Feb. 5, 2013
RENO, Nev. - The University of Nevada softball team will open the 2013 season with five games at the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah, beginning with a game against BYU at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.
In advance of the 2013 season, a preview is below. See attached game notes for a complete 2013 schedule, as well as overall statistics and results from 2012.
2013 Nevada Softball
The University of Nevada returns 13 letterwinners and eight starters as it ushers in a new era of Wolf Pack softball, entering the Mountain West in 2013 after a fifth-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference last season.
With experience all over the field, the Pack will compete alongside familiar foes Boise State and Fresno State in the Mountain West. In addition, Nevada will take on a host of new conference opponents, including Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV. San Diego State is the defending Mountain West champion, winning its fifth title in 2012. The Aztecs won their first NCAA Regional contest last season 1-0 over No. 20 Florida State, but fell to Hofstra 2-0 the following day. Falling into the loser's bracket to meet FSU again, the Aztecs won 1-0 to eliminate the Seminoles from the tournament. Another loss to Hofstra, 2-1, ended their season.
Nevada will now meet in-state rival UNLV three times each season, with this year's series taking place from April 26-28 at Hixson Park. It will be worth three points in the Governor's Series presented by NV Energy. The Pack will play 15 conference games in 2013. Each Mountain West series will also take on a one-a-day format over three days.
The Pack has put together a stout non-conference schedule in 2013, playing in five away tournaments in February and March before coming home to host the Nevada Classic from March 15-17. UTSA and Northern Colorado will be in Reno that weekend to play two games each against Nevada. From March 23-24, the Pack will host the Wolf Pack Classic, meeting Santa Clara and Idaho State twice.
"I am extremely excited about our 2013 schedule," head coach Matt Meuchel said. "We are at three of the largest and most competitive non-conference tournaments in the country the first three weekends of the season, including the premiere tournament in the country, the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic."
The non-conference schedule is highlighted by a contest with the UCLA Bruins at 11:30 a.m. on February 24, at the Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. The Bruins have won 11 NCAA Championships, taking the crown most recently in 2010.
"We will be tested in the first three weekends of our schedule," Meuchel said. "Additionally, we will get some real quality opponents the following two tournaments at Pacific and Cal Poly."
The 2013 Mountain West softball representative at the NCAA Tournament will be determined by regular-season play, as there is no conference post-season event.
Jones, a junior, posted one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios (21.5 strikeouts per walk) in the nation last season, going 9-5 with a 3.58 ERA to lead all Nevada pitchers. She set the Nevada single-season record for walks/seven innings (.57) and finished first nationally in the same category. With 30 appearances, Jones appeared in a relief capacity on 21 occasions. This season, the junior will be asked to both start and appear in relief, as will the remainder of the Pack pitching staff.
"Karlyn had a really good season last year for our pitching staff," Meuchel said. "She is such a fierce competitor, someone who wants that ball in every situation. She sets a huge tone for our defense and is a real leader in the circle for us."
Craig, also a junior, will be asked to come out of the bullpen this year, as well as make spot starts in support of the rest of the staff. Last season, she made 12 appearances with two starts. A bit of an unknown for 2013, Brewer should see a good deal more time in the circle in 2013 than she has in any previous season. Each of her first two years on campus at Nevada have been marred by injury, including a 2011 campaign lost to a medical redshirt. Possessing electric stuff, the sophomore will be a valuable member of the rotation if she can stay healthy.
"Ariel is really pitching well headed into the season," Meuchel said. "She is a very versatile pitcher that can pitch in a lot of different situations in a game. When it comes to Bailey, if she can find a way to stay healthy she will be able to help our team win games."
The only newcomer in the circle for the Pack, Dortch is a Reno native who spent her freshman season starring at Northern Illinois in 2012. While a member of the Huskies, she earned two Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Week honors and made 31 appearances. She struck out 158 hitters in 130.1 innings pitched.
"It's great to have Megan transfer back to Nevada," Meuchel said. "She is a power pitcher who will add an additional dimension to our staff."
Coach Meuchel feels confident in the infield depth of the 2013 squad.
"We are as deep with talent in the infield as we have been in many years," he said. "The addition of Megan Sweet has allowed us to move Karley Hopkins back to her natural position of second base. Additionally we are excited to have Erin Jones back at third base and to be returning Lauren Lastrapes to first base for a third year. Add to that last year's starting second baseman, Caylin Campbell, and talented freshman depth. This year's unit will be a sound unit that we expect to take care of the ball and lock down opposing offenses."
The projected starting infield will have 282 starts in a Nevada uniform, with the freshman Sweet, currently slated to play shortstop, as the only newcomer.
