Thursday, January 31, 2013

2013 MAAC Preview - Niagara Purple Eagles

Ellie Chan will usher in a new era at Niagara in 2013
  • 14 Becky Zill C Senior
  •  21 Gabrielle Lustrinelli 3B Senior
  • 44 Alexis Wayne 2B Senior
  • 4 Jen Sansano P Junior
  • 8 Kim Bryson P Junior
  • 11 Tashia Daley P Junior
  • 17 Connal Kelly INF Junior
  • 19 Aileen Hinton UT Junior
  • 29 Brittany Richberg SS/OF Junior
  • 1 Ambur Farmer OF Sophomore
  • 2 Desarae Maldonado SS/2B Sophomore
  • 28 Amanda Werth OF Sophomore
  • 31 Katie Griarin OF Sophomore
  • 7 Becca Saggiomo 1B Freshman
  • 9 Taylor Huenink C Freshman
  • 13 Miranda Ortega UT Freshman
  • 22 Sydney Smyers P Freshman
  • 24 Ally Gay OF Freshman
  • 33 Kristen Prusiecki C Freshman
Of all the teams in the MAAC, perhaps none have changed as much this past off season as the Niagara Purple Eagles. Gone is long time coach Al Dirschberger; in is new coach Ellie Chan, the former MAAC batting champion who has worked her way up the ladder to the division 1 coaching ranks. The University has made a greater commitment to the softball program. The Purple Eagle lineup will look quite different also.

The senior class, however, will feature some familiar faces. All-MAAC catcher Becky Zill's (pictured left) numbers were a bit down in 2012, but she still led the team in home runs and RBIs. She finished in the the top ten in the conference in RBIs. Becky is a threat to knock one out at any time. Alexis Wayne's numbers were way down after an excellent sophomore season that saw her hit .283. However, in conference games she did hit three homers and 11 RBIs. The Purple Eagles will need her play to be at a more consistent level to contend. Gabby Lustrinelli has been a steady player at third base the past couple season; hitting .221 in 2012 with 15 RBIs after a .274 campaign in 2011.

Niagara obtained a big transfer this past off season, but first mention belongs to hard throwing pitcher Kim Bryson (pictured left), who will be key to the Purple Eagles' chances this season. Kim had an overall record of 7-16 with a 3.63 ERA in 2012, but those numbers are somewhat deceiving. After a slow start and battling illness, Kim was one of the top pitchers in the MAAC down the stretch. She was a top five performer in conference games, sporting a 1.71 ERA. She was also among the leaders in strikeouts and opponents' batting average. Among Kim's best games last season was a 12 inning shutout versus Rachael Matreale and Rider in a must win game for the Broncs. In fact, she finished last season by pitching 25 consecutive shutout innings. Look for her to chase All-MAAC honors in 2012.

Kim will have a new teammate on the pitching staff this season as Niagara  obtained the services of Jen Sansano (pictured left), formerly of the Atlantic 10's St. Bonaventure. Jen is also a hard thrower, having won 19 games during her stint with the Bonnies. A former All-New York State player with a powerful high school program, Jen arrives with the hope that she and Kim will be a "1A and 1B" pitching rotation. The Purple Eagles may be quite different from teams in the past that would win 12-11. The potential is there for them to have the best pitching in the conference.

Shortstop/outfielder Brittany Richberg really raised the level of her play during her sophomore season. She finished third on the team with a .256 average; but was better in conference play, hitting .273. Brittany runs well, stealing six bases out of seven attempts while scoring 14 runs in 33 starts. I would expect her to see full time action this season. Aileen Hinton saw limited action last season, but did hit a big 7th inning homer in a win against Princeton. Junior pitcher  Tashia Daley is a bit of a mystery as she has been at Niagara two seasons, but has yet to throw a pitch. Infielder Connal Kelly joins the Purple Eagles as a transfer after two seasons at division 2 Catawba College.

The Niagara sophomores largely struggled as freshmen being thrown into the starting lineup immediately. However, they all showed lots of promise. Speedy outfielder Ambur Farmer (pictured left) hit only .192 in 2012, yet she was still able to get on base and produce. She led the Purple Eagles in runs scored with 24; and led the team in steals with nine. She also hit three home runs. She made the most of her opportunities, and if she can raise her batting average she will be a dangerous weapon for Niagara. Desarae Maldonado at .149; and Katie Gruarin at .134 suffered through growing pains, but both are very talented players. Amanda Werth unfortunately broke her ankle in the team's fourth game which ended her 2012 season.

Some of the incoming freshmen will have a chance to play immediately. First baseman Becca Saggiomo (pictured left) comes from a great high school program, Notre Dame of Elmira, NY, who she led to a perfect record, state championship and a national ranking. She's a .400 hitter and high RBI producer who is also excellent in the field, going errorless her senior season. (BTW, her high school teammate Sydney Dimon will begin her career at Iona this season). A promising young pitcher, Sydney Myers, joins the Purple Eagles out of Shaler Area High School in Pittsburgh. She was an All-Pennsylvania selection who had a record of 33-5 her last two seasons after assuming a starting role. Outfielder Ally Gay hails from the New York State Class AA champs Clarence High School, where she played with Jen Sansano. She's been a .300 hitter and outstanding defensive player. Also joining Niagara this season will be catcher Taylor Huenink; catcher Kristen Prusiecki; and Miranda Ortega who hails from Ozone Park in New York.

It will be very interesting watching Niagara this season, as I expect them to employ a different style of play compared to the past regime. If Kim Bryson pitches as well as she did during conference play last season, and Jen Sansano makes a successful transition to a new conference, Niagara will contend for the MAAC title this season.

Next up: Manhattan.

