Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 MAAC Preview - Iona Gaels

  •  37 Jodi Petersen OF Senior
  • 11 Eileen McCann OF Senior
  • 12 Beth Kann UT Senior
  • 45 Cari Anderson C Senior
  • 33 Paige Murray OF Junior
  • 17 Katie Jansson C Junior
  • 8 Brianna Schauer SS Sophomore
  • 1 Allison Hand IF/OF Sophomore
  • 10 Carly Argyle P Sophomore
  • 18 Sarah Schutz IF Freshman
  • 2 Brianna King C Freshman
  • 13 Sydney Dimon IF Freshman
  • 24 Jordan Courage P Freshman
  • 5 Christine Costello P Freshman

Christmas is over, and I hope you all had a very nice one. For us though, that means that we are in countdown mode to the new MAAC softball season! Over the next month, I will give my take on the state of MAAC softball with individual school previews, beginning with the defending champion Iona College Gaels.

See that photo above? That's the 2010 edition of the Gaels; the one that was beginning a dynasty by winning their first of three consecutive titles. Most everyone in that photo is gone now, including the coach. College careers are short; turnover is constant. No one in the MAAC will have a more profound turnover than the Gaels. The Sarah Jackson era is over (she's a pitching coach with George Washington currently). She'll never be forgotten, but now Iona softball must move on.

The Gaels are this season's biggest question mark. They have a new head coach, Melissa Inouye, who has a very impressive background as an assistant, most recently at Fordham. She's also a former division 1 student-athlete and captain. This will be her first head coaching opportunity. She inherits a team that knows nothing but winning; yet she will have to reshape them after the loss, to graduation, of a pair of All-MAAC pitchers that dominated the other teams in the conference...even intimidated them.

The college game dictates that sometimes young players have a lot put on their plate, and this season it looks like sophomore Carly Argyle (pictured left) is going to be number one in the circle. "Gnarly" Carly has big shoes to fill; and it would be unfair to expect her to be the next Sarah Jackson. However, Carly is a pitching prospect with an impressive pedigree dating back to her days in the California softball scene when she was an all-league performer at Glendora High School. Another circle prospect for the Gaels is Jordan Courage, a freshman by way of Del Oro High School in California. I understand that Jordan was recovering from surgery this past fall, but will be ready by February as the season begins. The Gaels have yet another California pitcher on the roster, freshman Christine Costello. Also dominant in her high school career at La Reina, Christine is more of a power pitcher than Carly and Jordan. She brings leadership and dedication to her game; and may play other positions as well. This season's pitching scenario at Iona could go either way. Carly Argyle pitched 12 innings last season; other than that there is no experience on the staff. They will certainly obtain it this season. There may be growing pains. However, you'll remember that in 2010 Canisius faced the exact same situation, and went 13-3 in the conference while seeing both their young pitchers on the All-MAAC team at season's end. Only time will tell how the Gaels' young pitchers will fare.

The Gaels will be led this season by a pair of senior All-MAAC outfielders. One of the conference's top players, Eileen McCann (pictured left), enters her final season already holding the school's all-time career home run record. She had a great 2012 season, leading the team in hitting and runs scored. More importantly, she's a dedicated athlete who shows up for every game.  Most importantly, she knows how to win once MAAC season begins. So Eileen has two missions this season. First off, I know she wants to win it all again in spite of this being a very different Gael team from the previous three seasons. But also, and in particular with a brand new coach, she will be passing along the legacy of Iona softball to the young players. Eileen has played like a champion from the start, and the Iona program will want to keep that attitude after she has departed. Senior Jodi Petersen did suffer a sophomore slump after winning MAAC Rookie Of The Year; but she came back strong in 2012, particularly later in the season during the big games. The Gaels' leadoff hitter can do it all; she can hit for average or power, and is a very good runner. Jodi stole 15 bases in 2012, which was three more than her combined career total entering that season. Of course, Jodi is part of the winning tradition also. The other two seniors on the team, Beth Kann and Cari Anderson have not seen as much action as Eileen and Jodi, but should be in the lineup more often in 2012, lending experience.

Junior Katie Jansson saw her average fall under .200 after a solid freshman season. The Gaels will be looking for her to pick her game up as she enters the second half of her career. Katie has good all around skills, and I did get the impression that she was fighting through injury last season. Joining the team this season as a walk on is junior Paige Murray. The two non pitcher sophomores, Allison Hand and Brianna Schauer (pictured left) both made significant contributions as freshmen. As a matter of fact, I thought Brianna was one of the team's better players down the stretch. She had a terrific MAAC Championship, landing a spot on the All-Tournament team. Allison hit a homer in the epic 15 inning tournament game vs. Fairfield which almost held up as the winner. She hit .333 at the tournament, with at least one hit in each of the five games. Brianna and Allison will be everyday players this season, counted upon to be major contributors. The Gaels have an interesting freshman class coming aboard; aside from the aforementioned Jordan Courage and Christine Costello is Sarah Schutz, a hard hitting third baseman out of Florida. Also joining the team is Brianna King, a strong hitting and strong armed catcher by way of the New Jersey Intensity. Sydney Dimon, an All-American from Elmira, NY who averaged two RBIs per game in high school looks to break into the lineup immediately. Actually, everyone will get a chance to play this season, as the Gaels will have a roster of only 14 players.

Yes, the Iona Gaels are the big mystery of the MAAC in 2013. During their championship runs, the Gaels were never the team to get into shootouts with their opponents. They had their lock down pitcher, and oftentimes scratching out a few runs was all they needed. Suddenly, the spotlight is on the circle. With their experience, if the Gaels get at least decent pitching, they can make a run for a tournament spot. If one of their young pitchers performs at an All-MAAC level, we could be hearing "fourpeat!". At the very least, the new staff will obtain the seasoning necessary to compete in the future.

Next up: The Fairfield Stags

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see the previews for the rest of the MAAC softball teams. Thanks for all the info. you put on your site. Especially looking forward to the Niagara Purple Eagles preview!