Memphis Softball Bolsters Defense at Catching Position for 2010
Jan. 13, 2010
By: Preston McClellan, Undergraduate Intern
Defense wins championships.
It's a line that media members and coaches alike use all the time. Most of the time it's used in reference to football or basketball, but it's just as true for softball. In Softball, great defense starts with the catcher--someone who is also supposed to be the extension of the coach on the field. The catcher makes everything on the diamond work and anchors any solid defense.
The University of Memphis softball team returns two catchers from last season and is joined by an all-American junior college transfer to help strengthen the position in 2010.
"I really want our catchers to be better defensively," Thees said. "It was a huge weakness for us last year. They need a consistent production behind the plate and consistent control of the team and of the pitchers. I think we have really focused on that a lot, and they've done a good job of understanding what we want from them and working hard to get there."
One of the deepest positions for Memphis in 2010, the Tiger catchers have naturally created a healthy competition between one another.
"It's great. I love competition," Thees said. "The one who wants it the most will survive. I think seeing somebody else out there performing makes you want to perform better. When you have more players and are able to bring players in, it makes our team better as a whole. We want them to compete, but also be able to help each other in those areas that maybe need improvement."
Moreno Poised and Ready for Second Year
"She has really developed throughout the year," Thees said. "I think that the experience Nikki got last year is just going to continue to build and make her a better player for us."
As a freshman, Moreno hit .262 with six doubles with 12 RBI and six runs scored. She threw out six runners, had two pickoffs and held a fielding percentage of .966.
"Last year it was a little harder because I didn't know what to expect," Moreno said. "This year is a little easier because I know what to expect in conference play and from the runners."
Prestridge Adds Depth to Catching Squad
"We were really fortunate that we got an All-American catcher from junior college to come in and help us this year," Thees said. "She has a cannon for an arm and is really vocal back there. She takes that leadership role that we really want our catchers to have."
Prestridge also earned First Team All-Region II honors in 2009 after being named to the second team as a freshman. As a sophomore, she hit .433 with 36 RBI and 9 runs scored.
But it's her ability to throw runners out that initially caught Coach Thees' eyes.
"I take pride in my arm," Prestridge said. "Throwing people out is my biggest thing. If anybody steals on me, I get mad and the next time she gets on she's definitely going to get thrown out. I also take pride in trying to make my pitcher look good."
Kassner Set to Provide Leadership Behind Home Plate
"Kailey is going to fill a DH role for us and be able to catch for us as well," said Thees. "She's a really good catcher. I feel like we have a good trio of catchers now."
Kassner was tied for second on the team in 2009 with three home runs, third on the team in slugging percentage (.374) and fielding percentage (.989). She was also fifth on the team in batting average (.269) and walks (10). Kassner stepped it up for conference play, hitting .279 with seven RBI. Her career fielding percentage of .988 ranks her second all time.