2008 Florida Softball
Can you talk a little about this season’s schedule?
TW: I think it’s a great balance. When you look at last year’s schedule and what we had on the field, I think it was a very well-constructed schedule. It prepared us for all phases of the season. It prepared us for our goals, and it obviously left us one game short of our dreams. It was the toughest schedule I had ever played, it was the toughest schedule I think I have ever seen a team pull together, but you have to know our personnel. We have to take our team into the future, and I think we are doing that this year. We have a lot more home games this year than we’ve had in the past, but having ten new players, eight freshmen, I think the opportunity in there is giving them time to focus on their schoolwork and allow them to better themselves. That is primary focus number one, to keep their welfare in mind as we travel. We play some great opponents on some home fields, some neutral fields and some away fields. When you look at the names on our schedule, we just have a lot of great teams in there that you look at specifically. And you have to take into account the tough SEC schedule we have. It is going to be interesting and give this team the opportunity to showcase their ability both home and away. We are working on preparing ourselves not for today but for the future.
How do you feel about the talk that Florida is a pick to win SEC East Divi- sion this year? Is this young team up for that?
Francesca Enea is coming back from an injury, which she played through last spring - has she been able to recover well and where will she find her niche this year?
TW: She’s going to find her niche in three positions - designated player, first base and catcher. Catcher is to be determined still, depending on how well she comes back after drills. Over the fall her first base skills have really started to improve, and she’s getting more and more clearance from doctors to do more things. She made an unbelievable play in our second-to-last scrimmage of the fall and almost fell into the dugout to get a ball. She plays really hard. Her offensive skills are really impressive to watch. I look forward to every at bat she has this season for her to do something special anytime she comes to play.
Are you looking for Kristina Hilberth to be the starter at catcher or Kris- tina and Tiffany DeFelice sharing depending on who is pitching?
I think when you look at who’s going to win the conference and who is picked by the coaches to win the conference, you have to look at the pitching staff number one. With Stacey Nelson and the accomplishments she was able to have last year, that is the first thing I look at. I would embrace being picked number one, but I think we have a lot of unproven players and a lot of unproven obstacles in the sea- son. I think we are ready for that to happen though. We are one of the best teams in the league, but I do not think we’re the best team yet.
What would be the best strength of this team?
TW: (This team) Never quits. I think whether you are going to find this team up by a lot and down by a lot, you are never going to know by the scoreboard because they never quit and continue to strive for perfection.
TW: Stacey Nelson is very comfortable with Kristina right now, but Tiffany does a great job handling Stacey too. I think it is going to come down to the offense of those two. Defensivel , they have done a great job, but I think the offense or lack of offense at some positions may be a factor because Kristina is triple dimensional. She can play three or four positions on the team, and I think her athleticism has really improved. Tiffany can play one position, so if she does a great job behind the plate, and maybe we need more of an offensive lift, then I think you’re going to see Kristina roam around and play multiple positions. Obviousl , if Kristina is the best catcher every da , then she’s going to catch the majority of the games like in the last few years. I think more importantly it is going to come down to offense in most cases. Tiffany DeFelice is a proven hitter, and we really want to give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s going to come out and hit pitchers and do a good job there. I think that is going to make me push her and keep her in the lineup.
Offensively, are you stronger this year? Are you going to surprise people?
TW: We are not going to surprise anyone anymore. I think we are past that point now, but I think we are still a balance. Last year we talked about having an even amount of pop. I think we still have an even amount of pop. We are going to bal- ance the power through the lineup. We are probably going to be capable of having six to seven persons in a lineup hit a home run. We are capable of having three to five batters in any lineup dropping on a bunt. We have speed off the bench that will come in. I think we’ll be balanced, like how we were balanced last year. We were probably a little lower points-wise than we would liked to have been, but given the strength of schedule and the amount of quality pitchers we have, I think we had a wonderful season. I think this year overall, once you get past how many freshmen you have hitting in your lineup, this team is going to be a lot more contagious than what we have had in the past just because they’ve come in with a little bit higher level of confidence.
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