Softball Preview: Infielders
Feb. 1, 2013
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - In the second installment previewing the 2013 University of Memphis softball team, the Tigers infielders are featured with several letterwinners returning for this season along with a couple of new faces on the roster.
"Jessica did a great job of being vocal on the field in the time she had been here as an athlete," Poole said. "Alyssa was very much a vocal presence on the field as well so my concern was how we were going to handle that. I think we've had some people step up and have done a great job in opening their mouths when they need to. I think overall we're very talented and we've got a good mixture of new people as well as some veterans."
Returners: In 2012, the Memphis infielders had the top three batting averages on the team. Senior shortstop Morgan Mosby led the squad with a .335 average, which is fifth in the school's single-season record books, along with 62 hits for third-best in school history. She also recorded 18 multiple-hit games and 24 runs scored to lead the Tigers and was the leadoff batter in 45 games with an average of .394. Mosby returns for Memphis in 2013 as the only Tiger to start all 57 games last season. The Hernando, Miss., native will also see time at second base in the spring to replace the loss of Palmieri.
"Morgan has worked both at shortstop and at second. I think it depends on what we do with our infield," Poole said. "The main thing is that if Morgan steps up offensively just like she has before, she'll find her way onto the field."
As practices have gotten into full swing, Mosby has seen improvement in the Tigers infield.
"I think we're starting to gel as a team," Mosby said. "The retreat really helped us as an infield and we're starting to mesh. We're beginning to communicate and get used to each other and how each of us plays."
The Tigers also return 2012 All-Conference USA Second Team selection and 2013 C-USA preseason pick Laura Curtis, who started 45 games at third base last season for Memphis. The senior played shortstop in the fall and will see much of her playing time at that position in the spring. In her first season at Memphis after transferring from Chattanooga State, Curtis was second on the team in batting average (.289) and walks (16) and hit .667 with the bases loaded. During the season, she recorded 37 hits, 19 runs scored and 15 RBI.
"I think if we have Laura at shortstop or at third base ,that we're looking at a solid defender," Poole said. "She has a great arm and stepped up offensively for us at times." Junior Libby Goranson started 16 games for Memphis in 2012 with 15 of those coming as a designated hitter. Goranson had one start at first base, a position that she will take over from Phillips. Goranson was fifth on the team in hitting last year with a .250 batting average and a .324 slugging percentage. In the fall, Goranson was one of the hitting leaders for the Tigers, going 4-of-4 with a home run and a double in Memphis' 8-2 win over Christian Brothers.
"Libby sat back and watched Jessica, and she got the same number of reps at practice but just hasn't been that presence on the field," Poole said. "I think as last year went on, she grew more confident offensively as well as defensively and has found her place. We're excited about having her in the infield and also at the plate."
With experience at first base in the fall, Goranson has been able to ease into her new role and get used to her new teammates.
"Any type of play on the field is going to get you more experience and make you feel more comfortable," Goranson said. "Being around different teammates and playing different positions is going to help as well. I think the newcomers have contributed a lot. We've all gotten to know each other a little better and I think that's carried over onto the field and we've been able to work with each other really well."
Senior Jami Miller had a strong fall campaign but suffered an offseason injury that will prevent her playing on the field this season. Miller, who made 40 appearances last season for Memphis, will serve as a pinch runner for the Tigers during the season after going 4-for-4 in stolen bases in 2012.
Newcomers: Freshman Cierra Mangum saw significant playing time in the fall at third base. A native of Las Cruces, N.M., Mangum has experience at third and shortstop and is a powerful hitter, averaging .542 during her senior campaign at Onate High School. Mangum had her first hit as a Tiger against the National Pro Fastpitch All-Stars with a single down the left field line in the fourth inning in Memphis' 5-1 loss. Mangum was also strong on the defensive side, committing no errors in the four games she played.
"It has been a big adjustment going from high school to college softball," Mangum said. "I was definitely happy with myself this fall and how I progressed in my playing. I got some reps at third base, and it really showed me what the college level is like."
"Cierra is a good, young athlete and has a love for the game," Poole said. "She has some good reactions, and I think she's going to do a good job over there. In the fall, she broke her jaw and tried to finish playing the game that we were playing. She wants to be out there and be competitive."
Also new to the roster is junior transfer Kelly Braman, who comes to Memphis after two seasons at Western Carolina. Braman has played at first, third and shortstop during her time with the Catamounts and batted .312 with 48 hits and 25 RBI in 2012.
"Kelly is a good competitor and can play multiple positions also," Poole said. "With us having her at second base, if we need to keep our middles solid then it might be something where we can put her at third base. We've got some options and that's what we're really happy about."
Freshman Jaye Smith also joins the infield out of Lexington High School in Lexington, Tenn. Smith could see time in the middle infield or at first base. She hit .443 with 22 RBI in her senior season at Lexington.
Memphis begins the season next Friday at the Texas Classic in Austin. The Tigers will face North Texas at 12:30 p.m. (CT) to begin the tournament followed by a game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 3 p.m. Memphis will also square off against Texas on Friday and play two other games with the opponent yet to be determined.