STEVENS: Coach Ty Singleton Didn't Pick A Cupcake as Lobos' Season Opener
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/05/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Feb. 5, 2009

Lobo Softball
Lobos vs. Syracuse
Friday: Lobos 5, Syracuse 4
Saturday: Syracuse 12, Lobos 6
Sunday: 1 p.m., Lobo Field
Online: Live streaming on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

You have to wonder if Lobo softball coach Ty Singleton has every heard the word "cupcake." That's the pastry that most coaches like to open the season with: a team you can pound on, build some confidence on, get an easy win.

The Syracuse Orange are not cupcakes.

The Orange return seven starters off a team that went 12-10 in the Big East. They have a senior catcher in Amy Kelley, who hit .346 last year with 11 homers. They have a senior shortstop in Jamie Kelling, who hit .320.

They also have junior Brittany Gardner on the mound, who posted a solid 2.76 ERA in 2008. This is not an easy opener.

"They should be pretty solid," said Singleton. "They have a pitcher in the twos (ERA) and if you are in the twos in college, you are usually pretty solid."

The three-game home stand is knotted at 1-1 as UNM won the first game 5-4 and Syracuse beat on the Lobos 12-6 today (Saturday). Singleton is entering his third season at UNM. His 2009 Lobo squad should be one of the top hitting and fielding teams in the Mountain West Conference.

"We have an outstanding infield, a quick infield, and I think fans are going to see a lot of double plays this season out of this group," said Singleton. "We know teams are going to hit the ball and that will challenge our defense to share the responsibility of holding teams down. We don't have a power pitcher in the circle and we need everyone to make defensive plays."

The Lobos go into the season with an inexperienced pitching staff behind freshman Danielle Castro and senior Analise Rubalcava, who spent her first three seasons at UNM as an infielder. "What we want to see from them is improvement as the season progresses," said Singleton.

An interesting aspect to watch on this team will be how senior Samantha Hughes and transfer Janet Rendon mesh as UNM's No. 1 and No. 2 batters. "Sammie" Hughes is a versatile veteran with good speed and knows how to get on base. Rendon's job will be to push Hughes into scoring position.

"Sammie is solid as a leadoff," said Singleton. "Janet has the talent to add a lot to the top of our lineup. She has the speed to get on with a bunt and she has the power to turn on a ball and hit it out of the park. Her versatility at the plate should give Sammie more opportunities to steal bases.

"We need to score more runs this season. We need to advance runners and then we have to have the skill to get them to the plate. We're going to bunt. We're going to base run well. We're going to have bat control and discipline at the plate."

Two other Lobos also will be looked upon to push their teammates across the plate: Katie Gilmore and Rubalcava, who probably will bat in the No. 4 and No. 5 spots.

Singleton returns five players from last year's 25-26 team: Hughes, Rubalcava, Gilmore, Erin Brandow and Tianna George.

"This whole team is passionate about ball and passionate about getting better," said Singleton. "This is a close knit group that is hungry to win. This team has a tremendous work ethic and their self-discipline is at a very high level.

"You are going to see a team that is going to go out and compete every single game."

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous GoLobo.com articles can be found on The Richard Stevens Corner.