Season Preview: Infield
Jan. 30, 2009
The second of a three-part preview highlights infielders on the 2009 Fighting Illini softball team. A preview of the outfielders will conclude the series.
The infield will feature familiar faces on the right side, while the graduation of Mexicano and third baseman Shanna Diller leaves the Illini with gaps to fill on the left side. Katrina Ross (Graham, Wash./Rogers) will compete for duties at first base where she spent the majority of last season. She made 43 starts last season, batting .221 with a career-high eight home runs. Ross will be a staple near the top of the lineup, likely slotted in the three or four-spot. Battling for time at first will be freshman Meredith Hackett (Corona, Calif./Santiago). Hackett could also compete for the DP, as she brings another powerful bat to the lineup. She broke her high school's home run record, had a strong showing for the Illini in the fall and has the potential to become a regular to the heart of the lineup this season.
Danielle Zymkowitz (West hills, Calif./Chaminade College Prep) returns to second base, where she started every game last season. She made an immediate impact during her freshman campaign, leading the team with 14 stolen bases, finishing second on the team with 43 runs and 67 hits, while batting .318 from the leadoff spot. With her speed on the base-paths, she likely will once again lead off for the Illini. As one of this year's team captains, Zymkowtiz brings a strong mentality and leadership on the field, finishing last year with .989 fielding percentage in the Big Ten.
Sophomore Danielle Vaji (Plano, Texas/Plano) and freshman Jessica Davis (Zephyrhill, Fla./Zephyrhills) will battle for time at shortstop. Vaji made 47 appearances with 11 starts last season, splitting time as DP and at short. Coming off shoulder surgery, Vaji is a triple threat, providing a solid left-handed bat along with versatility and speed. Davis demonstrated her power for the Orange and Blue in the Illinois State Tournament and also could compete for the DP spot.
Sophomore Audrey Gallien (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty) will compete with freshman Kelley Wedel (Anaheim, Calif./Loara) for time at third base. Gallien spent some time at the hot corner last season, while also playing at first frequently throughout the season. Although she started just 25 games, Gallien demonstrated her power at the plate with three home runs and seven RBIs. Wedel is another newcomer who has the potential to make a quick impact both offensively and defensively.