Tigers Return Experience to Corner Infield for 2010 Season
Jan. 14, 2010
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Memphis softball team returns the two players that started the most games for the Tigers at the corner infield positions in 2009 in Maddie McKinley and Jessica Phillips.
Memphis will have the daunty task to replace highly versatile infielder Leila Dolfo, who finished her Tiger career as a four-time All-C-USA selection and as Memphis' all-time leader in at bats, runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, total bases, walks and sac flies, and finished her career tied for the lead in triples and games started. Dolfo started 17 games at first base last season, but spent most of her time at shortstop due to an early-season injury to Heather Mott.
Despite Dolfo's monumental impact on the Tiger softball program over her four-year career for Coach Windy Thees, the Tigers are very encouraged about what they have returning at the corner infield positions in 2010. In McKinley, Memphis returns a two-year starter who brings power to the Memphis lineup. In the fall, McKinley jumpstarted the Tigers offensively with five home runs in Memphis' five exhibtion games, including two home runs in the team's intersquad scrimmage off of two pitchers (Carly Hummel and Lauren Carley) that had previously not allowed a run during the fall season.
"I was disappointed in how we ended the spring and all summer I was just ready to start again," McKinley said. "I had it in my mindset that I really wanted to do something this season. I was upset with my average over my first two seasons and I really wanted to do everything I could to change that."
"Maddie is a dominant force for us at third base," said Memphis assistant coach Ashley Blanton. "She has a cannon for an arm. We are really looking for her to be a leader of the team this year both in the field and at the plate."
The Tigers depth at both third base and first base should pay dividends for the Memphis lineup this season. Behind McKinley the Tigers will look to freshman Cheyenne Mascarenas, a native of Garden Grove, Calif., who should allow McKinley to move to the outfield as needed to help provide depth to one of Memphis' thinnest positions in 2010.
"Cheyenne has done an awesome job being able to come in and play third base for us," McKinley said. "She allows me to play somewhere else if the coaches need me to."
At first base, Phillips embraced an unexpected opportunity last season when Dolfo was forced to move to shortstop to replace the injured Heather Mott. Phillips ended up starting 35 games at first base compared to Dolfo's 17 games at the position. In her first season with the Tigers, Phillips hit .224 with three home runs and 18 RBI in 98 at bats. Her home run total tied her for second on the team.
"A year ago when the season started I had Leila (Dolfo) in front of me," Phillips said. "I busted my tail every day in practice trying to find playing time and I eventually did after Heather Mott's injury."
Walle, one of the Tigers' top returning pitchers will also be looked at in the field. The senior from Phoenix, Ariz., hit .235 with 2 home runs and 10 RBI in 68 at bats last season.
Kassner, who will also see time as the team's designated player and at catcher, hit three home runs and had 11 RBI in 78 at bats last year.
"It is going to be a toss up with who starts at first base. I think Coach Thees could put any three of us over there," Phillips said.
Tomorrow we will update Tiger fans on the state of Memphis' middle infield heading into the 2010 season.