The Seward County Community College softball team begins their fall 2006 season a year after winning their second consecutive NJCAA Region VI Tournament. Fifth year head coach, Andrea Gustafson, has led the Lady Saints to an 83-44 overall record during the last two seasons. Gustafson’s Lady Saints are entering new territory this year after nine sophomores departed after winning back-to-back Region VI titles. Among the talented sophomore class were five starting positions players and the Lady Saints No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers. On the bright side, Gustafson does return seven player including three players who each received All-Conference and All-Region VI honors.

Instead of worrying about rebuilding, Gustafson feels that the right players are returning for their sophomore seasons. She also feels that the freshman class has a chance to make their own mark with the SCCC softball program.

“I’m excited about this team. I think our infield has a chance to be the best infield we have ever had here, the most talented, and the most athletic,” said Gustafson. “I think our outfield has also improved. Right now it isn’t a question of pitching or catching or hitting, we are just unproven. So we just need to see who will step up and take over and be leaders this year.”

Gustafson on the Lady Saints three returning starters:

“Haley Martin started for us in center field for most of last year. She has really improved and she can go out and make plays for us in the outfield.”

“Meshia Patterson can play anywhere. She is a really great athlete. She has been a team leader for us and will lead us in the right direction this year.”

“Sarah Venegas has improved her catching and her confidence is a lot higher behind the plate. We love her hitting. She can hit the ball hard to all fields. She is a line drive hitter, power hitter, she produces runs and is just an all-around great hitter.”

Gustafson on the Lady Saints returning sophomores:

“Lili Franco has worked a lot on her outfield skills. She has been making plays and hitting the ball really well to all fields right now.”

“Stephanie McCarthy has come back and you can tell from her freshman-to-sophomore year, she has improved her whole mentality as far as pitching goes. She is ready to take charge and be one of our top pitchers.”

“Dana McLaren is going to bring leadership, you can see that with her on the volleyball court right now. We would like to see what she can do pitching wise. We weren’t able to see her pitch last year. We will just have to work her in when she can be with us.”

“Diana Sanchez has gotten better all-around. Her jump on the ball in the outfield has improved and she looks like she is ready for this season.”

Gustafson on the Lady Saints newcomers:

“Rachel Adaza has good blocking skills and has a quick release behind the plate with a strong arm. She will be an all-around good catcher for us who can also hit the ball.”

“Rachel Balencia is someone we will be expecting big things from this year. She has been hitting real well. She is just trying to get back into playing form after missing all of last season with an injury. She was our best all-around player last year before she got hurt.”

“Chelsea Cates is a little girl but can pitch the ball. She has nice off-speed pitches and is just an overall hard worker who I think will help our team a lot.”

“Lindsay Garchinski has been practicing at third base and has shown a strong arm. She runs the bases well and is an all-around good player.”

“Amber Gilland has been hitting the ball well in practice. She is a line drive hitter. She can play both infield and outfield. She will give us versatility on defense.”

“Jillian Huber has a year of college experience (El Paso C.C.) so that is beneficial for us. I think she will be a leader on this team. She is always communicating and she can hit to all fields.”

“Sarah Longoria is a hard worker with a strong arm and was an infielder in high school, but has been working in the outfield for us this fall. I think she will give us depth in the outfield.”

“Carissa Nelson will give us depth on the mound. She is a proven winner. She was in the state championship game last year. She will help us on the mound.”

“Jena Rue has a chance to be the best second baseman we have ever had here. She can also play shortstop, has a strong arm, tremendous range, can hit the ball for average and hit to all fields. She is just a great all-around player.”

“Marah Rogers can hit from the left side and can also lay down a bunt really well. She hits the ball hard and has a strong arm. She will give us depth in the infield.”

“Melissa St. Clair has a strong arm and has shown she can hit the ball. She has caught her whole life, so she has a lot of experience behind the plate.”

For more information on Seward County Softball, check out their web site.