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    Pacific Softball: Tigers Open 2010 Season This Week At Fresno State

    Feb 11, 2010

    Saturday, Feb. 13
    Pacific vs. #24 Fresno State (2009 - 38-20), 12 p.m.
    Pacific vs. Sacramento State (2009 - 28-23), 4 p.m.

    Sunday, Feb. 14
    Pacific vs. #24 Fresno State (2009 - 38-20), 12 p.m.
    Pacific vs. Sacramento State (2009 - 28-23), 4 p.m.

    2010 Seasons Preview
    With the beginning of a new season come new expectations and new hopes for what will be in store. For the 2010 Tigers, the new season offers another chance at redemption after finishing the last two seasons in unfamiliar territory--the bottom of the Big West Conference and struggling to reach .500 in the standings. Despite their recent set backs, the Tigers enter the season unfazed by the past and expecting great things out of their revamped squad.

    Gone from last year is a core of seniors who gave four seasons to the Tigers' program with the unrealized hopes of taking home the Big West title. Filling their places at the helm of the team step six upperclassmen who return for their final seasons at Pacific, rededicated to the goal of pushing Pacific back to the top of the Big West.

    In addition to the veteran leadership, the Tigers, as they have done for nearly two decades, will look towards Head Coach Brian Kolze to steer the team throughout the ups and downs of the 2010 season. Entering his 18th season, Kolze has assembled a talented group of players, replacing those lost from 2009 with a group of freshmen, transfers and walk-ons to bolster his ranks for the upcoming season. With a new team to guide, Kolze also has assembled a new coaching staff after the departure of his two assistants from the previous three seasons at the conclusion of 2009.

    Joining Kolze on the bench this season are Lizzie Hagen and Jessica Hancock. Hagen returns home to the Tigers after spending the last two seasons coaching the Gaels at Saint Mary's. Hagen will coach the Tigers' infielders throughout the year after coming back to the place in which she was an all-conference second baseman, graduating from Pacific in 2007. In her first career coaching position, Hancock will coach the Tigers' pitching staff after graduating from UC Davis in 2009 as one of the top hurlers in the Big West Conference. 

    The Lineup
    Key Returner:
    Nicole Matson (.325 Avg, 5 HR, 32 RBI)

    With a large section of their starting lineup from 2009 departed, the Tigers will lean heavily on the returning pieces to provide both the spark and the power on offense throughout the new season. Returning to the mix in 2010, the Tigers bring back five of nine bats from last year, again led by junior Nicole Matson, who will look to get back to the form in which she was playing prior to suffering a leg injury midway through last season. Despite missing games and playing hurt for half the season, Matson finished the year with better numbers then her freshman season in which she was named the Freshman Field Player of the Year in the conference. For 2009, Matson posted a .325 average at the plate while tallying a team-high five home runs and 32 RBI. Her .537 slugging percentage and .425 on-base percentage also paced the team.

    At the top of the Tigers' order, junior Lindsey Pierce will vie with freshman Megan Hom for the right to leadoff and setup the power in the middle of the order. Pierce posted a .277 average in 2009 while also tallying a .359 on-base percentage, both placing the junior outfielder second among returning players as she only trailed Matson.

    Looking to provide some protection for Matson and provide additional power in the heart of the Tigers' order are senior Kellee Wilson and newcomer Nikki Armagost. For the last two seasons, Wilson has given the Tigers a solid bat to rely upon earning her back-to-back all-conference awards. The senior designated player and first baseman posted a .273 average in conference play last season while leading the team in RBI during that stretch with five. In addition to Wilson, Pacific's newest slugger comes in the form of Armagost, who was named the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year last season as a senior at Andover Central High School. Armagost gives the Tigers another powerful bat in the lineup that can drive in runs while also providing protection for Matson, all from the left side of the plate.

    The Infield
    Key Returner:
    Alexa Rivera (30 GP,.253 Avg, 14 RBI)

    2010 will bring almost an entirely new look to the infield for the Tigers, with the only constant returning from last season being Matson at short. Up the middle the Tigers will have a new double-play combination for the first time in two seasons as sophomore Alexa Rivera will move to second base after spending last season at third and in the outfield before suffering a season-ending injury. Rivera's arm strength and Matson's quick feet and even quicker release will give the Tigers a strong defensive middle from which to work out from.

    At the corners, the Tigers will have a pair of new faces joining Wilson in Armagost and Megan Allen. The two freshmen will see the majority of the time at the corners with Armagost playing first while Allen takes over the duties at the third. When Armagost is needed in the circle or to fill in at other positions, Wilson will be called upon to play first, coming off the bench and out of the designated player spot to provide her glove to the Tigers' defense.

