Last season was one to forget for the Western Washington University softball team.
The Vikings finished 17-36 one year removed from 2011 when they went 36-16 and earned an NCAA Sub Regional Tournament berth.
WWU struggled to score runs and couldn't find a true ace in its pitching rotation.
Vikings coach Amy Suiter, who was selected softball's 2011 GNAC Coach of Year, is hopeful about 2013, though. Western has several key returners and has added a number of talented, young pitching prospects.
"It's obviously hard to tell before we get going, but I'm optimistic," Suiter said in a phone interview. "They've worked hard all offseason."
WWU opens its season against BYU-Hawaii in the Hawaii Hilo Tournament at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, in Hilo, Hawaii.
First baseman/outfielder Rachelle Berry, third baseman Cheyenne Best, outfielder Meghan Carrillo and catcher Jackie Rothenberger are four players whose strong play will be relied on heavily. Senior second baseman Kristen Allen is another player Suiter is hoping to get added production from this spring.
There isn't one way Suiter plans on winning games. She said her club is a balanced group and has the ability to return to their 2011 form.
"We're going to work on our situational hitting and scoring runs," Suiter said. "Our pitching staff is young. Jenna (DeRosier) is a junior this year and the freshmen are looking pretty strong."
DeRosier is the only returning pitcher on Western's roster. Stephanie Fox, who led WWU with a 2.56 ERA last year, is graduated. Devyn Baker, Janelle Kasch and Erika Hendron have also graduated.
DeRosier posted a 3.63 ERA and a 5-2 record in 2011 but had a 2012 ERA of 5.22 with a 4-14 record in 21 starts.
Not only is DeRosier looking to rebound from an off year, she is adopting the responsibility of helping Western's freshman pitchers adapt to collegiate ball.
"Obviously, she is going to be very important," Suiter said of DeRosier. "She is really maturing and has taken on a leadership role, trying to get the younger ones to be sophomores before the start of their freshman year."
Western's need for additional pitching became evident during the offseason. Suiter added freshmen Lauren Bennett, Emma Blauser, Alexie Levin, Jordan Walley and Anisa Wingsness
Levin, an Everett High School grad and reigning Everett Herald softball Player of the Year, may be the best of the bunch.
"Lexie is a good, young pitcher," Suiter said. "She's left handed and throws hitters off balance. Being left handed, it's nice to be able to run it in on right-handed batters, but her ability to keep hitters off balance is her biggest strength."
While DeRosier's presence will be important to the development of WWU's five freshman pitchers, Rothenberger will be just as, if not more, important behind the plate.
"Her job right now is the same as Jenna's," Suiter said of Rothenberger. "They both have done a good job with these kids getting them ready to go. Jackie in the lineup is a big contributor and is in a leadership role."
Rothenberger will be looking to rebound, herself. She batted .344 as a sophomore, but her average dripped to .277 last season.
"I think (Rothenberger) is hoping for a better year and wants to get back to that 2011 season," Suiter said. "She definitely has more confidence this year than she's had in the past."
Walley, who stands 6-foot-2, could also develop into another solid option in the pitching circle.
Where Walley's largest impact may be felt, though, is at the plate. She set a school career home run record at Tahoma High School with 21 long balls and was a first-team Seattle Times all-area selection.
Along with Walley, Suiter expects Amanda Flores, Berry and Carrillo to bat in the heart of Western's order.
Senior Camille DePew redshirted last year after transferring from North Dakota State University and is slated to bat leadoff and start in center field.
"A lot of older players experienced both years," Suiter said of Western's successful 2011 season and 2012's down year. "We're definitely moving in the right direction, and we'll see where we are at as a team."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
