UF gets pitching help


Published: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 10:37 p.m.

Facts

Gameday

  • WHAT: Florida at UCF.
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. today.
  • WHERE: UCF Softball Complex, Orlando
  • THE FACTS: The Gators, returning 14 letterwinners, are looking to improve their offensive production this season. They batted .249, their lowest average since hitting .224 in their inaugural season, last year and drove in 189 runs. Another area of concern were runners left on base. Florida stranded 419 baserunners last season, an average of 6.3 a game. ... This is the second season for UCF, which had a 46-19 record in its inaugural year. The Golden Knights return three All-Atlantic Sun players in pitcher Dottie Cupp, center fielder Jania Shinhoster and shortstop Stephanie Best. ... Today's doubleheader will be aired live on 850-AM.

  • Ever since Chelsey Sakizzie completed her eligibility in 1998, the Florida softball team's pitching staff has seen a gradual decline.
    That decline practically bottomed out last year, when Florida had its first losing season (32-35) in the program's six-year existence.
    The Gators combined for a 3.08 ERA, allowed 262 runs and walked 206 batters, all single-season highs. They also gave up 437 hits, the second most in a season.
    Their walks, 197 earned runs and 55 wild pitches all topped the SEC statistics.
    But Florida could have a dominant ace this season, which starts today at UCF.
    Arizona-transfer Jenny Gladding immediately bolsters the pitching staff, coming in with a career 35-8 record and 1.52 ERA.
    "She has Pac-10 experience, she has College World Series experience, she's pitched in the regional," said UF coach Karen Johns, who is starting her third season. "With that added bonus, I see us doing really good stuff at the mound."
    Gladding, who helped the Wildcats win the NCAA title as a freshman in 2001, had a 21-6 record and 1.88 ERA last season. She also earned All-Pac 10 honorable mention and all-region honors.
    "It is a lot of pressure, but I don't know if it's so much going on that I'm going to be the ace or anything like that," Gladding said. "I definitely put a ton of pressure on myself no matter what situation I'm in."
    Another addition was bringing in assistant coach Heather Compton-Butler, the pitching coach at Florida State the past four seasons.
    Compton-Butler was an All-American pitcher at UCLA and helped the Bruins win a pair of NCAA titles in the early 1990s.
    As a coach, she helped the Seminoles win the NCAA ERA title in 2001 - the FSU staff had a 0.71 team ERA - and led them to an appearance in the College World Series last season.
    Compton-Butler said she has a depth advantage here - Florida has four pitchers in Gladding, junior Amanda Moore and sophomores Amanda Knowles and Mandy Schuerman - that she never had at Florida State.
    "Talent-wise, we're much deeper than any of the staffs I've had over there (at FSU)," Compton-Butler said. "I would definitely rank it higher because we're so much deeper and more talented across the board, pitcher for pitcher. There, I had a maximum of three pitchers and really lived by two. Here on any given day, any of the four can step on the mound and produce for us."
    The previous two seasons, Johns was in charge of the pitchers in addition to the overall coaching duties.
    Hiring Compton-Butler gives the UF pitchers a more individual coach.
    "It's amazing how much of a difference she's made on this pitching staff," Moore said of Compton-Butler. "We're all learning new pitches and we're all more comfortable with what we throw and how we throw it and when we're suppose to throw it."
    Compton-Butler primarily worked on improving the pitchers' off-speed pitches during the fall.
    Doris Yon can be reached at (352) 374-5052 or yond@gvillesun.com.

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