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August 3, 2006

Question: Coach, your entire pitching staff returns and you add a talented freshman to the mix in the circle. Is the pitching staff in 2006-07 the strength of the team and what are your expectations for that group?
Answer: “I definitely believe in the ability of all of the players we will have in the circle for us. We will need them all so it’s important for our team to play good defense and score runs for whoever is throwing for us. It’s also very important that when we hire the new pitching coach, that he or she quickly establishes a relationship with each of our pitchers and works with them on their different pitches and, maybe more importantly, on their mental preparation. We will certainly be a more experienced staff and now that ASA 18U Gold is competing at 43 feet, Megan Miller and other freshmen pitchers will have many months of adjusting to the college distance. I would expect that with great focus and hard work, our pitching staff will be a strength for our team.”

Q: Defensively, shortstop appears to be the biggest hole you need to fill, along with finding another third baseman to compliment Jamee Juarez when she is pitching. What are your options at those two spots?
A: “This team is in great position to have a great season with most of our starters returning. Last year we had good production from all of our seniors, but Billie Carder was outstanding at shortstop for us and it will be the position that certainly has the biggest question mark leading into a new year. We’ll have considerably more depth in the infield with the addition of our new players. However, we expect that Whitney Cooper will be the player that answers the shortstop question. We’ll make sure we look at many players at several positions, but Whitney has a very strong arm, a great glove, good size and is a terrific athlete with great leadership potential – all of the attributes a great shortstop should have. We are very excited about her potential and her work ethic to be the best.

At third base, we could see any number of players and most, if not all, will be rookies. Tory Haddad has her goals set to be that player, but I also know we have some other players coming in who have a lot of experience in the infield. Rebecca Schultz and Arlynda Flores are two players we’ll be interested to see where they will fit in with our team. Jamee had her best year defensively last season and has proven to be an excellent third baseman so it’s those games when she’s on the mound that we will need someone new to play fearlessly at third base. In the end, we’ll put the best players in the spots that will allow our team to have the most success.”

Q: What are a couple of the most important things you would like to see the team improve on from last season?
A: “That’s easy – I would definitely like to see us give up less runs. Our line-up should continue to produce at the level we’ve been used to the last couple of years as one the top offensive teams in the conference and country. If we’re going to be a Top 25 team, then we have to give up less runs. Part of that is pitching, part of that is defense and the last part of that is focus and intensity. I think we will be much better in all of those areas this season. Although our fielding percentage was on pace with the national average, we were well below the Big Ten average. I don’t like to see our team down towards the bottom of the conference in any stat category, and we’re usually not, but it goes to show how solid the Big Ten Conference is defensively. Defense will definitely be a focus this season and we’re excited to mix so many young players (seven rookies) with our seasoned veterans. Our five seniors will work hard to finish as one of the most successful classes in school history and they will do a great job of guiding our team to reaching its potential.”

### Go Bucks! ###