WNC softball will benefit by early start

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A year ago, Western Nevada College's first softball game was its conference opener. The Wildcats were playing against teams with 10 or 12 games under their belts. Not a really fair situation.

The playing field will be level this year, as the Wildcats, who open the season Jan. 27 against Eastern Arizona College in Las Vegas, will get a much earlier start to the season. After several games in Las Vegas, the Wildcats will spend four days in Yuma, Arizona before embarking on conference play.

"Last year not playing in the preseason tournament hurt," said coach Leah Wentworth. "It (playing early tournaments) can only help us.

"I do feel like we were gaining some momentum at the end of last year. We were facing tams that had between 60 and 100 more at-bats."

Wentworth's team went 7-36 a year ago. It was a team with just 13 players and not a lot of depth or versatility. She has 20 players on this year's team, including six returnees, and most can play more than one position.

"It was tough last year when girls got sick or hurt," Wentworth said.

The returnees are outfielder Jordan Thomas (.383, 3 HR, 15 RBI), Infielder-outfielder Melanie Pfeiffer (.349, 1-15), catcher-first baseman Megan Hein (.301, 1-17), infielder Ashley Gleason (.320, 1-16), infielder Niki DiSera (.267, 1-21) and Mikaela Henshaw (.192, 0-3).

Pitching has always been a problem for WNC, and the Wildcats have three brand-new pitchers, all freshmen, on their staff this year.

Alexia Alley (Mountain View Christian), Jordan Garcia (Spring Creek) and Ali-Marie Lostra (Elko) bring various strengths to the team, according to Wentworth.

"Jordan has the most velocity, a good rise ball," Wentworth said. "Alexia doesn't have that same velocity, but has a drop curve and a change-up. Ali is more off-speed and can keep hitters off balance. They are all working hard to increase their velocity."

Carson's Hein started last year and hit the ball well, but had off-season hip injury, and has yet to be cleared to play. Freshman Katirina Rand of Legacy-Las Vegas would likely start if Hein's still injured.

"Katirina does a great job blocking balls," Wentworth said. "We may platoon back there at the start of the season."

First base is the Wildcats' most crowded position with freshman Tori Crowell from Yerington, freshman Lauren Knorzer from Carson, Alley and maybe Hein if the latter's injury prevents her from the rigors of squatting all the time.

"Tori is the starter now," Wentworth said. "She has a good glove and good speed. Alley can swing the bat. Lauren has been bothered by some injuries."

Gleason has the edge at second base, but she's being pushed by sophomore Lyzette Aguilar from Yerington and Douglas High's Rebecca Nelson.

"Ashley is doing a great job so far," Wentworth said. "She's a strong hitter and brings experience from last year."

Pfeiffer, a sophomore out of Wooster, is running No. 1 at shortstop. Freshman Alia Cox is the back-up.

"Melanie has made a lot of improvement over last year," Wentworth said. "She's very solid."

Taleas Marble and ex-Wooster standout Courtney Lange are battling for the starting job at third. Marble played at Snow College last year, and is a consistent hitter.

In the outfield, the starters right now are Thomas, Yerington's Trinity Thom who was at Glendale College in Arizona last year, and ex-North Valleys star Jennifer Quam.

"Jennifer is a slapper, but she can also hit for power," Wentworth said. "All three of the starting outfielders have great arms. Jordan hit the ball well for us last season.


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