SEATTLE – The No. 3 Washington Huskies softball team returns every infield starter from the 2013 squad that ranked second in the nation in fielding percentage.
Senior Hooch Fagaly returns to anchor the Huskies infield. Juniors Kelli Suguro and Kylee Lahners, along with sophomores Jennie McNeill and Dani Braun are very solid pieces in the current infield core. Freshmen Ali Aguilar and Kimberlee Myers are also capable options in the infield.
Last season, Fagaly was honored as First-Team All-Pacific Region and First-Team All-Pac-12, while Lahners was named Second-Team All-Pacific Region and Second-Team All-Pac-12, and Suguro garnered honorable mention All-Pac-12 accolades.
Fagaly and Lahners each hit 10 home runs in 2013, while Fagaly drove in 48 RBI and Lahners drove in 44 RBI. The entire Huskies team combined for a fielding percentage of .980, and the infielders had some of the top individual marks. Fagaly finished with a .989 fielding percentage.
“Offensively, we have a lot of options,” head coach Heather Tarr said. “Defensively, we have the ability again to be one of the best defensive teams in the country. With the type of athletes we have and [defensive coordinator] J.T. [D’Amico] working with them, this group could play the infield better than we’ve ever played it. We have key pieces up and down the lineup.”
Fagaly, a fifth-year senior, is looking to help lead the Huskies back to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City for a third time in her career.
“Everyone looks to Hooch as a leader,” Tarr said of the fifth-year senior. “She’s just a pro. She knows what’s needed. She knows our system. She knows our culture, and she’s a great keeper of that culture. I think she’s yet to have her best year offensively, so that’s exciting.”
After not making a start in 2012, Suguro took a big step in 2013, becoming the Huskies mainstay at second base. Suguro hit .296 and made 47 starts at second base. Suguro also found a knack for making big plays in the field. In game one of NCAA Super Regionals vs. Missouri, Suguro made an outstanding diving stop, which later became the no. 6 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Night.
“Kelli’s one of the best at her craft at second base,” Tarr said. “She makes a lot of plays and she can cover a lot of ground. She gets great reads on the ball. She has a great first step. Offensively, she’s got a lot more in her. With a year of experience from last year, it’s just going to keep adding to her ability to improve as an offensive player.”
After making starts in center field, left field, at second base and shortstop for the Huskies in 2013, Tarr and D’Amico are working with Lahners at third base in preparation for the 2014 season.
“We’ve been working Kylee at third base, and that’s new for her, so she’s adapting and learning that position,” Tarr said. “Playing third base is something that she’s going to be able to do. It’s just a little different than playing on the other side of the field and that close. She has the arm strength, the savvy, the softball skills to be able to make all of the plays.”
Lahners hit .296 with 36 runs scored, and 50 hits, 10 home runs, and 44 RBI in 2013, and figures to be a strong offensive force for the Huskies again this season.
McNeill returns to the Huskies infield after making 58 starts at shortstop last season.
“Jennie is a proven defender at shortstop,” Tarr said. “She’s a very consistent player, makes all the plays, and gets the job done. Looking back at all of the highlight videos, she made some amazing plays last year. She’s just going to keep getting better and better.”
Braun will fill a crucial role for the Huskies this season, splitting her time between the infield and outfield as a capable option at multiple positions. Braun served as a pinch runner and defensive replacement for most of 2013. She scored 15 runs in 2013. Braun will most likely begin the year as the backup option at first base and in the outfield.
“She’s a big-time asset for us,” Tarr said.
The Huskies infield squad is bolstered by the addition of two freshmen who were both highly-decorated in high school.
Aguilar comes to Washington with an impressive softball resume already. Aguilar was named to the USA Softball Women’s Junior National Team in 2013, becoming the only player on the current roster to be named to the team while in high school. A native of Orangevale, Calif., Aguilar attended Casa Roble High School, where she was a four-time All-League selection, earning MVP honors her freshman and senior years.
“Ali’s experience on the junior national team is invaluable as she learns the speed of the division-1 game,” Tarr said. “She is a strong, physical player who can make all the plays.”
Myers, a freshman from Casa Grande, Ariz., has emerged as the most improved player since joining the Huskies in the fall.
“Offensively, Kimberlee has definitely improved,” Tarr said. “She’s competing every single pitch, every single practice, and that’s all you can ask for in a player.”
Myers was a four-year letterwinner at Casa Grande Union High School, earning all-state honors each of her four years, as well as East Valley Player of the Year in 2010. Myers will likely backup at second base and third base to start the season.
All in all, Tarr is excited about the depth of this Huskies infield squad.
“We are a defensive-minded team, but the offense can initially get you in the game,” Tarr said. “Offensively and defensively, this whole infield has a chance to be spectacular. Time will tell; if we keep improving and continue to work hard, this team has a real chance.”
The Huskies open the 2014 season at the UNLV/SportCo Kick-Off Classic vs. No. 18 Baylor on Friday, February 7 at 9:00 a.m.
· The 2014 season is just 8 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.
· New this year to Husky Softball is the Team of the Game promotion. Youth softball team with players currently in 8th grade and under, plus two coaches, will receive free General Admission tickets, be on the field with the Huskies for the national anthem, and receive an autographed team poster, as well as a group welcome during the game. Family and friends can also purchase General Admission tickets at a discounted rate of $3. Space is limited. To sign up, contact email firstname.lastname@example.org