"Megan plays the game on a different level and is a special talent," Meuchel said. "She will no doubt bring a special element to both our offensive lineup and our infield."
Jones, a junior, led Nevada in a number of offensive categories in 2011, when she started 31 games. Her .362 batting average was the best among Nevada players that season, as was her .574 slugging percentage.
"She is a special talent at the plate and will no doubt be the heart and soul of the middle of our lineup this season," Meuchel said.
Hopkins, known as Pee-Wee, started all 57 games at shortstop as a sophomore a season ago, but will occupy second in 2013. Last season, she led all Wolf Pack hitters with a .337 batting average in 190 at bats. Defensively, she committed only six errors in 237 chances.
"Pee Wee is so dependable, both on offense and defense," Meuchel said. "She has proven that she is going to put up big numbers on offense each season, with this season likely to be her biggest so far."
Lastrapes begins her final campaign in the Silver and Blue looking to continue to play a solid defensive first base and be a dynamic part of the Nevada offense. In 2012, she hit .307, which was good for the second-best average on the team, and led the Pack with seven home runs.
"Lauren had a terrific junior season and has really increased her offensive production during each season at Nevada," Meuchel said. "She is an explosive offensive player who will anchor the middle of our lineup."
The Pack is likely to start the same three outfielders that it did for the majority of 2012 again this season. Sara Parsons, who chased the school record in doubles a year ago and finished with 17, will patrol center field for Nevada on opening day. She hit .294 with three home runs and started every game for the Pack a season ago, often occupying the third spot in the lineup. One of the toughest outs on the 2012 team, Parsons will find herself in the middle of it all again this season, hoping to lead her squad to a conference title and beyond.
"Sara had a breakout sophomore season in which she was an All-WAC selection," Meuchel said. "She is such a talented athlete who has so many ways to dominate an opposing team. She is becoming a better outfielder with each passing day. Her aggressiveness, athleticism and competitive nature are a catalyst for our team on both sides of the ball."
Chelsea Barilli is slated to start in left field, a spot she occupied 47 times a season ago. A threat on the base paths, the senior stole 12 bases on 13 tries last year. Whether she finds herself in the lead-off position, as she has a number of times in her career, or in another spot in the lineup, Barilli will force opposing coaches to gameplan for her speed and tenacity as a base runner.
"Chelsea had a really good season last year earning All-WAC honors, and we look for her to have another solid year for us out in left field," Meuchel said. "She is someone we look forward to having on and creating havoc on the base paths in order to score a lot of runs for our team."
In right field, Nevada will employ the services of another senior, Megan Fincher. The Reno native will look to provide some pop to the middle of the lineup as well as continue to play a strong defensive right field. She played in all 55 games in 2012 and started 54 times. Offensively, she had 10 doubles, one triple, three homers and 18 walks.
"Megan has improved her game each season at Nevada and has become a big leader in our program," Meuchel said. "Her consistency will be a great asset for our team and I expect that she will have a breakout senior season and will provide a big spark to our lineup."
Ashley Butera and Chelsea Venable, who each saw time behind the plate a season ago, will be back in the Silver and Blue in 2013. Last season, Butera began her freshman campaign in style, before suffering a shoulder injury that limited her to 43 games and 33 starts. Despite limited action, she was second among all Nevada players with six home runs. Venable, a senior, made 26 starts, hit two home runs and drove in six runs.
"Ashley had a great freshman season before suffering a devastating injury," Meuchel said. "She has proven that she is always a threat at the plate and will be a huge part of our offense."
"Chelsea is a real big arm talent behind the plate," Meuchel said. "She has proven to be a stopper of the run game defensively. Offensively she has improved in each of her seasons and continues to show that she has the capability to get big hits in big situations."
A number of Nevada players will be called on to pinch hit and pinch run as the 2013 season begins. Returners Caylin Campbell, Alex Hayes, Sydney Jones and Molly McWilliams, as well as freshman Danielle Wiltz, will be assets in 2013. Hayes, Jones and Campbell will be asked to provide offense off the bench for Nevada.
"Sydney has had several injuries during her first two seasons," Meuchel said. "Given her return to full health she will have a chance to pinch hit for us this season. Caylin has had a few very good years for us and Alex wears so many important hats for our program and will also pinch hit."
McWilliams and Wiltz, both speedsters and valuable base runners, will do a good deal of pinch running this season. Meuchel called both players "much needed" and praised their ability to affect the game on the base paths.
"The 2013 team has a chance to be one of the best offensive units in program history," he said. "It has the depth (and possibly more) of the great 2008 offense. We expect to improve our power numbers from a year ago, but this group has a good balance of power and speed and depth."