation will be other first years, Kimi Elguea and Vanessa Hernandez.

On offense, first year Tasha Serna-Gallegos will play an important role in the Tiger lineup, while first year Nicole Hannasch is slated to see significant time in the Oxy outfield. “[Nicole] is a good athlete,” Chavez said. “She can hit the ball hard, has a good arm, good range, and she just knows the game.”

Whether the 2009 team can mix the ingredients together in the right way to produce a winner is yet to be seen. But for now, Chavez likes the results. “Everyone in [batting practice] kills the ball,” she said. “I don’t get any action at [short-stop] because everything is in the outfield.”

And it’s not just in the batters box that the 2009 Tigers excel. “Our pitching is better and our defense is good,” Chavez said. “We’re definitely moving up in the ranks.”

Oxy softball will open their season on Saturday, February 7 against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at noon on Bell field. They will play 25 of their 37 scheduled games at home this spring.

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