1999 Season Outlook with Softball Coach Cheryl Sprangel
February 9, 1999
In just her first season as the head softball coach at the University of Virginia, Cheryl Sprangel guided the 1998 Cavaliers to the second highest win total in a single season at UVa with 38 victories. With 14 letterwinners returning, along with six talented newcomers to the team, the 1999 Cavaliers look to build from last seasons success in their climb to the top of the softball world.
The core of Virginia’s infield returns intact from last season’s squad. UVa will be without the services of Beth Crimi and Stacy Holmes, however, the cabinets are far from being bare.
Julie Amaon will look to solidify the first base position for the Cavaliers. “Amaon has come along well this year with her hitting. I expect to see her contribute to the team this season more on the offensive side. She is a good singles hitter, not necessarily a power hitter, but I really expect her to add a lot more offensively. Not only with her hitting, but with the capability of bunting. Amaon’s already shown that in the fall. She’ll see a good bit of time at first base this year. Last season she missed some playing time, but being here in the fall really helped her tremendously to get more in tune with the team and what we need. “
Karen Breshears made an immediate impact last season when she joined the team last spring. “I can’t say enough about Breshears. She’s an excellent all around player. Breshears is a great defensive playmaker with an excellent arm. She is going to contribute offensively and she’ll most likely hit in the third spot for us this season. Breshears came along real well and had an excellent season last year. She is the type of player that I can count on to come through for me. We look for good things from her in 1999. “
Mariruth Graham and Gina McCabe will look to replace the services that All-ACC Beth Crimi provided the past four seasons at UVa. “Graham’s best asset as a catcher is her experience. She works well with our pitchers, she calls different pitches and out-smarts batters. She’s very much a leader whether she’s on the field or not. Graham’s good at scouting the other team, always trying to figure out what to pitch them. She’s improved a great deal as far as learning to work with the pitchers that we have. Graham has the ability of making good plays on defense. She will also add to the team with her offensive spurts. Graham has somewhat of an unorthodox technique, but she knows how to come through for us in situations when we need her to.”
“Defense is McCabe’s strongest aspect of her game. She’s has the strongest arm of our catchers and I think she is going to improve a lot with experience, which she should get quite a bit more of this season. McCabe’s playing time last year was limited, but we need her to step up this year. Defensively, she really does a good job for us, I feel real comfortable with her out there. Offensively, she’s working on her swing. How much she’s going to be able to contribute offensively right now depends on how well she develops at at the plate.”
Amy Peay is an excellent example of a true utility player. After handling first base duties last season, she will move into another new role for UVa at second base. “Peay is great in the fact that whatever it seems we need each year, for someone to step up and take over, she’s done just that for us. Before I started coaching here at UVa, Peay played third base. Last season we needed a first basemen and she stepped up and played great, especially considering the fact she had never played the position before. This year, we are asking her to move to a totally different position by moving her to second base. Peay’s the ultimate utility player because she can step in and do whatever we need her to do. Those type of players are so crucial to having a good team. “
Lori Reese will look to repeat her excellent all-around performance once again this season. “Reese is really coming into her own. She had an excellent season last year both defensively and offensively. Last season, there were numerous times where she would come up and hit the ball really hard and things just wouldn’t happen for her. I told her this season she is going to have a magical year, because all those hits that didn’t go through last year are going to go through this year. Reese matured last year in her ability to hit the ball where it’s pitched. When I first arrived at Virginia, she basically always tried to pull the ball down the left field line when she was at bat. She’s really developed into a good all around hitter. Reese is one of our leaders, a definite leader in the infield and I really hope she has a great senior year because she’s really enjoying herself and wants to make the most of her senior year. She’s has tons of potential and I can’t wait to she what she does with it this season.”
Similar to the case of Virginia’s infield, the Cavaliers return a solid and experienced nucleus in the outfield, which is centered around centerfielder Corinne Good. “Good is one of our best defensive outfielders. She had a good season last year defensively and helped lead the team in center field. Good is who we would call our boss’ of the outfield and she’s an excellent team player. We’re looking for her to contribute more on the offensive side this season. If she’s able to do that, she will no doubt be an excellent all-around player.”
Jen Krill has already shown she can provide power to Virginia line-up. This season, she looks to provide similar services on the field as well. “Krill has really started to come into her own, and you can see her confidence growing every day. Last year, her confidence on the offensive side really began to form. I’ve now began to see improvement on the defensive side from her as well. As Krill’s confidence grows, she will develop into a solid player for us. She will contribute on the offensive side again, but I also expect her to receive quite a bit of playing time in the outfield.”
Kelly McCabe gathered valuable experience last year in her first season of play. Now, she’ll look to use that experience in a more defined role on this season’s team. “McCabe has tons of potential to add to our team. Her speed makes her very quick and dangerous on the base paths and in the outfield. She’s able to cover a lot of ground. McCabe really seems to be developing on the offensive side of the game. Now, she just has to work on her arm strength and consistency.”
Meaghan Young was simply special last season for Virginia. She stepped right in from the start of the year, became one of UVa’s top players, and continued that throughout the remainder of the season. “Young is our sparkplug. She can really fire up the team. Although she’s just a second-year player, Young is one of our leaders, especially on the offensive side. I say she’s a leader and I mean that in every since of the word. Last season she led the conference in triples. When you have a lead-off batter who is coming up and hitting triples, it gives us a good possibility to score in that situation. Young is excellent on the offensive side and has the flexability to hit with power or to lay down a bunt. She can out-smart the defense when she’s at bat. Defensively she’s able and wiling to make the diving catch. Young’s a heads-up player and the type of player that is going to come through when we need her to.”