    The Outfield
    Key Returners:
    Lindsey Pierce (.277 Avg, 15 R, 18 BB)

    Stability in the outfield for the Tigers will be a key throughout the 2010 season as Pacific will shift defensive assignments to start the season for the third consecutive year. With two-thirds of the starting outfield gone from 2009, Pierce returns as the lone full-time starter from a season ago. Assigned to a corner spot, Pierce will be joined by senior Brittany Hendrickson for much of the season in either right or left field. Hendrickson enters her final season at Pacific looking to stay healthy for the first time after suffering shoulder injuries in each of the last two seasons, the last of which will keep her out of the field for the start of the 2010 season.

    In center, the Tigers will call upon Hom to provide solid play up the middle to help solidify the Tigers' defense. The freshman enters her first season in the Orange and Black as a speedy defender capable of patrolling large quantities of space while taking away potential hits from opposing batters. Additionally, sophomore walk-on Robin Nelson will see time in the outfield for the Tigers after joining the team in January after completing her second season with the Pacific field hockey team. If needed, Armagost will also play a corner outfield spot for Pacific throughout the season.

    The Battery
    Key Returners:
    Gabby McDaniel (27 App., 2.71 ERA, 74 K)
    Karie Wilson (.269 Avg, 12 RBI)

    The pitching staff enters the 2010 season as one of the Tigers' biggest unknowns as sophomore Gabby McDaniel is the lone returning pitcher from a season ago. In 27 appearances last season, McDaniel picked up four wins while posting a 2.70 ERA, a mark which led the 2009 staff. Throughout the year, McDaniel showed flashes of brilliance, none brighter than her 2-1 win over No. 21 Cal Poly on May 2, on the road in San Luis Obispo. Joining McDaniel in the circle is junior transfer Shaina Brock from Baylor. Brock comes to Pacific with two years of collegiate experience with the Bears including Super Regional experience having pitched against No. 6 Michigan last season in the NCAA tournament. The lone freshman who will be called upon for innings this season is Armagost who is slotted as the Tigers' No. 3 pitcher to start the season. Armagost proved to be one of the most dominant pitchers in the state of Kansas last season as a senior in high school after pitching her team to their first ever 5A state championship after going 14-0 on the year.

    Calling the pitches to the circle will be are a trio of catchers in 2010 led by senior Karie Wilson, who returns for her final season of action after earning all-conference honors last season. Wilson finished the season fifth on the team in batting at .269 while also driving in 12 runs. Behind the plate, Wilson proved to be the most durable player on the squad as she was the lone Tiger to play in and start all 52 contests throughout the year. Joining Wilson behind the plate this season is a pair of freshmen in Amy Moore and Makayla McCormick. Moore enters college as one of the best defensive catchers in high school softball. Throughout her four seasons at Valencia High School, Moore caught her way to multiple league championships, while also picking up a California State and National championship along the way. As a senior, Moore threw out an amazing 73.7 percent of would-be basestealers. McCormick, one of two walk-ons for the Tigers in 2010 will provide depth for the Tigers behind the plate.

    The Schedule

    Continuing the trend that marks a Kolze-coached team, the Tigers enter 2010 with one of the toughest schedules in the country. Heading into the year, the Tigers are slated to take on 17 teams that are either inside of, or receiving votes in the preseason top-25 softball polls of the NFCA and the ESPN/USA softball. Of the nine teams in the top-25 to start the season, the Tigers will face four top-five teams in No. 3 Florida, No. 5 Arizona State and No. 10 (NFCA) Stanford and (ESPN/USA) Oklahoma. Most of the Tigers' top notch opponents will come in tournament play when the Tigers take part in the Palm Springs Classic, DeMarini Tournament, Diamond Devil Invitational and the Stanford Tournament. Prior to the tournament the Tigers kick off the season on Saturday, February 13 at Fresno State when they take on the No. 24 ranked Bulldogs as well as Sacramento State in doubleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday.

    After putting the tournaments behind them, Pacific will head into Big West Conference play where they will look to get back into the fray for the conference title. The Tigers begin conference play at Long Beach State on Friday, March 31, to face a 49er squad who received votes in the preseason polls. Pacific will take on four teams receiving votes in the preseason polls in conference action as Cal State Northridge, Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly all enter the season looking to crack the top-25. Pacific finishes its regular season against Cal Poly on May 14-15, as they take on the defending Big West champion Mustangs at Bill Simoni Field.