NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

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    March 9, 1998

    1998 Women's Softball Season Outlook

    EVANSTON, ILL. --With no seniors and only three juniors in the starting lineup, the 1998 Northwestern women's softball team will look towards their youth to lead them into battle this season.

    "I think it's real important that we get off to a quick start," says 20th-year head coach Sharon Drysdale. "We had a very strong defense last year, one of the top ten in the nation, and it returns mostly intact so we'll build from there."

    NU should have no trouble getting out of the blocks as four of the sophomores started 91 percent of all games and the fifth saw significant playing time. Leading that pack is All-Big Ten pitcher Jaclyn DeBoard. DeBoard started 37 of the 50 games and threw almost three quarters of all the innings. She led the Big Ten in appearances, was second in complete games with 28 and sixth in wins with 16. She also finished second on the team in hitting with a .298 average.

    "It's especially important for Jaclyn to get off to a solid start," says Drysdale. "She threw particularly well last year and she's got to be the mainstay of the pitching staff again this year. Jaclyn's got the full complement of pitches, she's got great velocity and she's a very good hitter. I expect her to have a good year this year."

    Also seeing plenty of time in the rotation this year will be junior Jenni Beseres. She appeared in 15 games last season, starting six, and should see more time on the mound this year. Rounding out the staff is freshman Brooke Siebel, a righthander from Brentwood, Tenn. The four-time team MVP was also a four-time all-region and all-state pick as well as a two-time high school All-American.

    "As a pitcher, Brooke has all the tools and once she adapts to the college game, I think she'll be very tough," says Drysdale. "She's also going to be a very good hitter. She has good fundamentals and can hit for power. I expect Beseres to step up as well. She's come a long way and has worked very hard. If she continues to work like that, she'll see the payoff this year. She has improved her velocity and has a better mastery of her pitches."

    NU cannot win on pitching alone, however, and will look to junior co-captain Amanda Peterson to lead the attack. As a sophomore Peterson was named second-team all region and led the team in hitting with a .344 average. She was one of three Wildcats to start all 50 games and led the team in at-bats (151), hits (52), doubles (8), sacrifices (11) and on-base percentage (.396). She's also an invaluable asset on defense where she patrolled centerfield last year without making a single error.

    "Amanda has been our leading hitter in just about every category," says Drysdale. "She's a catalyst, she makes things happen offensively. She may not be the fastest or have the strongest arm, but she's very accurate and very dependable. Amanda's head is always in the game and she's someone you don't have to worry much about. She's a low-maintenance player."

    Occupying the two other outfield positions are junior Lindsey Prezell, who will play right field, and freshman Kyla Hattabaugh in left. Prezell, who saw some time on the mound last year, will play exclusively in the field. She knocked in 10 runs in just 33 at-bats a year ago. Hattabaugh hit over. 300 all four years in high school and was a two-time team captain.

    The infield is secured by the other co-captain, sophomore shortstop Tami Jones. Despite being just a sophomore, she has plenty of experience, having started 49 of 50 games last year. After a few bumps early on, she hit her stride, batting .315 in conference play. She also led the team with a .377 on-base percentage in conference games. As the anchor of the infield, she led the team with 105 assists.

    "Tami's a natural leader," says Drysdale. "She's very extroverted and vocal and she and Amanda complement each other wonderfully. She's the anchor of the infield, the glue that holds it together. Last year she provided a great deal of stability. She played shortstop better than anyone we had had there in a long while."

    Also returning to the infield at first base is junior Jill Nesbitt. She led the team last season with 21 RBIs and was fourth on the squad with a .328 slugging percentage. In the field, she posted an impressive .991 fielding percentage.

    New to the infield are sophomores Mikeal Chambers and Brittany Nelson. After spending last year in right field, Chambers moves to second base this season. She committed just one error in 45 games last season and should have no problem adapting this year. On the bases, she is NU biggest threat. Last year she finished second on the team and eighth in the conference with 19 stolen bases. Nelson was solid in limited action a year ago and should make a smooth adjustment into the starting lineup this year.

    Behind the plate is sophomore Jenn Shull. A dependable player who started all 50 games last year, she made only two errors, posted a .992 fielding percentage, led the team with 19 walks, finished fourth with 19 runs and was second on the team with a .350 on-base percentage.

    "I expect Jenn to provide some power for us," says Drysdale. "In addition, Jill Nesbitt had some key RBI's for us last year. She was a good clutch hitter."

    "Defensively we will be a very strong team again this year," says Drysdale. "We also have some good hitters and good speed and solid balance, but we're looking for more power from several places. It's something we haven't had a lot of lately but we believe we have several players who can provide it. If we can find it, I think we'll be a very competitive team this season."