If there is one area of the game that has Sprangel smiling from ear to ear, it could very well be her pitching staff. Chrissy Quinn and Stacey Zagol formed one of the top “one-two” punches in the ACC last season, and both players return in 99. Add returning pitcher Cory Bolkan, along with first-year newcomers Erin Allinder, Kristen Dennis and Katie Zunno, and you can see why Sprangel is so upbeat about her rotation.
“Bolkan has been a pleasant surprise. Last year she came in and just pitched some outstanding games for us. She had solid outings against Stanford and Cal State Fullerton. Bolkan has the ability to keep the real strong hitting teams off stride. I will use her selectively this season in the right situations, but she really stepped up for us last year and I expect her to do more of the same this year.”
“Quinn will see a lot of pitching time as well. She is one of our experienced pitchers and is continuing to develop. Quinn’s the type of pitcher that pitches better against certain teams over others. She really seems to excel against strong hitting teams because she has an excellent change up and that tends to keep the power hitting teams off stride. Quinn also has a good curve and a drop ball, but she has really perfected the rise ball and the screw ball to add to her repertoire of pitches. She’s a good all-around athlete and is able to give us depth on the infield positions. When it comes to pitching, having two junior pitchers in Quinn and Zagol returning, we’re really going to look to them first to lead our team this season.”
“Zagol was our go-to’ pitcher last season. She pitched the majority of our tough games, got us through those games, then came right back in relief for us when we had to have her in there. Zagol is an excellent pitcher. If she makes up her mind to beat somebody, they are going to get beat. I think as a coach, it is great to know that you have that type of player out there pitching for you. She has an excellent drop ball, an excellent curve ball and she’s really tried to develop a good change up while trying to perfect a rise ball and a screwball. Zagol is a very mature pitcher. She’s willing and certainly capable of leading this team and should be our go-to’ person once again this season.”
Virginia bolstered its roster this season by adding six new faces to the team. Five first-year players and one transfer will provide depth and add a new style of play to the 99 Cavaliers.
“Erin Allinder should add depth to our pitching rotation this year. She pitched three games in the fall and was successful keeping the batters off balance. Allinder needs to develop a little more movement on her ball, so we’ve been working on trying to develop movement into her pitches. Her best pitches right now are her screw ball, rise ball, and curve ball. We’ve been trying to perfect her drop ball to move a little better and have also added a different change-up. She’s a good all-around athlete, but she’ll most likely see time as a pitcher this season.”
“Kristen Dennis is a strong addition to our team. She’s going to help us in numerous ways. Dennis one of the strongest, most powerful hitter on our team already. We’ll really look for her to pick up where Beth Crimi left off for us last year. We feel she can come in and fill her spot. She’ll probably bat in the fourth or fifth spot, in one of the power positions. Dennis is definitely going to help us on the offensive side. Defensively, she’s going to contribute as well. She’s a very good defensive first basemen. If she isn’t pitching, we’ll keep her in the game a lot of times on defense.
Dennis is also an excellent pitcher. We recruited her mainly as a hitter and first basemen, but we soon realized her potential as a pitcher as well. She’s going to only get better with experience, and we’re going to make sure she gets as much of that as she can right away. The thing that is special about her is that she throws what we call a heavy ball. She throws hard, but has great movement. Dennis is going to be very hard to hit, mainly because of the movement and the velocity of her pitches. She has a good screw ball, an accurate curve ball, a nice rise ball and a very solid change up. The one pitch we are trying to improve is the drop ball, and that is coming along well.”
Claudia Hickey joins Virginia after transferring from Georgia State. “Hickey is going to add a lot to the team with her speed. She’s fast on the base paths and when she’s defending in the outfield. Hickey can really cover a lot ground. She will do some platooning in ceterfield with Good. Hickey also has potential on the offensive side as well. I am looking for her to step into the lineup somewhere. She is a transfer, so she’s not totally new to softball, but she is new to our system. However, this fall she has already began to work her way into the system.”
“Erin McMorrow has been a real pleasant surprise. She’s the type of player who should step up and play good softball for us. In the fall, she really came through with some good plays. McMorrow has plenty of ability and has great speed which will bolster our outfield. Because we have a lack of depth in the infield, she’s also been working on her infielding as well. She’s an asset to to our team because of her versatility and her ability of being a utility player. McMorrow hits from the right side of the plate right now, and eventually down the road we’d like to see her develop some left hand techniques as well.”
“Emily Wilkinson is a first-year player that really works hard. She practices hard, plays hard and does everything a coach asks a player to do. Wilkinson will give us depth at second base. She’s a really good defensive player, and offensively, she will contribute to the team. How much she contributes will depend on how well her batting comes along.
“Katie Zunno is a first-year pitcher that will help add depth to our rotation. She has the ability to make the ball move but doesn’t have the same velocity some of our other pitchers have at this time. However, because she can make the ball move like she can, it’s not really necessary to have the velocity. Zunno’s more of a junk-ball pitcher, and there is a place and a spot for her on this team.”
The road to the top of the ACC and to the national level will not be an easy one for Virginia. However, with an experienced team and a host of talented newcomers, only time will tell how far the 1999 Cavaliers can climb this season.