2006 Softball Preview

Feb. 8, 2006

ORLANDO, Fla. - The 2006 UCF softball team is ready to make a run at its first Conference USA title. After winning the 2005 Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship in its final season in the league and receiving the program's first NCAA Tournament bid, the Golden Knights return four starters, while adding 13 newcomers to the roster.

Of the returnees, junior Cici Alvarez is the only one who saw significant playing time in the infield. The Pembroke Pines, Fla. native was the starting third baseman for the Golden Knights in 44 of the 77 games played during the 2005 season. Alvarez is in the UCF record books after just two seasons with the team, ranking first in sacrifice bunts (50), third in stolen bases (42) and fourth in assists (147) to name a few.

Joining Alvarez in the infield is junior Amber Lamb, who will see playing time at shortstop. She played in the outfield for UCF in 2005 where she maintained a .930 fielding percentage. Lamb led the Golden Knights with four sacrifice flies last season.

At second base, sophomores Ashley Van Ryn and Jennifer Tomasetti will split time. Van Ryn, who was used primarily as a pinch hitter last season, saw action in 29 games, while Tomasetti was a pitcher. Tomasetti finished the 2005 season with a 4-3 record on the mound and a 4.34 ERA. Rounding out the infield will be freshman Breanne Javier. The Castaic, Calif. native will play first base for the Golden Knights.

"The chemistry of the infielders shows great promise with Cici Alvarez as the anchor at third base," said head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie.

Anchoring the outfield will be junior veteran Kacie Feaster. Feaster was the starting right fielder for the Golden Knights in 2005, while picking up a few games in the infield as well. She maintained a .979 fielding percentage on 235 chances with 208 putouts.

Joining Feaster in the outfield are juniors Nicole Balogh and Brittany Walters and freshmen Lauren Martin, Michelle Newton, Kaliela Sprague and Heather Younger. Balogh was used as a pinch runner in most of UCF's games last season, while also picking up some playing time in the field. Walters is a transfer from Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Fla. where was named First-Team All-American by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) in 2005. Martin, a native of Jacksonville, was named first-team all-area and All-Gateway Conference during her high school career. Newton, Sprague and Younger were walk-ons in the fall and will see playing time in the outfield for the Golden Knights.

"I'm excited to find a permanent home for Kacie Feaster after her strong showing as a utility player," said Gillispie. "Feaster provides the essential leadership in a young outfield."

The pitching staff boasts four newcomers and one returnee. Sophomore Ashley Baker finished the 2005 season with a 5-6 record and recorded one save.

Joining Baker on the mound are sophomore transfer Allison Kime and freshmen Lexi Gresham, Magon Paul and Heather Colson.

Kime spent the 2005 season at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon, Fla. where she was named First-Team All-American by the NJCAA. She led the nation with 350 strikeouts and a 34-8 record.

Gresham, a Fresno, Calif. native, was named First-Team All-Valley and defensive player, offensive player and pitcher of the year during her four years of high school. Paul joins the pitching staff after leading her high school team to the Virginia state 3A quarterfinals in 2003. She was also named pitcher of the year and first team all-region during her stellar high school career.

Colson was a four year letterwinner at First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Fla., where she was named all-conference in 2004.

"I am very excited about the depth of our pitching staff this year," said Gillispie. "The diversity of the staff provides us the opportunities to give many different looks for Conference USA opponents."

Behind the plate will be sophomore catcher Cat Snapp, who started all 77 games in 2005. Snapp had the second-highest number of putouts (353) on the team.

Joining Snapp will be redshirt freshman Shelly Frick and freshmen Laura Dailey and Lindsay Dean. Frick received a medical redshirt last season after playing in nine games with one start. Dailey, a Lakeland, Fla. native, is familiar with the pitching style of Kime. Dailey and Kime have played summer ball for the Tampa Mustangs for the last few years. Dean graduated from Mandarin High School in Jacksonville where she was named Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) 6A Player of the Year.

"Cat Snapp brings the returning experience behind the plate and our newcomers allows us to keep our players fresh for the three-game Conference USA series," said Gillispie.

The Golden Knights play another challenging schedule in 2006, including 11 teams that participated in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. UCF opens with the Triple Crown Tournament in St. Augustine, Fla. where the squad takes on Texas Tech and Southern Illinois.

After the first tournament, the Golden Knights welcome Bethune-Cookman to town for a mid-week doubleheader. Following the mid-week series, the team travels to DeLand, Fla. to participate in back-to-back tournaments hosted by Stetson.

UCF hosts one tournament at Merrill Park in Altamonte Springs before heading to California for the Fresno State Bulldog Tournament.

The Golden Knights make their Conference USA debut against Tulsa in mid-March, followed by Marshall and Houston to round out the month.

In April, the squad will face new opponents such as Southern Miss, UAB, Memphis and UTEP, as well as familiar foes in USF, Florida and Jacksonville. During the first week in May, Florida State and East Carolina will make the trip to Orlando. The C-USA Tournament will be held at Tulsa May 10-13.

"The strength of the four tournaments in the beginning of the season will help to prepare us for a competitive Conference USA schedule," said Gillispie.