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Women's softball preview: Wholesale changes for Lions

February 16, 2000

Tony Altobelli

COSTA MESA - If you're Vanguard University softball coach Beth

Renkoski, how do you rebound from losing five four-year starters from

your two-time Golden State Athletic Conference championship team?

Pitching, pitching, pitching.

"It's nice that even though we still have some question marks in

different positions, we still have some strong pitching to throw out

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there." Renkoski said. "Having some returning pitchers will really help

us as our new players get comfortable."

Leading the Lions' pitching staff will be sophomore Gina Liebengood, who

was a second-team All-American selection as a freshman, going 22-4 with a

0.78 ERA.

Junior Alysia Atchley (8-0, 1.11 ERA) and sophomore Cheri Smith (4-0,

3.39 ERA) will also see a ton of innings, both as starters and relievers.

"I'll use all three of my returning pitchers as starters or in relief,"

Renkoski said.

Freshman catcher Meredith Devey will have a lot of fast learning ahead of

her in order to handle the Lions' pitching staff.

"It's obviously a big change going from high school to college and she's

got a big load ahead of her," Renkoski said. "But she's doing pretty well

with all of it. She carries a lot confidence on the field."

First baseman Valerie Vanaken (.350, 41 RBIs) and outfielder Rachel

Carver (.277, 21 RBIs) are the only two seniors on this year's squad and

Renkoski will look toward them for leadership and offensive production.

"We still have some good leaders on this team," Renkoski said. "We're

gonna have to rely on several returners to keep our tradition moving in

the right direction."

In the infield, second baseman Erin Gomez, along with Vanaken at first,

will anchor the right side, while junior college transfer shortstop

Andrea Saucedo and freshman third baseman Jill Jensen will hold down the

left side.

"The biggest thing with the infield is how well they mesh together,"

Renkoski said. "Fortunately, we have players that can play different

positions, so we have some options."

Carver will lead the outfield in left, while speedy sophomore Stacey

Caggiano takes care of center and junior Nikki Benning holds down right.

Offensively, Renkoski feels that this team has more speed and power from

top to bottom, but experience could be the main missing intangible.

"Our experience together is the biggest factor," Renkoski said. "We need

to get some innings under our belt playing together. Once we do that, our

confidence should get stronger and we'll be more comfortable."

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