Friday, January 28, 2011

2011 MAAC Preview---St. Peter's Peahens

2010 Record: 9th Place (2-36)
Departed Players: 4
Incoming Players: 4

Returning Players:
Vanessa Acosta (.227; 4 HR)
Ashley Brown (.217)
Stephanie Gilronan (.211)
Alexis Gallagher (.202; 18 SB)
Nicole Schnecker (.194; 2-16, 8.08 ERA)
Samantha Bennett (.191)
Amanda Rice (.176)
Jillian Picchini (.106)
Shelby Beaver (0-18; 9.15 ERA)
Jessica Hartland (.250; 0-1, 8.06)

Incoming Players:
Erica Colon
Kristen Kaneyuki
Aimee Schnecker
Michelle Tinajero

2010 was a difficult year for St. Peter's as their coach was dismissed during the season and they won only twice (winless in the MAAC). The Peahens begin 2011 with a new coach, Renae Bart. The former Rider assistant will have to rebuild the Peahens' program from scratch.

One of the bright spots of last season was the play of Vanessa Acosta. The sophomore knocked 4 homers her debut season, adding 3 doubles along the way. Sophomore Alexis Gallagher hit for only .202, but stole 18 bases in 19 attempts.

As you can see, pitching was a real problem for St. Peter's in 2010, a season in which they had no pitcher with an ERA under 8.00. That's not going to cut it in division 1 or any other division for that matter. The glimmer of hope for the Peahens though is that they just recently acquired a new pitcher. Erica Colon is a true freshman who spent a semester at Central Connecticut, but has just transferred to St. Peter's for the spring semester and is on the roster. Erica is a New Jersey native, perhaps she wanted to be closer to home. She was an outstanding high school pitcher at High Tech in Fairview, NJ where she was Hudson County Player Of The Year in 2010. Her senior season she was 21-5 with a stingy .019 ERA. She also hit .615 with 16 homers, 12 triples, 18 doubles and 53 RBIs. She led her school to a number of championships, and set the county record for career strikeouts (1,163). Erica just arrived at St. Peter's this month, but she will get the opportunity to start immediately in the circle and at the plate. It looks like St. Peter's got a lucky break on this one.

2011 will be a rebuilding year for St. Peter's, but an opportunity for Coach Bart to show what she can do.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 MAAC Preview---Fairfield Stags

2010 Finish: 6th Place (24-22)
Departed Players: 8
Incoming Players: 8

Returning Players:
Kristina Lingo (.272)
Tiffany Lawson (.235)
Laura Carta (.235)
Ali Wigand (.229)
Sarah Minice (14-14; 3.07 ERA)
Emily Orr (2-0; 4.34 ERA)
Kelli Panter (8-8; 4.45 ERA)

Incoming Players:
Rae Ball
Rachel Beaudoin
Kristen Filicia
Kimi Kurata
Lauren Liseth
Nikki Osofsky
Mikayla Shumate
Rebecca Trott

As you can see, the 2011 Fairfield Stags had a lot of turnover this past off season. Gone are their top 3 hitters, and other big players as well. It's difficult to forecast how this season's team will do---with a roster of only 15, and only 4 field players returning, the Stags are going to be starting a lot of freshmen this season. The freshman class is quite talented, but of course they have yet to get their feet wet in division 1 softball.

On the positive side, the entire Fairfield pitching staff returns for the 2011 season. They are led by 2009 MAAC Pitcher Of The Year Sarah Minice, who at the least will keep this young team in games. Sarah had an up and down season in 2010, but she can be dominant. Her most impressive outing last year was when she pitched at Niagara and defeated the powerful Purple Eagles twice in one day, allowing them only one run in the doubleheader. Pitching like that would surely mitigate the inexperience behind her. Sarah is a relentless competitor and a leader on the team who will be counted upon to assist the young players. Fairfield will go as far as Sarah Minice can take them.

