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Burrola in for Devil of a time

Suzanne Burrola isn't Steve Cassady.

And the first-year Merced College softball coach had no problem making the differences known to her new team.

With a huge number of holes to fill after a large graduating class, Burrola pulled in a decent sized recruiting class.

The former MC and Cal State Stanislaus star then watched as those numbers began to dwindle.

"We have a much more extensive training regiment than we've had in the past and some girls couldn't handle it," Burrola said. "We added strength and power training to our usual agility and speed.

"It's been very beneficial to the team and it's showed what players are dedicated to this program."

Unfortunately, it's also left Burrola very little margin for error in her first season.

The defending Central Valley Conference champions have 12 players on the roster. In a sport that has nine participants on the field at a time, a bench of three is a little scary.

"We have no room for injuries, especially in our pitching," Burrola said. "We do have some versatile players that can fill a number of different positions if someone does go down.

"Also, hopefully our extra work in the offseason will help prevent injuries."

Without a lot of depth, Burrola is going to need contributions from her freshman immediately.

The coach is looking to her returning sophomore trio to help facilitate that.

Nicole Blades provides Burrola a a proven bat in the heart of the order and should continue to develop at center field.

Beth Flowers has the potential to be a real power threat, but will have to make strides in her sophomore year.

Ashley Franklin moves from from the outfield back to the pitching circle where she'll share time with sophomore transfer Lindsey Oexie.

Sam Bussey will take over catching duties after redshirting last year.

"It's not so much about leading the freshman," Flowers said. "We need to make them feel comfortable and show them what it's like to be a part of a team."

Leading the freshman class is a new middle infield of Porsha Rivers and Megan Besecker.

Amber Reusch, Tina Enos and Sarah Leonardo will split time in the outfield.

"We have a few freshman that we're going to need to make a splash right away," Burrola said. "Porsha Rivers is going to start at second and hit third for us, so we're expecting a lot from her."

The She-Devils already showed their inexperience in a doubleheader with Diablo Valley on Tuesday.

MC (0-2) dropped the opener 1-0 and then couldn't muster much fight when it got down in the night cap, losing 7-4.

Burrola hopes to see some strides made today when the She-Devils host Lassen and Hartnell in the She-Devil Classic.

Each team will play each other twice over the two-day mini tournament.

MC is set to play at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., both today and Saturday.

"We're a team with a lot of potential, but we know it's going to take a little while to get there," Blades said. "Hopefully we can really get going by the start of conference.