Leading Off The Omaha softball team opens the 2017 season this weekend, playing five games at the Ramada-UNI Dome Classic in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Mavericks open the tournament with a single game against Montana on Friday, Feb. 10 at 10:15 a.m., followed by two games on Saturday, Feb. 11 with Drake at 8 a.m. and Wisconsin at 12:30 p.m. UNO closes the weekend with two games on Sunday, Feb. 12 with Toledo at 10:15 a.m. and Northern Iowa at 2:45 p.m. When available, live stats and video will be linked on OMavs.com.
Quick Hits • Head coach DJ Sanchez is in her first season directing the Omaha program. • The Mavericks open the year with 29 straight road games. • UNO returns eight letter winners, including four position starters: senior outfielder Lia Mancuso, senior outfielder Lizzie Noble, junior outfielder Kelly Pattison and senior infielder Nicole Warren. Two starting pitchers also return with senior right-hander Abbie Clanton and sophomore right-hander Laura Roecker. • Three All-Summit selections highlight the Mavericks’ returning corps: Mancuso, Roecker and Warren. • Omaha was picked second in the Summit League preseason Coaches’ Poll.
Scouting the Montana Grizzlies Montana finished the 2016 season with a record of 29-27 (14-7 Big Sky), and the Grizzlies were picked third in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll released in January. First team All-Conference honoree Sydney Stites leads a Grizzly squad that led the Big Sky in runs scored, hits, RBI, and total bases last season.
Head coach Jamie Pinkerton earned Big Sky Coach of the Year honors and has 45-63 record at Montana in three seasons. Pinkerton is 314-347 over his 12-year career. Friday’s matchup is the third meeting between Omaha and Montana, with the all-time series tied at 1-1.
Scouting the Drake Bulldogs Drake finished the 2016 season with a record of 30-24 (17-8 MVC), and the Bulldogs were picked as the favorite in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll released in January. Drake returns the MVC Pitcher of the Year in Nicole Newman. Kennedy Frank, Megan Sowa and Kelsey Wright all earned All-MVC First Team honors last season.
Head coach Rich Calvert enters his 15th season at the helm of the Drake program with a career record of 385-360. Saturday is the 11th meeting between Omaha and Drake, with the Bulldogs holding a 6-4 advantage.
Scouting the Wisconsin Badgers Wisconsin finished the 2016 season with a record of 28-24-1 (11-11-1 Big Ten). The Badgers return infielder Kelsey Jenkins who is coming off her second consecutive first-team All-Big Ten campaign. Catcher Melanie Cross played in all 53 games last season and had six home runs.
Head coach Yvette Healy has a 193-131-1 record in seven seasons with the Badgers and holds a 324-303-2 career mark over 13 years. Saturday will be the first all-time meeting between Omaha and Wisconsin.
Scouting the Toledo Rockets Last season, Toledo finished with a 21-33 record (12-11 MAC), and the Rockets were picked third in the West Division of the 2017 MAC Preseason Poll released in January. Toledo returns a pair of All-MAC infielders in Chandler Rice and Samantha Showalter, and All-MAC outfielder Celeste Fidge. The roster will be very balanced in 2017, consisting of three seniors, six juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen.
Head coach Kristen Butler is in her third season at Toledo with a record of 45-65. Sunday’s matchup is the third meeting between Omaha and Toledo, with the all-time series tied at 1-1.
Scouting the Northern Iowa Panthers Northern Iowa completed the 2016 season with a record of 38-19 (16-10 MVC) and was picked fourth in the MVC Preseason Poll. Alyssa Buchanan had the second-highest batting average for the Panthers a year ago while Macey Wolfe started every game and Anna Varriano represented UNI on the 2016 MVC All-Defensive Team.
Head coach Ryan Jacobs is in his 10th season at UNI with a record of 267-209. Sunday’s matchup is the 12th meeting between Omaha and Northern Iowa, with UNI leading the series 8-3.
Under the Dome Omaha is set to start the 2017 campaign inside the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Drake, Montana, South Dakota State, Toledo, Wisconsin and tournament host Northern Iowa are slated to take part in the three-day tournament.
Three Returning All-League Picks Highlight the 2017 Roster Three returning All-Summit picks highlight the 2017 roster: senior outfielder Lia Mancuso, sophomore pitcher Laura Roecker and senior infielder Nicole Warren. Mancuso earned First Team All-League honors, while Roecker and Warren were Second Team honorees.
Warren set the Summit League single-season record with 20 home runs and led the team and league in homers, RBIs, runs scored (60), total bases (144), and assists (148) last season.