The second senior pitcher on the team is Kelli Panter, who was actually redshirted her sophomore season. I thought she really progressed well last season. It's important for her to continue that progression which would give the Stags two solid starters. Late last season she earned a huge win at Manhattan, which at the time kept the Stags in the tournament hunt. Sophomore Emily Orr saw all of her action last year as a reliever, and was 2-0.

Designated player Kristina Lingo was an All-MAAC Second Team selection in 2010. She brings a .292 career average into her senior season. Sophomore Tiffany Lawson stole 10 bases in 2010; juniors Ali Wigand and Laura Carta are the other returnees.

Sarah Minice will keep the Stags competitive in 2011, but the Stags tournament hopes will depend upon the progression of the freshmen.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2011 MAAC Preview---Manhattan Lady Jaspers

2010 Finish: 4th Place (25-23-1)
Departed Players: 1
Incoming Players: 1

Returning Players:
Jaci Rahey (.409; 10 HR, 58 RBI)
Nicole Michel (.352; 8 HR)
Amanda Babcock (.328)
Melissa Donnelly (.319, 7-12, 3.07 ERA)
Kristina Walraven (.314)
Monica Evangelista (.304)
Erika Sullivan (.255; 12-5; 2.48 ERA)
Kelly Murray (.240)
Ashley Rampino (.198; 6-6, 4.15 ERA)
Jocelin Whitmore (.197)
Melissa Cascio (.185)
Carla Velasquez (.165)
Meghan McDevitt (.136)
Jen Keller (.131)
Anna Gallacher (.000)
Heather Leone (.000)
Megan Weaver (.000)
Michelle Roemer (.000)

Incoming Player:
Kate Bowen

Manhattan is a team loaded with seniors and tournament experience. First baseman Jaci Rahey is coming off a monster junior season that saw her named to the All-MAAC First Team and the NFCA Northeast Region All-American First Team. Jaci finished 2010 with a .409 average (second behind MAAC Player Of The Year Teresa Healy); she finished on top of the MAAC with 58 RBIs. She hit 10 homers and had a slugging percentage of .715. But her most eye opening statistic was the .512 she hit in conference games. She led the way in the LJs late season surge that qualified them for the tournament. Tall and very athletic, Jaci is simply a dangerous player.

Before she was injured late in the season, senior Erika Sullivan was the best pitcher in the MAAC, IMO. She had just shut down two powerful offenses, Canisius and Niagara, on back to back days when she suffered some sort of undisclosed injury and pitched only a handful of innings afterward. She did not appear in the MAAC Tournament. Nevertheless, she was named to the All-MAAC Second Team. Erika is the best control pitcher in the MAAC---she walked only 22 batters in 2010 with 3 wild pitches and just one hit batter. She is not a strikeout pitcher, but one who causes a lot of easy ground outs. She's the kind of pitcher against whom teams will have scattered hits but very few runs. A healthy Erika Sullivan makes the LJs a serious contender in '11.

Senior Nicole Michel had a fabulous 2010 season, and was rewarded with a spot on the All-MAAC Second Team. She was among the MAAC leaders in average (.352) and home runs (8). She was second on the team in slugging percentage, and is a solid all around player who primarily plays at third base. She produced 8 multi-RBI games last season.

Senior Melissa Donnelly is the team's most versatile player. She made 20 starts as a pitcher, with a respectable 3.07 ERA. She had a 22 inning scoreless streak during the season, and pitched very well in the tournament. But it was her play at shortstop that earned her a spot on the All-MAAC First Team. A .319 hitter, she led the LJs in doubles while scoring 34 runs.

Kristina Walraven had a slow start to her junior season, but roared back at the end to help lead her team to the tournament. It was no coincidence that Manhattan began to surge when her bat woke up. Her late season great play got her named to the MAAC All-Tournament Team. She finished with 5 homers while leading the team in stolen bases. If she can regain her consistency this season, she's one of the top players in the conference.

