SEATTLE – As the No. 3 Washington Huskies softball team prepares for the 2014 season, they return every pitcher who won a game for the team that finished third at the Women’s College World Series in 2013.
Three players will compete for time at catcher. Returning for the Huskies are junior Kimberlee Souza and sophomore Courtney Gano. Freshman Bridget Raftery joins the Huskies this season.
The four-person pitching staff is led by three returning starting pitchers – senior All-American Kaitlin Inglesby, senior and 20-game winner in 2013, Bryana Walker, and junior Kasey Stanchek – they are joined by junior Hailey Bator, who transferred from Wenatchee Valley College.
“As a group, we realize it’s not just one person that can take us where we want to go,” Inglesby said. “It’s all of us.”
Leading the pack is Inglesby, who finished 2013 with a record of 23-9 and a 1.95 ERA. Inglesby struck out 141 batters over 187.0 IP on her way to being named First-Team All-Pacific Region, First-Team All-Pac-12, as well as garnering All-American honors.
“She’s the kind of pitcher that gets better and better the more she pitches,” head coach Heather Tarr said. “Our hopes are for her to be at her best or nearing her best mid-way to the end of our season. She is a tremendous athlete.”
After pitching just 40.0 innings as a freshman and 104.0 as a sophomore, Walker had a breakout year in 2013, posting a record of 20-7 with a 2.77 ERA and 205 strikeouts over 182.0 innings pitched.
“Bryana’s really taken her game to the next level in the last year,” Tarr said. “Last year, she was healthy as she’s ever been, and she went from somebody nobody knew to being somebody nobody wanted to face.”
Stanchek made 13 appearances in the circle in 2013, making six starts and striking out 30 batters in 30.1 innings pitched. Stanchek finished the season 2-1 with a 3.92 ERA, posting a stretch of four appearances in which she did not allow an earned run while striking out 16 in 9.2 innings pitched.
“Kasey has really developed into a role pitcher, whether she’s a starter, or a middle reliever, or a closer,” Tarr said. “She can be used as a really big key piece to our pitching plans. She’s been great in her role.”
Bator was a two-time All-American at Wenatchee Valley, as well as two-time NWAACC Eastern Region Most Valuable Pitcher of the Year and 2013 NWAAC Eastern Region MVP.
Last season, Bator led Wenatchee Valley to the NWAACC championship, posting a record of 26-0 in the circle with a 0.95 ERA and 284 strikeouts over 162 innings pitched in 26 starts. Bator also hit .362 at the plate with 34 RBI.
In addition to being the ace of the pitching staff, Inglesby is one of the top hitters on the team. Inglesby led the Huskies in 2013 with 12 home runs, 62 RBI, and 109 total bases, while also putting up a .354 batting average, good for second-best on the team.
“She’s one of the best two-way players that’s ever played the game,” Tarr said.
Gano missed the 2013 season with a hand injury, but is back at full health and anxious to get on the field again.
“I can’t even explain how excited I am,” Gano said. “I’m hungry. It was definitely a different experience last year. The goal from when I first got hurt was to come back stronger.”
Gano appeared in 56 games in 2012, mostly at shortstop and third base, and her versatility will be an asset for the Huskies this season.
“Courtney’s one of the better athletes I’ve ever coached, and those athletes are amazing when they have to step into roles that are possibly roles that they never thought they could be in. Seeing an athlete of her caliber behind the plate is pretty inspiring.”
After sustaining an injury in the fall, Souza is likely to be back in the lineup mid-to-late in the season.
“Kimberlee has caught a lot and knows the position well,” Tarr said. “Unfortunately, we don’t know when she’s going to come back this year, but if anybody can overcome injury, it’s Kimberlee.”
Souza earned Second-Team All-Pacific Region honors in 2013 after hitting eight home runs and 39 RBI – both fourth-best on the team.
Raftery lettered all four years at Newport High School in Bellevue, Wash., earning All-League (KingCo 4A) honors three times.
“Bridget is a great receiver,” Tarr said. “She’s very smart. She has a lot of natural strength. She’s just going to keep learning the system and developing.”
The Huskies open the season at the UNLV/Sportco Kick-off Classic in Las Vegas vs. No. 18 Baylor on Friday, Feb. 7 at 9:00 a.m.
· The 2014 season is just 9 days away. The Huskies open the season Friday, February 7 vs. Baylor in Las Vegas. The Huskies complete 2014 schedule is available here.
· Reserve season tickets for the 2014 season today. Single-game tickets for the Huskies 12-game home schedule go on sale Wednesday, February 26. More information is available here.
· The Huskies open their home schedule Friday, March 14 against Pac-12 foe Utah at 5:00 p.m. at Husky Softball Stadium. Promotions include "Softball Friday Night Under the Lights" and Professor Appreciation night, where professors with an invite gain free admission, and faculty and staff tickets are just $3.
· All season long, take advantage of the Huskies new ticket redemption promotion. Exchange a used ticket from a previous 2014 Husky softball home game for a $3 general admission ticket to a future 2014 regular season Husky softball home game.