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.

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