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Freshman shortstop makes impact for Jaguars

By By Thomas R. Martinez
March 10, 2011 at 9 p.m.
Updated March 10, 2011 at 9:11 p.m.

UHV freshman shortstop Ashley Winegeart throws the ball to first base during Wednesday's practice at Burdge Field at the O'Connor Athletic Complex. Winegeart is the first freshman recruit for the softball program and has stepped into a starting role despite her age.

About the Gulf Coast Invitational

The most prestigious regular season NAIA softball tournament is held each year in Orange Beach, Ala. A lot of the top teams in the nation play in the tournament.

This will be the fourth straight year for UHV to play in Orange Beach, and the seniors expect results.

"We are going out with our minds set on winning all of our games and making it into the gold bracket," Courtney Pettit said.

The gold bracket is the winner's bracket and the only way to the tournament championship.

Allison Hinton breaks it down a little more.

"We need to have a good defense and hit the ball like we know we can," she said. We need to "play as a team and show everyone we are a great team."

Araceli Galindo thinks her team is ready.

"Our whole team has been working hard for this weekend and we are super excited to get started and play our game."

The tournament also is important for one other reason. The first regular season poll comes out Tuesday, and a strong showing in Orange Beach could help the Jaguars improve on their No. 19 ranking.

Schedule

Friday

12 p.m. vs. Southern Nazarene University

4 p.m. vs. No. 7 Lee University

Saturday

1 p.m. vs. Thomas University

5 p.m vs. Spring Hill College

Sunday

Bracket play, TBD

Ashley Winegeart doesn't embody a beach bum as much as she personifies the typical shortstop.

The Corpus Christi native likes to hang out at the beach, trying her hand at skimboarding - similar to surfing, only you use a skim board to glide across the water's surface, usually in a standing position.

"I'm not very good, but it's fun," Winegeart said. "Just jumping on it and going fast on the water."

It takes agility and athleticism to jump on a board and skim across the water, but so does playing shortstop.

What Winegeart, a University of Houston-Victoria freshman softball player, does well is play shortstop.

Winegeart walked into the starting shortstop role for the Jaguars as a true freshman and has impressed her teammates.

If anyone should know what it takes to play shortstop, it's Araceli Galindo, who played at short part of last year before moving to her natural position, second, this year.

"Shortstop is a huge role to come into, and Ashley has really made an impression taking control and playing with all her heart," said Galindo, one of three senior team captains.

First baseman Courtney Pettit agrees.

"Winegeart is one talented freshman," Pettit said. "Shortstop is a tough position to play and I think we could all agree that she has stepped into some big shoes and has stepped up."

Winegeart holds the distinction of being the first freshman recruit ever to sign with UHV, and she realizes the role she plays starting as a freshman.

"It's been fun," she said. "Of course, it's always fun to play. I don't like to sit."

At one point in her transition from high school star to college, she struggled offensively, her average dropping below .200.

Now, heading into the most important regular season national tournament of the year this weekend in Orange Beach, Ala., Winegeart found her groove. She's increased her average to .333, clubbed two homers with 10 RBI and 12 runs scored.

"It's been going really good now," Winegeart said. "Ever since coach Ferg (assistant coach Lindsey Ferugson) stayed with me and a few of the other girls last week during practice, and she really helped us with our hitting."

The transition to college has gone well, said Winegeart, who is studying business accounting at UHV.

"I like the adjustment, " she said. "In high school, it's slower placed. Not everyone on your team is into it like you are. In college, everyone has the same goal. Everyone wants to do well as a team, so we're all going to work hard together. No one is going to slack off."

Head coach Keri Lambeth knew the Jaguars would need a shortstop after Galindo moved to second and last year's primary shortstop, Brittany Boren, graduated.

"We needed a strong shortstop, and she fell right into place for us," Lambeth said. "As a freshman, we couldn't have asked for more."

Winegeart played at Corpus Christi Carroll High School, where her dad was the head softball coach. She also played for a select travel team based out of Houston, the Houston Power.

The family, mom Susan and dad Leslie, logged many hours on long trips between Corpus and Houston for three years. In the fall, sometimes they traveled every weekend.

One advantage for Winegeart, though, was the quality time she spent with her parents. If one wasn't there, the other would be.

"My mom would sit there by home plate videotaping the game, so my dad could watch it later," Winegeart said. "That's pretty much how it is this year, too, since he's still softball coach he can't come to all the games. She'll sit here by home plate recording everything."

Playing in Victoria is a plus for Winegeart, who chose UHV to be close to home. And it's a bonus her parents can travel fairly easily to watch her play.

"That was my main thing," she said. "I wanted to stay in Texas. I didn't want to go out of state."

Besides the proximity to Corpus, Winegeart liked the fact the Jaguars have been successful in a short time.

"They're a very successful program for only being a softball team for three years," she said. "Of course, every kid's dream when she watches college softball is to go play in the World Series, and they have actually been there before. There's always a good chance of going back."

Third baseman Allison Hinton thinks those chances are pretty high with Winegeart in the lineup.

"She is going to be a great player this year and years to come," she said.

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