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2001 Softball preview capsules

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, JOANNE KORTH and BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 2, 2001


South Florida

2000 RECORD: 41-32.

C-USA RECORD: 11-7, third.

COACH: Ken Eriksen (192-86, fifth season).

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jessica Kowal, P, Sr. (22-11, 135 strikeouts, 1.35 ERA); Nikki Phillips, OF/C, Sr. (second-team all-conference, .317, 8 RBI, 17 runs); Renee Oursler, SS, So. (.309, 20 runs, 17 RBI, 4 HR); Ginny Georgantas, 3B, Jr. (injured last season); Jamie Peterka, P/1B, So. (first-team all-conference, 11-8, 0.99 ERA, 3 HR, 14 doubles); Courtney Lewellen, C, So. (first-team all-conference, all-conference freshman, .291, 26 RBI, 2 HR).

KEY NEWCOMERS: Cindy Turek, P, Fr., Cooper City; Shelly Riker, OF, Fr., Palmetto; Stephanie Strickland, IF, Fr., Seminole.

NOTES: USF opened last season 4-14 but finished strong with a 37-18 run. The Bulls have depth at pitcher. South Florida will carry five pitchers this season, which has Eriksen giddy with the possibilities that presents for his strategies. The return of Georgantas from an elbow injury last season is expected to be a big boost for the Bulls, who missed her aggressive style. USF will face nine Top 25 teams from last season, including national runner-up UCLA. -- Compiled by ANTONYA ENGLISH.

Florida

2000 RECORD: 46-30; third place, NCAA Region 6.

SEC RECORD: 13-14; second place, Eastern Division.

COACH: Karen Johns (first season).

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Emily Marino, C, Sr. (.333, 45 R, 60 RBI); Ashley Boone, 1B, Sr. (.296, 23 R, 37 RBI); Jenn Mossadeghi, 3B, So. (.231, 29 R, 24 RBI); Renise Landry, RHP, Sr. (21-11, 1.84 ERA, 11 SHO).

KEY NEWCOMERS: Mylin Prieto, Fr., Cooper City-St. Thomas Aquinas; Jackie Marchetta, SS, So., Boyton Beach, Florida Southern; Amanda Judd, CF, So., Cornville, Ariz., Arizona Western C.C.; Jenilee Garner, RF, Fr., Gainesville.

NOTES: The Gators start fresh this season with the hiring of Johns, a two-time All-America catcher at South Carolina in the late 1980s, whose ability to relate to players should help the program flourish. Coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, UF has three seniors -- Marino, Boone and Landry -- who will be critical during the transition. Four newcomers will be in the opening day lineup Feb. 9, two transfers and two freshmen. Prieto, at 5 feet 1, is a dynamo at second base. Judd is the only true outfielder. With one ranked team, No. 3 Arizona, on the schedule in February, the Gators have a chance to jell before the start of SEC play March 3. Four league teams are among the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25: No. 5 Alabama, No. 8 LSU, No. 18 South Carolina and No. 23 Mississippi State. The Gators were seventh among teams that received votes and were picked by SEC coaches to finish second to the Gamecocks in the Eastern Division. -- Compiled by JOANNE KORTH.

Florida State

2000 RECORD: 51-27; lost in West Region final to UCLA. Finished No. 17 in the USA Today/NFCA poll.

ACC RECORD: 8-2 (first).

COACH: JoAnne Graf (1,055-312-6, 23rd season).

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Leslie Malerich, RHP, Jr. (35-15, 1.21 ERA, 37 complete games, 16 SHO, 1 perfect game, 243 K); Jennifer White-Stokes, RHP, Sr. (13-9, 2.48 ERA, 14 complete games); Rita Brooks, CF, Sr. (.401, 54 runs, 30 RBI, 42-of-49 stolen bases, All-American); Staci Brandon, 3B, Sr. (.370, 29 runs, 25 RBI); Brandi Stuart, 2B, So. (.339, 39 runs, 36 RBI).

KEY NEWCOMERS: Jessica van der Linden, 1B/LHP/OF, Fr., Cerritos High, Cerritos Calif.; Monique Marier, OF, Jr., Clearwater High, Lake City CC.

NOTES: Last season, FSU parlayed strong pitching and defense into its best post-season run since 1993, which was the last time FSU reached the World Series. Said Graf: "It will give us confidence. We've just got to take that as something to work on and defend, not like, "Hey. We're that good, and we don't have to work hard anymore.' " The pitching again should be stellar with Malerich and White-Stokes back and with the addition of van der Linden, a member of the Puerto Rican national team at the South American Olympic Qualifier who will play 1B or OF when not pitching. Defensively, C Kimmy Carter, Stuart, SS Natalie Bennett and Brooks should again make FSU tough up the middle. A key will be how well Marier makes the transition to Division I. Said Graf: "Offensively, we've gotten some kids in who can hit the ball pretty well with power. That was probably one of our big weaknesses." Marier, a junior college transfer, led the nation in HR with 27 to earn first-team All-America honors. Said Graf: "(NCAA) Regionals is definitely a possibility for us again, and the World Series is possible, too." FSU is No. 17 in the USA Today/NFCA preseason poll.

-- Compiled by BRIAN LANDMAN.

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