Warrior softball team returns plenty of talent

WWCC coach Mike Staudenmaier feels his team has what it takes to improve on last year's NWAACC tournament run.

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WALLA WALLA - Walla Walla Community College's softball team has seen its share of success over coach Mike Staudenmaier's tenure with the Warriors.

Staudenmaier, entering his 15th season at the WWCC helm, has a 382-238 career record with the Warriors and they've placed in numerous NWAACC Championships - including a second-place finish in 2009.

Staudenmaier was named NFCA-Speedline National Coach of the Year following 2000's season, and has been named NWAACC Eastern Region Coach of the Year three times.

The Warriors have produced 19 NFCA/NWAACC Louisville Slugger All-Americans, 29 NFCA Academic All-Americans, seven NWAACC Eastern Region MVPs, 45 NWAACC East first-team members, 25 East second-teamers, 60 NWAACC Sophomore All-Stars, 11 NWAACC All-Tournament Team members and two Diamond National Catchers of the Year.

And Staudenmaier feels the 2012 Warriors have the tools to improve on last season's 34-12 overall record - which included 23-5 as NWAACC East champions, but also an early exit at the NWAACC Championships.

Walla Walla returns seven starting sophomores from that squad, and Staudenmaier said he's got a talented class of recruits.

"This very talented team has great chemistry and a desire to win two championships this spring," he said. "The Warriors know how to win. They have set their sights on the Eastern Region and NWAACC crowns."

Staudenmaier praised his coaching staff of Jessie Buehler, Katie Buehler and Tressa Robins as they prepare the Warriors for the season.

"These players have what it takes to reach our two goals this season, and I am confident they will battle and get it done," Staudenmaier said. "To win the Eastern Region championship and to make the NWAACC Championship and win it (is our goal). We know it's a battle in the East and NWAACC and our players believe in what we're trying to do.

"We have a disciplined, competitive group of newcomers and our veterans are extremely motivated and proven winners. This is a good club, great coaching staff and it's going to be a fun season."

Leading the way for the Warriors are a pair of sophomore right-handed pitchers, Dara Kosanke (also an outfielder) and Katie Martell (also a starter at third base).

Kosanke won 21 games last season in the circle, was the Eastern Region MVP and first-team selection, as well as NFCA/NWAACC Louisville Slugger All-American, NFCA/NWAACC Academic All-American, an NFCA/NWAACC All-American and made the sophomore All-Star Team this fall.

"Kosanke is a competitor and we look for her to have a great year both in the circle and at the plate," Staudenmaier said.

"Martell is an off-speed pitcher who adds depth to our staff," he said. "She also starts at third, where she was a second-team all-Eastern Region member and a sophomore All-Star.

"These two will be at the top of the list for best pitchers in the NWAACC," Staudenmaier said. "We are looking for good things from them. If they do their jobs, we will win a lot of games.

Behind the plate, WWCC returns Kaylie Winston and Josi Verity. Winston also plays infield and Verity outfield, where both were sophomore All-Stars last season.

They're joined by freshmen Makenzee Burke and Kelly Morton.

"These are four good catchers that will catch and play other positions," Staudenmaier said. "All four will compete and are excited to be catching some of the top pitchers in the NWAACC."

On defense, the Warriors return their 2011 starting infield of Verity at first base, Wa-Hi grad Jill McDaniels at second, Martell at third and Wa-Hi grad Alicia Baker at shortstop. McDaniels earned Eastern Region second-team honors and was an academic all-American. They were all sophomore All-Stars.

A new face in the infield is Kate Hawk, who can play first or third "and hits very well," Staudenmaier said. "She'll see significant time."

In the outfield, Mercedes Pearson was an East Region second-team selection, an academic all-American and a sophomore All-Star.

Pearson is joined by freshmen Brandy Knowles and Alex Schamber, who will compete for spots in the outfield.

Utility player Sami Verity returns, as well.

Other new recruits include Kelsey Locke (OF/RHP), Kaydee Tarin (OF/RHP) and Amy Anderson (OF/INF).

The Warriors open the new season at the Pre-season Tournament at the Columbia Playfields in Richland, which they are hosting.

On Saturday, Walla Walla opens with Douglas at 1 p.m., followed by Lower Columbia at 3 p.m.

On Sunday, the Warriors face Olympic at 1 p.m. and Chemeketa at 3.

"The NWAACC Eastern Region will again be tough this year," Staudenmaier said. "All of the teams are capable of making it to the NWAACC Championships."

Warrior clothing drive

The Warrior softball team also is doing a NWAACC Community Service Project in conjunction with the NWAACC Championship Tournament.

Clothes will be collected until May 14 for homeless teens in the Walla Walla and Portland areas.

Donation boxes are in the WWCC Student Activities Center (SAC) and in the Dietrich Dome during games.

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