Utes deal with injuries, roster changes

By By Liz Frome

By Liz Frome

Fall ball is about halfway over for the Utah softball team, and according to head coach Amy Hogue, there’s still a lot up in the air for the group.

No starters or even firm positions have been decided for the start of the regular season this spring, but Hogue said she feels the team has been making a lot of good progress.

“It’s just an opportunity for everybody to get equal playing time and get a chance to show us coaches what they’ve got,” Hogue said.

This far into practices and fall ball, Hogue said she has seen a lot of versatility from several players8212;which will be much-needed if injuries occur, as the roster is only 16 deep. The small team includes four returning pitchers, who Hogue said are the healthiest athletes on the team.

At the end of the 2009 season, all four pitchers were going into the offseason with injuries.

According to Hogue, sophomore pitcher Joni Cook was able to recover the quickest and to throw a lot more in the break than the other pitchers. Hogue said all four pitchers are battling it out for the starting spot in the spring, and she said she expects the competition to remain tough even after spring games begin in 2010.

All other starting spots are not yet known, and the team has been focusing on adjusting to the many changes that have been thrown its way since the end of the 2009 schedule.

The coaching staff lost assistant coach Tracee Withers in the spring, but added longtime volunteer Cody Thomson as a full-time pitching coach in August. Hogue said the addition has already been beneficial.

“To have Cody with the pitchers every day, it relieves me of the dual role I was playing,” Hogue said. “All the areas (of the team) are being taken care of.”

Other obstacles the team has faced include minor injuries, a case of the swine flu, food poisoning and losing a recruit the day before classes started.

“We haven’t been all that healthy,” Hogue said. “We’re a small roster…so we’ve got to stay healthy. We could be in trouble if we get hurt.”

The Utes’ 2010 roster turned out lighter than expected, as one of the four recruits was unable to join the team at the last minute because of eligibility issues. Hogue said she has been impressed with the performance and work ethic of the other three and believes they are great additions to the team.

“All three of them have settled in extraordinarily well,” Hogue said. “We couldn’t be happier with our…recruits right now.”

Alyssa Garcia, a freshman recruit from Houston, Texas, suffered an ACL injury several months back and has not been cleared by doctors to participate fully in practices. Hogue said they are hopeful about her condition and expect to have her cleared for play in November.

The start of the 2010 season is still several months away, and Hogue said the time will be beneficial for the team.

“We’re nowhere near ready,” Hogue said. “I have big goals for this team…there’s a lot of things I want to teach them. I always have high expectations for the first game of the season.”

Hogue said the team has been spending a lot of time in the weight room with conditioning coach Greg Argust, and said the athletes have been working hard.

“We’re definitely going to be one of the strongest teams out there,” Hogue said.

The Utes will continue fall ball until the middle of October before taking four months off from competition until spring play begins in February.

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