The 10th version of the Husky Softball Team is about to wind up the long, tournament heavy, and exhausting portion of it's "Two and Two" campaign. I accompanied the team on the recent trip to the red dirt and grits locale on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, Columbus, GA, for the Leadoff Classic Tournament. This was a four-day trip following an eleven-day trip to Florida.

With three days at home and the very draining cross-country plane trips thrown in, quite frankly, the team looked tired. They didn't play as well as they would have liked, and the long trip home wasn't a lot of fun.

This year's team is a wonderful collection of athletes with as much potential as any group that Washington has ever had. They are very young as a whole, and I believe still looking for a team personality. At times, they seem to be waiting for their superstar players (Jaime Clark and Tia Bollinger) to lead them out of the wilderness and confusion of early season learning in a very competitive environment. Adjustments have had to be made to accommodate two shoulder injuries requiring surgery (Callie Bergan and Amy Hanson).

The pitching staff is much stronger this year, with the addition of fireballing righty, Ashley Boek, and Leslie Scott, another crafty right-hander. Scott's beguiling movement and location of her pitches make her tough to hit. Staff ace Tia Bollinger should be able to finish the season much stronger now that she has help.

The catching took a blow when Hanson went down, but newcomer Kristen Rivera has as much upside potential as any catcher I have ever seen at the collegiate level. She can absolutely crush a softball with her bat, and has a gun for an arm. You look at Kristen and immediately see an athlete who can be a superstar at any phase of the game.

The infield has committed a few errors in early games, but for the most part, is pretty solid with Amanda Oleson returning at first, and Jaime Clark at short being joined by Steph Nicholson at second, and Kathy Fiske at third. Both Jaime and Amanda will win games with their bats, and Steph and Kathy have shown the potential to do the same.

The outfield this year has the lone senior, Becky Simpson in left, and fellow smurf Rita Roach in center. Both have speed, strong arms, and productive bats. Right field has been by committee so far, with Traci Tawney, Nicole Wicks, Shawna Norris, Courtney Jeffries, and Megan Owen all having spent time there. All of these players are athletes who are versatile enough to play infield or outfield (or even catcher), and have all had success with the bat in many games.

Two other weapons that Coach Wilson has include Nicki Holt, who has great speed and has been used mostly as a pinch runner, and walk-on Jessica Wilkinson. Wilkinson is a catcher who with a little experience may gain playing time.

The Huskies entertain Simon Fraser for a double header on March 9th as their season home opener, and then will head to Fullerton, California, for the Kia Klassic. That trip will be followed by an extended weekend in California against Santa Clara and Pacific before returning home for the opening of Pac-10 play against UCLA on the 29th and 30th.

All DAWG fans should mark their calendars for Sunday, April 21, when following a 1:00 PM game against Oregon State, the team will hold a major fund raising event. The event will be catered by Outback Steak House, and will include both a silent and a live auction. A huge crowd is expected, so plan to make your reservations as soon as you receive information soon to be mailed.

Come on out to the ballpark and support your "SoftDawgs", it's the best sports bargain in town.
Author Marlin Binger is a longtime UW Softball fan and can be found in the bleachers at every Husky game.

Dawgman.com's Perry Huang will be covering the Softball team on a regular basis this year.

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