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Feb. 19, 1997

What a Difference a Year Makes

Off Season Changes Make a World of Difference for Red Raider Softball. From recruiting to scheduling to the overall team makeup, this season's squad is a new and improved version.

Head coach Renee Gillispie strengthened her coaching staff by adding experienced fastpitch players Bobby Reeves and John Harris. Then, with a full year to recruit, she brought in talented transfers and freshman to add to a strong, yet small group of returnees. Thus, the new and improved Red Raider softball program was born.

"The opportunity we had to thoroughly recruit is reflected in the way the team plays. Recruiting is the main reason we have such a high level of talent on this year's team," Gillispie said. "It was a good fall for us. We learned how to work together and what our strengths and weaknesses are as a team."

Six top returnees will supply the majority of leadership. Three of those returnees will provide the team with pitching duties as well. On the mound will be juniors Danielle Brady and Jenny Cannon, and sophomore Emily Hayes. Returning catcher Jessica Karenke will again see time behind the plate.

Junior first baseman Kim Tillett and sophomore infielder Jessica Wimpy return from last season and are expected to add stability. Wimpy was one of only two Red Raiders named to the first-ever All Big 12 team. She was selected as an honorable mention shortstop.

Also back from last season is sophomore outfielder Lora Delashmutt. She will provided added strength for the Red Raiders hitting game, as well as giving Tech some Big 12 outfield experience.

"The squad members we have back from last season laid a strong foundation for us to build on. They are a talented group who will continue to help us, especially with the addition of our new players," Gillispie said.

With only seven team members returning, the Red Raiders are looking to talented recruits to fill in major holes. Two of Tech's top recruits are transfers from softball powerhouse Sacramento City College.

Centerfielder Denise Jackson and third baseman Kim Martinez were All-Americas in junior college. The duo helped lead Sacramento City to the California JC State Championship and also played against the 1996 USA Softball squad.

New Mexico transfer Stephanie Walls will add much needed depth at second base and in the Texas Tech outfied positions.

Gillispie expects four new freshmen to make a large impact. At shortstop will be Paula Workman of Spicewood; catcher Ellen Middleton joins Tech from DeSoto; Tamara Harrington of Broken Arrow, Okla. is a first base specialist; and Christina Munoz of Carlsbad, N.M. will play outfield.

Other recruits adding depth to the lineup are catcher Stephanie McCoy and first baseman Christina Jenkins, both of Albuquerque, N.M.

Offensively, Tech looks to improve by reaching consistency in the hitting game. With a strong one through six lineup, Tech feels their hitting will only strengthen with time. Tech will also look to improve their base running skills, while patiently working to overcome young mistakes that arise from inexperience at the collegiate level.

"Team-wise, we need to be hitting over .300. Our concept is if we have less than two errors and more than seven hits a game, we can win," Gilispie said.

The Texas Tech Red Raiders have set their goals for the season. The first one is to finish as one of the top five teams in the highly competitive Big 12 Conference. That will be a difficult task, since the conference is filled with such experienced teams as Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Texas A&M. The second goal is also one that will take a lot of hard work -- advancing to the NCAA Regional Playoffs.

"What we need are strong leaders who will help build the program and who know where we have to go and what we have to do to win," Gillispie said. "Rather than delegating team captains, I feel that everyone is responsible enough to be a leader at some point in time."

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