Mancuso had the second highest batting average (.333) on the team last year. The Omaha native finished 2016 with 11 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 22 RBI.
Roecker appeared in 42 games with a 17-14 record with a 4.78 ERA and 112 strikeouts as a freshman. She led the team in complete games (19) and innings pitched (184.2).
Home Sweet Home The 2017 season will see the Mavericks play 12 home contests, including nine league matchups. Since moving to Division I in 2011-12, UNO has enjoyed a combined record of 42-17 at home.
What Makes Up the Mavericks • UNO returns much of its offensive production from last season, as this year’s returners accounted for 45.3 percent of the Mavericks’ hits, 49 percent of their runs scored, 50.6 percent of their homers, 48.8 percent of their RBI and 80.6 percent of their stolen bases in 2016. • Omaha’s returning pitchers were credited with 87.6 percent of the team’s innings pitched last year, 93.3 percent of its victories, and 91.8 percent of its strikeouts. • The Mavericks return two of their top five hitters from a year ago: Lia Mancuso (.333) and Nicole Warren (.309). • Warren had 204 at-bats in her junior season, the most of any hitter on the team. • Warren’s 20 home runs last season set a Summit League single-season record and she was one short of tying the team record of 21 set in 2006 by Leslie Svoboda. • UNO’s 2017 roster includes four seniors, three juniors, two sophomores, two redshirt freshman and four freshmen. •The Mavericks hail from four different states. Eleven are from Nebraska, two are from Iowa, and one apiece are out of Illinois and Missouri.
Sanchez in Charge Head coach DJ Sanchez enters her first season at the helm of the Omaha softball program in 2017. Sanchez spent four seasons leading St. Gregory’s University (Okla.), before coming to Omaha this summer.
In her four seasons at SGU, she compiled a 172-47 overall record, an 81-25 mark in the Sooner Athletic Conference and advanced to the NAIA post-season four times. The Cavaliers won their conference championship last season and twice earned a spot in the NAIA World Series.
Joining Sanchez is first-year assistant coach Ryan Wondrasek. Wondrasek previously worked with Coach Sanchez at St. Gregory’s University, where he helped the Cavaliers become one of the top offensive and defensive teams in the country.
Fresh Faces Seven newcomers – freshmen, redshirts or transfers – are on the Omaha roster in 2017. Four true freshmen are in the mix: Hailey Bartz (Lincoln, Neb.), Emma Dargy (LaVista, Neb.) Kaitlynn Hunt (Ashland, Neb.), and Emily Klosterman (Omaha, Neb.). Anna Albaugh (Johnston, Iowa) and Vicky Kinney (Bennington, Neb.) redshirted in 2016, with Albaugh transferring from Lake Land College.
Home is Where the Heart Is Eight of the 15 players on UNO’s 2017 roster hail from the Omaha area and three more come from the Lincoln area. From the Omaha metro area, two players come from Papillion-LaVista, while one apiece is from Bennington, Central, Elkhorn, Millard South, Millard West, and Papillion-LaVista South. Additionally, the Mavericks have one player from Mead, Lincoln Southeast and Lincoln Southwest.
Summit League Preseason Poll Released Omaha was picked second in the 2017 Summit League Preseason Coaches’ Poll; the conference office announced Feb. 2. Defending league champion North Dakota State was selected as the league’s favorite after collecting six first-place votes and 36 total points. Omaha claimed the final first-place tally and placed second with 27 points. Western Illinois came in third with 25 votes, while South Dakota (23) was fourth. South Dakota State (19), IUPUI (11) and Fort Wayne (five) rounded out the poll.
2017 Slate Takes Mavericks Coast to Coast Omaha’s 2017 schedule includes 51 games, and the team will play in nine states against schools from 17 other Division I conferences. Six opponents – LSU, Nebraska, North Dakota State, Oklahoma, Tulsa, and Utah – played in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. LSU and Oklahoma advanced to the Women’s College World Series with the Sooners claiming the national title.
Next Up Omaha returns to action next weekend, heading to California to play in the Stanford Nike Invitational. The Mavericks open with two games on Friday, Feb. 17 with UC Santa Barbara at 4:30 p.m. CT and Stanford at 9 p.m. CT. UNO plays two more games on Saturday, Feb. 18 with UC Santa Barbara at 4:30 p.m. CT and Stanford at 6:45 p.m. CT. Omaha closes with a single game on Sunday, Feb. 19 against Pacific at noon CT. When available, live stats and audio will be linked on OMavs.com.