Saturday will mark the opening game for the Utah Valley women’s softball team as they head to St. George to play Southern Utah University. But as the regular season opener is right around the corner, head coach Todd Fairbourne continues to arrange his starting lineup to adapt with newcomers and fight through opposition with team injuries; especially on defense.


Despite the freshness, Fairbourne hopes the team can find its groove with new players and three junior college transfers before Pacific Coast Softball Conference play begins – a conference with tough competition that BYU will join in 2013.


Utah Valley continues to arrange the team to optimize defense after an injury to junior pitcher Josi Summers leaves the team in doubt as to her availability.


“That’s going to hurt us, early on especially,” Fairbourne said. “I made a schedule expecting her to be there.”


Summers set a school record during her freshmen year with 142 strikeouts and 3.77 ERA last season. Fairbourne hopes she can be back in time for conference play which starts in the end of March.


UVU will look to freshmen Cassie Herrera to back up Louisiana-Monroe transfer Tiffany Mills on the mound.


“I think that expectation wise; I might have more [expectations] for her than anyone on the team,” Fairbourne said about Mills. “Not just in terms of what I hope she does, but what I believe she can do because she is solid. She has great movement.”


Fairbourne plans to work out the kinks on defense, but he’s even more confident about the offensive prospects for UVU this season.


“I really think this can be our finest offensive team, certainly our hitting,” Fairbourne said. “I expect us to hit above .300 as a team.”


The expectation isn’t a stretch for the team with offensive strengths like Amanda Robinson, Amanda Perez, and Deianna Russell. Last season Robinson and Perez both hit a .324 average while Russell hit a .304. Collectively, the trio ended the season with a combined 108 RBI’s.


“We didn’t have a great offense [last year] and if they didn’t produce, we didn’t score,” Fairbourne said in regards to the three girls. “When the game’s at the line, they are at their best. If that mentality can bleed into the rest of the team and into these new kids, we could be pretty good.”


The performance from Russell, Perez and Robinson may be just what the rest of the team needs as uncertainty still fills the roster with injuries and newcomers.


“I just preach to the kids to hold yourselves and hold your teammates accountable. It’s all in how you choose to respond,” Fairbourne said. “I always preach to the kids about staying together and united because that is going to have a direct carry on our performance on the field.”


By Kevin Olsen
Sports Writer