Wildcats to watch on the diamonds in 2008
#28 Brian Clark, pitcher
Senior pitcher Brian Clark is returning as the No. 1 pitcher for the Wildcats and will be one of the top pitchers in the Northwest Conference.
Last season, Clark showed he is able to carry the load of being the top pitcher after going 7-3. His efforts last year resulted in him being nominated to his first all-NWC first team honors.
Beyond the NWC, he was also named to the second team all-West Region.
After finishing last season at third place in the NWC and returning 21 letter winners, Linfield was voted to the top of the coaches’ poll. Teams will be aiming to knock them off as only two teams make it to the postseason. Clark said consistency will be key to the ’Cats’ success, both for himself and the team.
“The more consistently I pitch, then the team knows what to expect out of me,” Clark said. “Pitching well takes a lot of pressure off the hitters, and the more relaxed they are, usually the better they produce at the plate.”
With a strong, experienced defense behind him, Clark will be able to be more aggressive on the mound.
“If (the pitching staff) can throw strikes and not give up walks, it forces the other team to get hits,” Clark said. “Our outfield is the fastest in the conference, they catch everything. In the infield, especially with the new field turf, ground balls are going to get sucked up and we’re not going to get many errors. We know that we’re putting the best team out there every week.”
This season’s objective for the team is to make it all the way to the regional tournament in Abilene, Texas.
“Our goal is to win conference and move onto the playoffs,” Clark said. “Regionals are held in Abilene, Texas, and the only reason you go there is if you have something to do there. We want to get down there and play as long as we can.”
#16 David Bachofner, shortstop
Senior shortstop David Bachofner will be one of the Northwest Conference’s best shortstops this season.
As a sophomore, he earned second team all-NWC at third base. In the offseason, he made the switch to shortstop without missing a beat, earning second-team honors at his new position in 2007.
Wildcat fans should see some solid play in the infield with Bachofner returning with a year of play at shortstop behind him. The new field turf will also be a major help to infielders. The playing surface will eliminate all bad bounces on ground balls, minimizing errors.
At the end of last season, Bachofner was one of the hottest bats on the team. In the offseason, he focused on maintaining a solid offensive game throughout a long season by going to Iowa to play in a summer league.
“I played against some really good competition,” Bachofner said. “It helped me by getting to go up against guys who can throw a little harder. It was a good experience. I’ve struggled in the past trying to hit consistently throughout the season, and I think this year may be the year I’ll be able to do that.”
His offseason work has paid off so far this season with two early home runs to give him the team lead.
The powerful hitting he has experienced so far wasn’t something he expected, but it has been a pleasant surprise.
“It’s a new experience for me since I haven’t been much of a power hitter,” he said. “I’m just seeing the ball well right now, and if it ends up going out, then it does.”
The Wildcats were voted as the favorite to win the NWC title this season, and the players are focused to validate that nomination.
“We should win it outright with the talent we have,” Bachofner said.
#16 Amanda Attleberger, first base
First baseman Amanda Attleberger, a solid offensive threat, will be adding to her legacy during her senior season. She already owns several of Linfield’s batting records and will be separating herself even more over the course of the 2008 season.
She is arguably one of the strongest hitters in Linfield’s history after breaking the records for most career home runs, RBIs and walks in only three seasons.
“I think the records just show the hard work and all the things I’ve put into this program,” Attleberger said. “Sort of like the ‘Sandlot’ fame,’ heroes get remembered but legends never die. When you hold a record you become a legend.”
During the national title hunt last season, Attleberger was a major contributer to the team’s success, hitting five home runs. All of this earned her a spot on the West Region and NCAA Division III championships all-tournament teams.
“It means more to wear my championship ring and to tell people about it,” she said. “In every way everyone contributed, but just the memories from being on the field and the two home runs in the championship game will always stick with me. I was happy to contribute in that way.”
Attleberger will also be a solid defensive player for the Wildcats. As a first baseman, she will be seeing a lot of action with a tough infield.
Not only does Attleberger’s final season give her a chance to add to her records, but it also gives her and the other seniors on the team a chance to leave the program with a stronger legacy.
“I want to leave an impression on the program for the younger kids, so when we’re gone, they can keep what we have going,” Attleberger said. “We’re a pretty classy team. We play with a lot of integrity. I don’t think any award you can get could make someone appreciate or respect you more than the way you carry yourself on the field.”
She also recognizes the difficulties this season will bring as opposing teams will be driven to beat the Wildcats. Attleberger and her teammates know they have to play as close to perfect as possible to duplicate last season’s success.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us to be perfect,” she said. “Every team will feel like they’ve won the national championship when they beat us.”
#4 Jenny Marshall, second base
Senior second baseman Jenny Marshall is going to find it difficult to improve on her 2007 season after earning Northwest Conference Player of the Year and being voted to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association First Team All-American.
Marshall will be a major part of the ’Cats attempt at a repeat for the national title. Her play at second base with senior shortstop Meredith Brunnette will cover a large part of the infield with their extensive range and strong throwing arms. The two will make it difficult for opponents to get a base out of any ground ball. Marshall and Brunnette are one of the best duos at their positions in the nation.
Marshall has established herself as one of the most dangerous offensive weapons on the ’Cats’ stacked squad. Last season, she showed consistency through the long season with a batting average of .442. No Wildcat has ever maintained that high of an average over a season, giving Marshall the record.
“It was cool to get that record, but I’m sure it will be broken pretty soon,” Marshall said.
The ’Cats are the preseason favorites to win the national championship again this year, making it much more of a challenge than last year.
“It’ll be fun, but it will be a lot harder than last season,” Marshall said. “Teams are going to be giving us their best shot. We’re just going to have to take it one game at a time.”