The new wave of Utah softball

By By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

Although the U softball team comes off a season during which it won the MWC title and made national headlines, the team enters the 2006-2007 year with enough questions to fill a standardized test.

Not only did the Utes lose some of their most recognizable impact players to graduation, they must now adjust to a brand-new coaching staff-a transition that is not always guaranteed to go smoothly.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said head coach Angie Jacobs regarding her new post. “I feel extremely fortunate to have been chosen to lead this softball program.”

Since All-American Jackie Wong and her .595 hitting percentage have both graduated, the Utes will need to find a new way to score. While they have plenty of capable sluggers, Wong’s 90 hits will not be easy to replace.

Utah’s top returning offensive threat is Diana Phillips, a sophomore outfielder out of Taylorsville High School. She tallied 69 hits last season and will likely improve on that number with the help of new hitting coach Brandon Twiss.

“Brandon brings a great deal of energy to our program,” said Jacobs. “Not only is he a student of the game, he has a passion for teaching that is second to none.”

One position in which Utah won’t need to reload is on the mound, where the bullpen remains virtually intact.

Junior pitchers Karina Cannon and Meghan Dyer both return after posting ERAs of 2.11 and 2.52 respectively in 2006. The dynamic duo was a major factor in the Utes’ successes, combining for 36 of the team’s 40 wins last season.

Cannon, Dyer and the rest of Utah’s hurlers will benefit from the tutelage of Debbie Bilbao, a Sandy native who has made coaching stops at Iowa and Salt Lake Community College.

“Debbie brings a wealth of experience to our program not only as a pitching coach, but in all facets of the game,” said Jacobs.

It looks as though Jacobs, a former assistant at Utah who is fresh off a successful eight-year stint at Miami of Ohio, has all the firepower she needs to make another title run in 2007. She just doesn’t know it yet.

“I really don’t know much about the program or the players here,” she said, “but I am very enthusiastic about next season. The University of Utah is an incredible place.”

If her record at MU is any indication, Utah will remain an incredible place for the foreseeable future.