It's no secret that senior Ashley Rampino had a down year in 2010, after being named an All-MAAC First Teamer in 2009. She's another versatile player who can hit and pitch. The Lady Jaspers will need both elements of her game to make a run this year. Sophomore Amanda Babcock was a pleasant surprise in 2010, forcing herself into the starting lineup with some very good play and timely hitting. She saw duty at shortstop and second base, hit .328 and was second on the team in on base percentage. She should see a full season of action this year. Junior Carla Velasquez and sophomore Meghan McDevitt shared the catching duties in 2010. Neither player hit .200 last season, but both of them are outstanding defensive players---Meghan committed no errors while Carla committed only one. Both did a good job throwing out base runners attempting to steal. Junior third baseman Kelly Murray started 22 games and hit .240. Sophomore Jocelin Whitmore showed versatility in starting 24 games and playing various positions in the infield and outfield. Senior Melissa Cascio had 26 stars with only one error. Sophomore Jen Keller also committed only one error in 40 outfield starts. The LJs will have only one freshman this season, but she's a very promising one. Kate Bowen is a pitcher who can also hit and play in the field. I believe she will have a chance to show what she can do in the circle right away.

I thought Head Coach Tom Pardalis did a great in his first season at Manhattan keeping his team believing in themselves as they hung in there and pushed their way to the tournament. With his best pitcher injured, the LJs lost two heartbreaking walk off games in the MAAC Tournament. A break the other way and Manhattan could have easily found themselves in the Championship game. This season Coach Pardalis has a senior laden team that has been in the tournament two seasons in a row (and was regular season champ in '09). These seniors will not forget their close losses last year, and are my "dark horse" team for 2011. Watch out for the LJs if they get consistent pitching.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

2011 MAAC Preview---Canisius Golden Griffins

2010 Finish: 1st Place (34-19)
Departed Players: 1
Incoming Players: 3

Returning Players:
Emily Helbig (.378)
Lizzy Gatto (.348)
Lauren Hope (.343; 33 SB)
Paige Freiberger (.311; 11 HR 46 RBI)
Katie Medina (.298)
Chloe Contreras (.286)
Katie Lancellotti (.264; 42 RBI)
Lauren Falzone (.233)
Amanda Cannizzo (.222)
Kerry Ulmer (.213)
Stephanie Pfentner (.118)
Lauryn Chris (.080)
Amanda Baun (18-12; 1.98)
Caroline Main (16-7; 2.62)

Incoming Players:
Jen Consaul
Marissa Miller
Valorie Nappo

Losing only one player to graduation, Canisius will field a team in 2011 that is rich with upperclassmen and All-MAAC players. The big concern for the Golden Griffins last season was the inexperience of their pitching staff, a concern compounded by the departure of a third pitcher before the season began. That pitching staff performed well enough to give the team the regular season title, and with a year of experience under their belts they could lead the Griffs to a championship this season. Junior Caroline Main (pictured left) struggled her freshman season, but became a dominant MAAC pitcher last year, going 8-0 in regular season conference play. She was injured in the MAAC Championship. Caroline walked only 40 batters last season, while striking out 139 and was selected to the All-MAAC First Team. Amanda Baun (pictured right) had a terrific freshman season, being named Second Team All-MAAC. She set Canisius freshman records for wins and strikeouts (187). She threw a one-hitter in the MAAC Championship. These two pitchers could be a dominant one-two punch for the next two seasons. They will be joined this season by Jen Consaul, a hard throwing strikeout pitcher who will be given the time to develop.

Canisius will have plenty of offensive firepower with which to support their pitchers. Senior outfielder Lauren Hope is an All-MAAC selection who has led the conference in stolen bases each of her three seasons. She holds the MAAC single season stolen bases record, and is in close pursuit of the career record. Lauren also led the MAAC in triples last season. She scored 40 runs as the team's leadoff hitter.

Senior Paige Freiberger had a great 2010 season, leading the MAAC in home runs and often winning games by herself in late innings. She was injured the day before the MAAC Championship last season, and the team certainly missed their captain. A third baseman with a quick glove, Paige was a First Team All-MAAC selection last season.

