2011 Preview: Pitchers and Catchers
Jan. 24, 2011
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Memphis softball coach Windy Thees has built a successful softball program in just six short years at the U of M. To get her program over the hump and into its first NCAA Tournament, last season's strong pitching staff will be counted on to be even better than it was a year ago.
The visions of grandeur this season begin with the presence of sophomore Carly Hummel, the presumptive ace of the 2011 staff. Hummel strolled onto campus last season and immediately established herself as a star in the making. A Conference USA, All-Freshman team selection, she posted a 15-10 record with 17 complete games and six shutouts. She also struck out 210 batters, which is the second-highest single-season total in school history, a Memphis freshman record and the third-highest career total in school history.
"We expect Carly to be a 20-game winner this year," Thees said. "She threw the bulk of our innings last year, and we're excited to see her grow and mature and hopefully be even better than she was last season."
"Our staff should be amazing this year, and I really think that's what we all expect. We've meshed well, both with the team and the coaches, and expect big things this season," said Hummel.
Carley made 17 pitching appearances last season, including four starts. She struck out 47 batters in 52 innings pitched in 2010. She is expected to slide into the No. 2 starter role behind Hummel.
"Lauren Carley led us in ERA last year," Thees said. "I'm very excited to see her get more innings and a heavier workload. She has a lot of experience, and once we get her strength up, I'm excited to see what she can do."
Valle is the only southpaw pitcher on this season's Tiger staff. Her mental make-up and change-of-pace style make her a nice complement to the riseball throwing Hummel and Carley. With 60 appearances as a Tiger, Valle is the most senior pitcher on the staff.
"Janelle Valle was injured and hospitalized a long time last year and never really got going," Thees said. "She's back with a vengeance this year. I'm excited to have her as a lefty specialist for us this year."
Freshman Australian Ellen Roberts led her school, Loreto Normanhurst to the New South Wales Championship in 2008, '09 and '10. A member of the Australian Under-19 squad since 2008, Roberts is currently overseas pitching for a spot on the Australian national team and will return to the squad in late January. She recently helped her team to the Elinor McKenzie Shield title, which is the Australian national championship.
"(Roberts) came on really strong in the fall," Thees said. "We weren't expecting to use her a lot, but she has matured fast. We're excited to see her when she gets back from Australia."
Senior Keanah Prestridge will handle the staff from her vantage point behind the plate again this season. Prestridge earned the school's single-season caught stealing record behind the plate last season, throwing out 17 attempted base stealers in her first season behind the dish.
"We're working on being built to pitch the long game," Prestridge said. "I work well with Carly (Hummel); I'm there to make the pitcher's look good and she makes the job very easy."
Prestridge will likely see the bulk of the innings behind the plate, but freshman Amber Lindahl and junior Nikki Moreno create a healthy competition for playing time. Senior Kailey Kassner and freshman Ashley Ford could also see time behind the plate.
Thees has lofty aspirations for this group of pitchers and thinks they could be one of the strongest staffs she's had at the U of M.
"We have a very good pitching staff this season," Thees said. "They complement each other very well."