Cavs Prepares for Beginning of 1999 Season
February 18, 1999
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The University of Virginia softball team will begin its 1999 campaign when the Cavaliers travel to Raleigh, N.C. to compete in the 1999 UNC Triangular Classic Tournament at the Walnut Creek Softball Complex. UVa will open competition in the tournament on Friday, February 19th by playing the University of Akron (12:00 p.m.) and the University of Minnesota (4:00 p.m.) on day-one of the tournament. Virginia will then face UNC-Wilmington (11:00 p.m.) before taking on Campbell (3:00 p.m.) on the Saturday, Feb. 20th in the second day of competition before advancing to the bracket portion of play in the tournament schedule.
The Cavaliers are coming off two consecutive winning seasons, including last years finish of 38-28. The 38 victories marked the second most wins in a single season in the history of the softball program at UVa, and was the most wins in a season under the direction of a first-year head coach at Virginia in softball. Head coach Cheryl Sprangel, who owns an impressive 504-383-1 record during her 15 seasons as a head coach, will look to guide the Cavaliers to another excellent season this year as well. Aside from the lofty number of wins last season, Sprangel also guided UVa to a regular season sweep over nationally ranked Florida State en route to her 500th career victory as a head coach. She also directed Virginia to the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game, where the Cavaliers eventually finished as the runner-up in the tournament.
Sprangel is joined this season by first-year assistant coach Jamie Pinkerton, and returning assistant JoAnne Ferguson. Prior to arriving at Virginia, Pinkerton served as an assistant coach at Northeast Louisiana University in 1997. He also served as an assistant coach at Tulsa from 1994-97, and has gathered valuable experience working with the Oklahoma Mustangs (1986-1994) and Claremore-Sequoyah High School (Okla.) in 1994. Ferguson is in her second season as a graduate assistant at Virginia. She was an integral part of the Cavaliers success last year, in her first season as an assistant coach.
On paper, UVa looks geared to repeat another successful season, and that has Sprangel and her staff very excited to see how the 1999 Cavaliers will perform on the field. The core of Virginia’s team from last year returns basically intact. UVa has the luxury of returning 14 letterwinners from last seasons squad and receives a boost from a solid recruiting class which includes six talented newcomers.
Several key players from last seasons team return to fill out Virginia’s infield. UVa will be without the services of Beth Crimi and Stacy Holmes, however, the cabinets are far from being bare. All-ACC shortstop Lori Reese highlights the Cavalier infield. Reese started all 66 games for UVA at SS, and finished the season with a .311 batting average while gathering 61 hits (including a team-high 15 double to add with two triples and one homerun). Reese also posted 25 RBI and scored 24 runs. She will be joined by returning players Karen Breshears (3B), Amy Peay (2B) and Mariruth Graham/Gina McCabe (C). Breshears had a smooth transition into the Cavalier program after transferring from the University of Toledo. She batted .251 with 47 hits (8 doubles, 1 triple, 1 homerun), scored 22 runs and gathered 16 RBI. After spending last seasons at first base, the versatile Peay will slide over to cover second base duties this season. She led the team with 492 putouts and added 23 hits. Chrissy Quinn may also see her share of playing time at second base as well. Graham and McCabe will see their amount of playing time behind the plate increase this season as the catching duo fills the void left due to the graduation of All-ACC catcher Beth Crimi. Graham finished 98 with a .254 batting average and 138 putouts, while McCabe will look to gun down base runners after nailing nearly one out of every three base runners on stolen base attempts. First-year player Kristen Dennis will likely get the nod at first base with Julie Amaon challenging for the position.
If there is one area of the game that has Sprangel smiling from ear to ear, it could very well be her pitching rotation. Chrissy Quinn, who ranked 19th in the country (Division I) for strikeouts per game, and All-ACC pitcher Stacey Zagol formed one of the top one-two punches in the ACC last season. Both players return in full stride 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. Quinn (15-8) led the team with a .652 winning percentage. She posted a 1.68 ERA and struck out 162 batters in 154.1 innings of work. Quinn held opposing batters to an .164 average. Zagol (19-15) tallied 239.1 innings on the mound and pitched a team-high 239.1 innings, including 29 complete games. She recorded a team-high 201 strikeouts and held the opposition to a .156 batting average. Bolkan (4-5) gathered 56 innings of work, had an team-low ERA of 1.38 and recorded 27 strikeouts. Dennis should have an opportunity to step in and contribute immediately to UVa’s solid pitching rotation.
Similar to the case of Virginia’s infield, the Cavaliers return a solid and experienced nucleus in the outfield, which is centered around returning center fielder Corinne Good. Good batted .222, posted 38 hits, scored 26 runs and tallied 12 RBI. Right fielder Meaghan Young was a pleasant surprise last season in her first year as a Cavalier, and will look to repeat her offensive and defensive performances this season once again. She batted .308 and recorded team-highs with 27 runs scored and 66 hits (including 10 doubles and nine triples). Jen Krill and Kelly McCabe will look to solidify the left field duties. Krill brings a nice blend of power to the plate, as she demonstrated last season by posting UVa’s lone grand slam in a victory over Virginia Tech. McCabe will put her speed to use on both the base paths (7-10 stolen base attempts) and in left field to track down balls.
26 teams will compete in the UNC Triangular Classic Tournament. This will be Virginia’s first ever meeting with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Cavaliers are 0-2 against the Akron Zips, but have dominated play in the series meetings with Campbell Camels (7-1) and the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks (12-0). UVa’s possible opponents in the bracket play is yet to be determined.
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.