Another senior, first baseman Emily Helbig, is perhaps the best defensive player in the conference. But the Second Team All-MAACer had a great season at the plate, leading the team with a .378 average. She hits even better against MAAC pitching. Senior Kerry Ulmer backs her up, and also will be a designated player.

Junior Lizzy Gatto (pictured left) was hitting well over .400 when a Sarah Minice fastball broke one of her fingers late last April. She played through the injury, but her hitting was affected. The All-MAAC center fielder can hit for average or power and has one of the best arms in the conference. Juniors Amanda Cannizzo and Lauren Falzone platoon in the outfield. Amanda beat Manhattan in the MAAC Championship with a 7th inning walk off two run single. Sophomore Chloe Contreras saw limited action in 2010, but produced when called upon. Freshman Val Nappo was recruited as a first baseman, but won't get to play there until next season. In the meantime she could see significant action in the outfield if her fabulous fall season is any indication of her future play. As a high schooler, she was a NFCA Eastern Region selection.

Junior Katie Lancellotti is the anchor of the Griffs' defense at shortstop. Tall and athletic, nearly impossible to move off the bag, she has a lot of range and a good arm. She also hit 6 homers and 42 RBIs in 2010, and is a threat to hit one out whenever she steps to the plate. Redshirt sophomore Katie Medina will start again at second base. One of the top MAAC freshmen in 2010, she's another tall and athletic infielder who is very good at getting on base and rarely strikes out. She's backed up by junior Lauryn Chris, who is also the team's primary pinch runner.

Sophomore catcher Stephanie Pfentner will have to fill the shoes of the departed Michelle Fridey. A good defensive player, she showed signs in the fall of improved hitting. She will be backed up by freshman Marissa Miller, another tall and athletic catcher.

Canisius had an outstanding 2010 regular season, but were hampered by four injuries to key players once the tournament began. If they stay healthy, they will be one of the favorites to win it all in 2011.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Siena College 2011 Softball Schedule

The Siena Saints will open their 2011 campaign at the North Carolina Central Lady Eagles Classic on the weekend of February 26. The tournament portion of their season will continue the next weekend (March 5) at the UMBC Retriever Classic. After that they head down to Kissimmee, FL for a week at the Rebel Spring Games (March 13-19). The Saints will begin MAAC play April 2 at Marist. Their home opener will be against Binghamton on April 6. Siena closes out their 51 game regular season on May 7 when they host MAAC rival Iona.

All the MAAC schools have released their schedules. First pitch is in five weeks!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 MAAC Preview---Niagara Purple Eagles

2010 Finish: 3rd Place (22-22)
Departed Players: 4
Incoming Players: 7

Returning Players:
Teresa Healy (.446; 10 HR, 44 RBI)
Becky Zill (.305)
Kristin Sito (.299; 7 HR)
Jen Hare (.293)
Kayla Hines (.289; 1-1, 3.07)
Maggie McDonald (.267)
Alexis Wayne (.225)
Jaclyn Russell (.212)
Gabrielle Lustrinelli (.048)
Sarah Anthon (.000)
Vicki Gilliland (.000)
Julie DiMatteo (15-7, 3.35)
Ali Grab (0-1, 19.89)

Incoming Players:
Bri Allen (Transfer)
Lindsey Phillips (Transfer)
Kim Bryson
Tashia Daley
Aileen Hinton
Jessica Hitchcock
Brittany Richberg

Purple Eagles softball will once again revolve around senior 2nd baseman Teresa Healy in 2011. The MAAC Player Of The Year was tops in the conference and 11th in the nation with a whopping .446 batting average. This is a player all MAAC pitchers truly fear. No one dared give her anything decent to hit in the MAAC Tournament. Aside from average, she was number one on Niagara for home runs (10); RBIs (44); on base percentage (.500); slugging percentage (.741); total bases (103); and stolen bases (10). She's an outstanding fielder as well with a lot of range; she often makes plays deep in the outfield. One thing she hasn't accomplished is a MAAC championship, and judging from Niagara's play this past fall, it seems the team is focused on this goal alone.

