FOREST GROVE, Ore.- The Pacific University Softball team will look very different in 2022 with first-year Head Coach Katie Duroe at the helm. The Boxers have graduated all nine starters from their 2021 campaign as they look to reload and strive for their first Northwest Conference Championship since 1998.
“Our coaching staff is excited for the season,” Duroe said. “The team has been working really hard this fall and off-season. It is a season of opportunities for our team and we can’t wait to see how our team takes advantage of those opportunities.”
In 2021, Pacific posted an overall record of 17-19 (12-14 NWC) to finish 5th in the NWC standings. The Boxers just missed the NWC Postseason tournament, but they will look to regroup and return to the playoffs this spring.
Pacific returns 15 players from last year’s team while welcoming 10 newcomers to Sherman/Larkins Stadium. Those returning to the squad have not held consistent starting positions in the past, which means the Boxers will have many new faces on the diamond in 2022. While Pacific will have the benefit of some experienced returners, Duroe expects many newcomers to make an impact in their first season wearing the Red and Black.
Samantha Petitt (Junior/Tigard, OR) looks to break into the starting lineup after transferring from the University of St. Thomas (Tex.). The junior can play both middle infield spots but is slated to get significant innings at second base. Petitt swings the bat from the left side of the plate and is known to be a very complete hitter.
Rylee Patton (Senior/East Vale, CA) will occupy the shortstop position when she is not in the circle. An all-around athlete, Patton has a strong arm complemented with some sure hands in the infield. The infielder had just three at-bats a season ago but will hope to make some noise in the middle of the order this spring.
When Patton is in the circle, right-handed hitting Jordan Okumura (Freshman/Mililani, HI) will likely be penciled in at shortstop. While her primary position is in the outfield, her athletic ability will allow Duroe to slot her in the middle infield.
Transfer MiKaila Neilson (Junior/Frenchtown, MT) is a gap-to-gap hitter who can bring some power to the middle of the Pacific lineup. Neilson will likely play third base for the Boxers in 2022, while Carly Bursch (Senior/Santee, CA) will play the other corner spot when she is not pitching.
Michelle Winfield (Junior/Beaverton, OR) brings some experience to the Pacific outfield as her speed will be well-utilized in centerfield. Winfield hit .250 in 28 at-bats a season ago, smashing two doubles and one home run.
Nicole Leadley (Junior/Bothell, WA) will serve as a utility player in Duroe’s lineup to due to prowess at the plate. The Bellevue College transfer can play both corner outfield spots and will look to put up some big numbers in the batter’s box.
The Boxers have two senior leaders behind the plate in Elizabeth Young (Senior/Port Orchard, WA) and Haylie Uetake (Senior/Ewa Beach, HI). The two seniors will compete for a starting spot, but both are expected to get significant innings behind the dish.
Young has the most plate appearances at out of any returning player as she started 12 games in 2021. In her 35 at-bats, Young posted a batting average of .257. Last season, Uetake made 18 appearances with 10 starts. The Ewa Beach native hit .394 in her 33 at-bats, racking up eight runs and three RBI. The two catchers are particularly sure-handed as they combined for just one error in 2021.
The Boxers return some talented arms to the rotation in 2022. Carly Bursch will likely be Pacific’s opening day starter. The senior leader made eight appearances with four starts a season ago, logging 27.1 innings with 26 strikeouts. Bursch will hope to lower her walk totals and attempt to go deep into games during her senior campaign.
When she isn’t playing in the middle infield, Rylee Patton is slated to pitch a large chunk of the innings this season. The senior tossed 47.2 innings and posted a 5.10 ERA in her 15 appearances last season. She is expected to be utilized both as a starter and in relief.
The Boxers open their season in California when they head to La Verne for a doubleheader on Feb. 11. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.
For the latest information on Pacific Athletics, make sure to check out GoBoxers.com. You can also find the Boxers on social media at @GoBoxers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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