Feb. 3, 2004
PEPSI CLASSIC PREVIEW: The New Mexico softball team will start the 2004 season at the 2004 Pepsi Softball Classic tournament from Feb. 6-8 at Hillenbrand Stadium, hosted by the University of Arizona. Cal State Northridge, Mississippi, Nevada-Las Vegas will also participate in the three-day tournament that begins Friday, at 9 a.m. The Lobos play on Friday at 1 and 3 p.m. and on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Gametime on Sunday is still to be announced.
OPPOSITION OUTLOOKS: UNLV Rebels - Mountain West Conference foe UNLV enters the season with every player returning from last year. The 2003 season was not the best the Rebels have seen, finishing 21-39 overall and 4-14 in the conference, leaving them in last place. This year they were picked in the coaches preseason poll to finish fifth, one place above New Mexico.
The Rebels also look to new head coach Lonni Alameda for a better season. This is Alameda's first head coaching job after graduating from Oklahoma in 1993.
UNLV's key returning pitcher and only All-Conference selection last year is sophomore Jackie Kerrigan. Kerrigan went 16-16 with a 2.12 ERA, the fifth best in the conference. Kerrigan also topped the conference lists in Innings Pitched (214.2), Appearances (42), and Starts (32), where she placed second only to New Mexico's Amy Dumas in each category.
Offensively, the Rebels will look to Lisa Moses and Morgan Bostwick again. Moses had a team-high .274 BA with 45 hits and nine doubles. Bostwick held a .271 BA with seven doubles and two home runs.
Arizona Wildcats - The Cats enter the 2004 season ranked No. 3 nationally after their 56-7 overall record in 2003 that resulted in Arizona winning a seventh Pacific-10 Championship with a 19-2 conference record.
Head coach Mike Candrea led the squad to a 16th consecutive trip to the College World Series as well but will be partly absent this season as he turns his focus to his prestigious position as head coach of the USA Softball Team that will tour the country this spring and play in the Olympics at Athens, Greece, later this summer.
The Cats' acting head coach Larry Ray will lead be at the helm with acting associate head coach Nancy Evans.
Arizona lost All-American Lovie Jung and Lisha Ribellia to graduation as well as All-American junior outfielder Courtney Fossatti, whose off-season ankle surgery will require her to sit out for a redshirt season in 2004.
They will be led by sophomore pitcher Alicia Hollowell, who posted a 40-5 record in 2003 with an ERA of 0.94, allowing just 138 hits out of 1002 batters faced. Sophomore outfielder Autumn Champion will likely resume the leadoff spot, where she hit .434 and joined Hollowell as one of four Wildcat All-Americans.
Mississippi Rebels - Rebel head coach Candi Letts, who is entering her sixth year at the helm loses only one position starter from a squad that wrapped up 2003 with flashes of excellence. Over the final month, the Rebels notched victories over No. 10 Georgia, No. 18 South Carolina and Tennessee and also took the season series from rival Mississippi State.
A power-hitting catcher and designated player, DeDe Justice leads the list of the Rebels' returnees. The rising junior was named to the 2003 All-SEC second team, becoming the first Rebel to be selected since 1998 and the third all-time. Justice led the SEC in home runs (11) and RBIs (28) in conference play only, and finished in top three in homers (15), RBI (45) and slugging percentage (.693) for the season.
Ole Miss' top returning pitcher is sophomore Dana Brill. Brill posted a 3.19 ERA with a 3-11 record. She had 23 appearances, 16 starts and six complete games.
Cal State Northridge Matadors - Cal State Northridge picked up one first-place vote and 47 points, placing third in the Big West Conference Coaches Preseason Poll after last season's third place finish. The Matadors were 27-23 overall and 12-8 in conference play.
The Matadors return 13 letterwinners and nine starters from last year's postseason team.Leading the way is senior Christen Bedwell, an All-West Region first-team selection from a year ago, and junior Kia Fennell, who earned All-Region first-team honors and an All-American second team award.
Bedwell was one of 48 collegiate seniors selected in the National Pro Fastpitch Senior Draft . Bedwell was selected in the second round (14th overall) by the Sacramento Sunbirds but will complete her final year at CSU Northridge.
As a junior, Bedwell hit .384 while starting in every Matador game last year. She compiled 58 hits, nine doubles, seven home runs and struck out only 18 times in 151 at bats.
Fennell appeared in 41 games, starting 29, and completing 15 full games. She had a 2.11 ERA, throwing seven shutouts and striking out 169 batters.