The Purple Eagles lost some great players to graduation, but as usual they seem to have plenty of offense in supply. Senior outfielder Kristin Sito returns; she is an explosive player with home run power. She will lead the outfield this spring with the departure of Kristin Kill and Jenna Baker.

Sophomore catcher Becky Zill had a fine freshman season finishing with a .305 average and capped off with a towering homer off of Sarah Jackson in the MAAC Tournament. Tall and athletic, Becky could emerge as a premier player in the MAAC this season.

The defense is anchored by senior shortstop Maggie McDonald, an All-MAAC selection once again in 2010. Last season she had a 24 game hitting streak. Senior third baseman Kayla Hines is another key component of the quartet of talented seniors. She had a slow start to her 2010 season, but returned to the form that produced plenty of power in 2009 later in the season. Niagara will need her to drive in runs.

Junior Jen Hare, originally a catcher, seems to have found a home at first base. Jen had a solid sophomore season, hitting for a .293 average and pitching in with 4 homers and 21 RBIs. Sophomore Alexis Wayne flirted with a .300 average last season while ending up at .225. She looked terrific in fall ball however, and should have a spot in the outfield this season. Junior Jaclyn Russell, a transfer last year, was also hitting the ball hard this fall. Freshman Brittany Richberg will compete for time in the outfield. An intriguing freshman on this year's squad is Canadian infielder/outfielder Jessica Hitchcock, who received partial scholarships for hockey and softball. She currently leads the Purple Eagles women's hockey team in scoring, and was a finalist for Canada's junior (19U) national softball team. She says she chose Niagara because they would let her play both sports.

The biggest hurdle the Purple Eagles have faced recently is lack of pitching depth to go along with their offensive firepower. All-MAAC pitcher Julie DiMatteo was 15-7 in 2010, including a no-hitter vs. MAAC rival Rider. She was named to the MAAC Tournament team after losing an extra innings battle to eventual champion Iona. During her first two seasons at Niagara, she has carried the pitching staff, but this season Coach Al Dirschberger has brought in three new pitchers. Bri Allen is a junior who has transferred from NJCAA national power Monroe Community College where she was 25-6 with a 0.72 ERA and 245 strikeouts while helping her team reach the NJCAA World Series. How this will translate to division 1 is unknown, but the hope is that she will compliment Julie. Also joining the team this year are two promising freshman pitchers, Kim Bryson and Tashia Daley. Ali Grab returns for her senior season giving the Purple Eagles a deeper pitching staff than they've had in some time.

Niagara is well coached and loaded with offensive threats. If they can get consistent team pitching, they will be very difficult to beat in the 2011 MAAC. They open their season on March 4.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

MAAC Players---Lizzy Gatto, Canisius

*Update 10/2/11*
Lizzy was named to the All-MAAC Second Team in 2011, hitting .319 with 13 extra base hits and 26 runs. She was a perfect 21-21 stealing bases, one of only three players in the nation to steal over 20 bases without getting thrown out.

Canisius center fielder Lizzy Gatto was at the top of the MAAC late in the 2010 season and hitting over .400 when Fairfield's ace Sarah Minice threw an inside fastball which broke Lizzy's finger. She played with the injury through the end of the season, showing what a tough player she is, but her quest for a conference batting title ended. She did, however, end the season with a very respectable .348 average and a place on the All-MAAC First Team.

The junior from Hollister, CA is an all around player who can do it all. She can hit for average, and for power. She can run, stealing 17 bases in 2010. She has a great arm, and covers a lot of real estate in center. She's also a clutch player. At St. Bonaventure last season with her team down two runs with two outs in the 7th inning, Lizzy calmly stepped up to the plate and cranked a three run homer deep over the center field fence. As a freshman in the 2009 MAAC championship game, she hit a homer and was named to the All-Tournament team.

Lizzy will keep MAAC pitchers busy for the next two years!