2013 WWU SOFTBALL ROSTER
No. Name Pos. Ht. B-T Yr. Hometown
1 Melissa Becker 2B/SS 5-3 R-R Sr. Puyallup
2 Lauren Bennett OF 5-3 R-R Fr. Tustin, Calif.
4 Cheyenne Best 3B 5-6 R-R So. Big Lake
5 Taylor Clark C/OF 5-4 R-R Fr. Tacoma
6 Matti Tetzlaff SS/UTL 5-3 R-R So. Mill Creek
7 Emma Blauser 2B/P 5-6 R-R Fr. Federal Way
8 Anisa Wingsness P 5-8 R-R Fr. North Bend
10 Camille DePew OF 5-9 L-R Sr. Seattle
11 Kaleigh Keating SS/2B 5-4 R-R Jr. Salinas, Calif.
12 Jordan Walley P/DH 6-2 L-R Fr. Maple Valley
14 Arianna Barrio OF 5-4 L-R Fr. Stanwood
15 Allie Crowe OF 5-7 R-L So. Auburn
17 Meghan Carrillo OF/1B 5-3 R-L Jr. Prunedale, Calif.
18 Haylee Baker SS 5-4 B-R Jr. Poulsbo
19 Jenna DeRosier P 5-7 R-R Jr. Kelso
22 Rachelle Berry 1B/OF 5-7 L-L Sr. Alger
23 Kristen Allen 2B/OF 5-7 L-R Sr. Arlington
24 Jackie Rothenberger C 5-7 R-R Sr. Coquitlam, B.C.
32 Alexie Levin OF/1B 5-7 L-L Fr. Everett
44 Amanda Flores IF/C 5-8 R-R Jr. Ferndale
2013 WWU SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
Date Opponent Time
HAWAII HILO TOURNAMENT
Feb. 1 BYU-Hawaii 4:30 p.m.
Rollins College 7 p.m.
Feb. 2 at Hawaii-Hilo 2:30 p.m.
Saint Martin's 5 p.m.
Feb. 3 Rollins College Noon
at Hawaii-Hilo 2:30 p.m.
Feb. 5 TBD TBD
Feb. 8 Fort Lewis 11:30 a.m.
CU-Colorado Springs 2 p.m.
Feb. 9 Chadron State 11:30 a.m.
Grand Canyon 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 10 Black Hills State 2 p.m.
March 6 Montana State-Billings* 1 p.m.
Montana State-Billings* 3 p.m.
March 8 Northwest Nazarene* 1 p.m.
Northwest Nazarene* 3 p.m.
March 9 Central Washington* Noon
Central Washington* 2 p.m.
March 16 at Simon Fraser* 1 p.m.
at Simon Fraser* 3 p.m.
March 23 at Saint Martin's* Noon
at Saint Martin's* 2 p.m.
March 24 at Western Oregon* 1 p.m.
at Western Oregon* 3 p.m.
March 28 at Central Washington* 1 p.m.
at Central Washington* 3 p.m.
March 30 at Northwest Nazarene* 11 a.m.
at Northwest Nazarene* 1 p.m.
April 4 at Sonoma State 2 p.m.
TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
April 5 Academy of Art 2:15 p.m.
Cal State Monterey Bay 6 p.m.
Chico State 8 p.m.
April 6 Cal State San Bernardino 10:15 a.m.
Humboldt State 3:30 p.m.
April 7 TBD TBD
April 20 Saint Martin's* Noon
Saint Martin's* 2 p.m.
April 21 Western Oregon* Noon
Western Oregon* 2 p.m.
April 25 Simon Fraser* 1 p.m.
Simon Fraser* 3 p.m.
April 28 at Montana State-Billings* Noon
at Montana State-Billings* 2 p.m.
2012 WWU SOFTBALL LEADERS
Jessica Carey .327
Krista Bickar .316
Rachelle Berry* .313
Meghan Carrillo* .312
Cheyenne Best* .280
ON BASE PERCENTAGE
Krista Bickar .429
Meghan Carrillo* .372
Rachelle Berry* .366
Stephanie Fox .358
Jessica Carey .346
Cheyenne Best* 24
Kristen Allen* 20
Meghan Carrillo* 18
Jessica Carey 18
Jackie Rothenberger* 17
Jessica Carey 56
Meghan Carrillo* 48
Krista Bickar 42
Rachelle Berry* 41
Cheyenne Best* 40
RUNS BATTED IN
Jessica Carey 25
Jackie Rothenberger* 22
Kristen Allen* 20
Meghan Carrillo* 18
Rachelle Berry* 17
EARNED RUN AVERAGE
Stephanie Fox 2.56
Jenna DeRosier* 5.22
Devyn Baker 5.25
Janelle Kasch 5.54
Erika Hendron 16.43
Stephanie Fox 9
Jenna DeRosier* 4
Devyn Baker 2
Erika Hendron 1
Janelle Kasch 1
Jenna DeRosier* 131.1
Stephanie Fox 112.0
Janelle Kasch 54.1
Devyn Baker 38.2
Erika Hendron 7.2
2013 GNAC COACHES POLL
1. Montana State Billings (4) 32-18 46
2. Saint Martin's (3) 33-18-1 41
3. Simon Fraser 33-14 37
4. Central Washington 19-29 24
5. Western Oregon 23-26 20
6. Western Washington 17-36 18
7. Northwest Nazarene 8-37 10
NOTE: First-place votes in parentheses. Points awarded on 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.