Feb. 8, 2011
Being able to have the ability to plug a player in at different positions and not skip a beat is something every coach relishes to have. The 2011 Bruins may not have many similar lineups on the scorecard this season, but that versatility is going to be a big benefit for the defending champions as the season goes along. The stalwarts of the Bruin infield are up the middle with a pair of seniors in second baseman GiOnna DiSalvatore and shortstop Monica Harrison.
If you looked up versatile in the dictionary, you'd find a picture of DiSalvatore. Throughout her previous three seasons in Westwood, DiSalvatore has started games at all four infield positions, right field and designated player. A first-team All-American as a first baseman as a freshman, she earned the honor again last year with 58 starts at second base. Not only will you see her again at that position in 2011, but she will also spend time at third, where the Bruins look to replace All-Pac-10 honoree Julie Burney.
Offensively, DiSalvatore paced the Bruins a year ago in runs scored (55), hits (81) and doubles (19) and was second with a .391 batting average. She was also third on the team in on base percentage (.451), tied for third in RBI (53) and fifth with 10 home runs. The senior enters her final campaign with 48 doubles, just 11 shy of the school record and her 19 from 2010 tied for the second most in a single season in UCLA history.
"GiOnna is one of those players that every coach would dream for," fifth-year head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. "She has a strong voice and her leadership and confidence is something that will allow this team to stay focused during a game. At the plate, she is one of the most feared hitters in the nation. She's very consistent and has proven that she can hit the best pitching in the game.
"The best part about GiOnna is that she enjoys playing the game and her ability to enjoy the competition is contagious with her teammates. She is very competitive and is always playing at the highest level. She is an anchor in the infield and will be a go-to in the middle of the lineup."
Harrison was named All-Pac-10 as a junior, hitting .273 with three home runs and 24 runs batted in. At the plate, her ability to come through in the clutch is unquestioned, whether it be via her team-best and Pac-10-leading 17 sacrifice hits in 2010 or her key two-run double in the sixth inning of the first Women's College World Series Finals contest against Arizona. But her biggest impact for the Bruins comes defensively, where her .977 fielding percentage with only five errors was the best percentage among all conference shortstops.
"I believe that Monica is the best shortstop in the country," Inouye-Perez said. "She has great hands and a great read on the ball. There are balls that Monica can make look routine and that builds confidence for our pitching staff. She is also a great leader and is someone that can make people around her better by being able to communicate very clearly with her teammates on what is expected in the game and that is an intangible that a lot of people don't know about."
"Offensively, she was outstanding at the two spot for us last year. She prides herself on doing the little things to help the team and she enjoys the pressure of the big games."
Three of the Bruin freshmen will make an impact on the infield in 2011 thanks to said versatility. Talee Snow, a candidate for the starting job at third and second, was a four-time, first-team All-Sierra League honoree at Chino Hills High School and was also named All-CIF and All-Valley as a junior and senior. She hit .330 for her career and set school marks for hits, homers, RBI and runs scored.
"Talee is very solid defensively and can play any position on the infield, whether it is third, second or short," Inouye-Perez said. "Her versatility is a big strength for us. Offensively, she is a very sound hitter and has a great approach at the plate. I look for her to hit for average and to find a way to get on base."
Kellie Fox was a two-sport standout (softball and soccer) at Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego. As a senior, she was named the CalHiSports CIF Division II Player of the Year, earning All-League, All-County and All-Section accolades each season. She hit .454 in 2010 with seven homers, 38 RBI, 13 doubles and 10 stolen bases.
"Kellie is one of the most athletic people we've had come through the program in a while," Inouye-Perez said. "I can put her at any position, although middle infield is her strength. She has great range and a strong arm. You wouldn't know she was a freshman because she knows the game very well. Kellie has the ability to hit for power, but also has a lot of speed and we'll look for her to get those extra bases."
Jessica Hall, who will be a part of the pitching rotation, will also see time at first. "First is not a position that she played a lot prior to getting here, but she learns quickly and works hard. She's done a great job working with (assistant coach) Lisa Fernandez in preparing herself to help this team at first if she's not in the circle. Offensively, she should be right there in the heart of the lineup," Inouye-Perez said of Hall, who hit .340 with five homers and 32 RBI in her senior season at Ayala High School.
Back on the returner front, junior Samantha Camuso is another who can see time at first base, along with a role as a designated player. Camuso was on fire during the NCAA Tournament, posting a team-best eight homers, 21 RBI and a 1.400 slugging percentage to go along with a .467 batting average, as she went on to earn WCWS All-Tournament Team honors. On the year, she hit .326 with 16 home runs and 53 runs batted in and enters her redshirt junior campaign sixth in UCLA history in slugging (.608).
"Sammy has one of the most beautiful swings in the game," Inouye-Perez said. "She can hit the ball anywhere and never really has to change the rhythm of her swing. She is a pure hitter who can hit any type of pitching. Her success in the postseason is going to carry her over to 2011 and she will be an impact bat in the middle of our lineup."
When she's not catching, junior Dani Yudin will be a candidate at first base, where she started 22 games as a sophomore. "She did a great job of filling that position last year," Inouye-Perez said. "Offensively, she's very calm at the plate and has a terrific approach. She has the great ability to stay within herself and can hit to all fields."
Another with an opportunity to see playing time at either corner infield spot is senior Amy Crawford. Last season, Crawford appeared in 39 contests, making four starts in right field while seeing a lot of time as a pinch-runner. She was 3-for-14 (.214) with five walks and 15 runs scored.
"Amy has been a big strength to this program with her versatility. She can play third, first or the outfield and adds to our depth defensively. Amy will be prepared to play at whatever position the team needs her to play. I'm very grateful that she has that team over self mentality."
Junior Marti Reed played in 24 contests last season, making four starts, including three consecutive at second base at the start of Pac-10 play. She had four hits in 23 at-bats (.174) with five runs batted in, one double and nine runs scored.
"Marti hasn't had a lot of playing time in the last two years, but she is a great athlete and very versatile," Inouye-Perez said. "She swings a big stick offensively and has the ability to hit to all fields."
Senior Grace Murray also adds to the depth at second base and coming off the bench as the first pinch-runner. She played in 53 contests a year ago, scoring 27 runs and was a perfect 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts.
"Grace is someone that we can rely on to come in the game at any time," Inouye-Perez said. "She prepares hard every day and makes the team better with her outstanding work ethic."