Monday, January 28, 2013

2013 MAAC Preview - Rider Broncs

Senior Alyssa Paul tore up the MAAC in conference play
  •  6 Heather Muscara OF Senior
  • 17 Alyssa Paul 3B Senior
  • 25 Sam Pugh C Senior
  • 11 Mary Rossi UT Junior
  • 4 Kehli Washington OF/2B Junior
  • 14 Ally Breeden C/3B Sophomore
  • 13 Lauren Davies OF Sophomore
  • 10 Amanda Irving 2B Sophomore
  • 22 Gina McCool SS Sophomore
  • 9 Madison Rittley OF Sophomore
  • 7 Montana Berg P/1B Freshman
  • 21 Emily Cottrell3B/C Freshman
  • 24 Samantha Judd OF Freshman
  • 99 Ali Meagher P Freshman
  • 2 Dana Sensi SS Freshman
  • 20 Kim Valdes C/INF Freshman
  • 12 Krista Morrone P Redshirt Freshman
After narrowly missing qualifying for the MAAC tournament in 2012, the Rider Broncs return a strong upper class in their quest to reach the top four. The big question mark surrounding the team will be their pitching staff, which will consist of three freshmen this season.

A trio of seniors with lots of playing experience will lead the Broncs in 2013. Third baseman Alyssa Paul had another solid campaign last year, finishing with a .270 batting average. She was second on the Broncs in RBIs and runs scored, but it was in conference play that she really raised the level of her game. Alyssa was second in the MAAC with a .404 average; 10 of her 18 RBIs were in these most important of games. Outfielder Heather Muscara (pictured left) hit .254 for the overall season, but also played her best softball in conference games, hitting .346. She improved her RBI and run production in helping the Broncs contend last season. Heather hit .364 as a freshmen, so a return to that lofty hitting is not out of the question her senior year. Catcher Sam Pugh enjoyed the best RBI output of her career in 2012, with 16. Half of those came in conference play. Defensively she has been solid behind the plate.

Kehli Washington (pictured left) is the only returning player in the junior class, but the speedy center fielder is a good one, being named to the All-MAAC team in 2012. Kehli is the Broncs' leadoff batter, hitting .297 last season while leading the team in stolen bases. She's another upperclassman who raised the level of her play in conference games last year, and she's part of a solid nucleus of leadership for Rider. The other junior on the team is Mary Rossi, a transfer from Mercer Community College, where she played shortstop and was a two time All Region 19 selection while hitting in the high .300s.

The sophomores are led by 2012 MAAC Rookie Of The Year Ally Breeden (pictured left). Ally stormed onto the scene immediately last season; in fact early on she was about the only offense Rider had. So Coach Carroll gave her a lot of responsibility, and Ally answered the bell with a .277 average and a team leading 27 RBIs. She also tied for the team lead with three home runs. Shortstop Gina McCool enjoyed a solid freshman season, finishing with a .251 average after starting every game. Second baseman Amanda Irving hit only .186 overall her first season, but was yet another Bronc who raised the level of her game in MAAC play, hitting 100 points better (.286) in conference games. Lauren Davies started 24 games in 2012, hitting .164 with seven runs and seven RBIs. Madison Rittley saw limited action as a freshman, but she did have a 3 for 3 game with four RBIs against Lafayette which showed some promise.

With the early departure of a number of players, including Lisa Blanton and pitcher Krysti Maronski, the Broncs will have a large freshman class this season. After enjoying the All-MAAC performance of Rachael Matreale in 2012, Rider will have to rely on three freshmen for their pitching in 2013. Actually one of the hurlers, Krista Morrone (pictured left), was at Rider last season, but sat out with a medical redshirt. No announcement came from the school, but I know that Krista suffered from the rare Guillain-Barre Syndrome as a senior in high school. I'm assuming she was still in recovery from this serious condition when she entered Rider in the fall of 2011. Krista is a top prospect, a dominant and powerful pitcher with a superb strikeouts to walks ratio during her days at Pallisades High School. She's the kind of pitcher who gets stronger the more she throws, with many double figure strikeout games. I see her as getting every chance early on to assume the number one pitching position. But the Broncs have a couple of other talented young pitchers on the staff. 5'10" Ali Meagher is another hard thrower who played with the New Jersey Elite. Montana Berg is out of Danville, CA and is a very good hitter as well. Also joining the Broncs as freshmen will be Dana Sensi, who can hit for average and power; Samantha Judd, a .400 hitter with American Pastime in California; Emily Cottrell, a third baseman from nearby Tom's River High School; and Kim Valdes, a first baseman who hit .488 at King's Academy in Jupiter, FL her senior season.

With all the great play in conference by key players last season, you can see that Coach Carroll knows how to motivate her team to peak at the right time. With the upperclassmen leading the way, the Broncs may field a very productive offense in 2013. The unknown quantity is how the young pitching staff will perform. The "preseason" portion of the schedule will be vital for the Broncs. It will allow the young pitching staff to get their feet wet, have their growing pains and attempt to develop as quickly as possible. Only time will tell if they will be ready for MAAC season. If one or two of them are, Rider has a good shot at qualifying for the postseason.

Next up: Niagara.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013 MAAC Preview - Siena Saints

Will these two break a decade long drought?
  • 9 Shannon Jones SS Senior
  • 15 Mandy Ferro OF Senior
  • 2 Samantha Ray 3B Junior
  • 10 Jessika-Jo Sandrini P/DP Junior
  • 1 Chelsea Stout OF Sophomore
  • 3 Lauren Milligan OF Sophomore
  • 4 Stephanie Viggiano SS/2B Sophomore
  • 6 Abby Carpenter 1B Sophomore
  • 13 Meg Volz C/OF Sophomore
  • 14 Antonia Edwards P Sophomore
  • 24 Paige Lloyd 1B/OF Sophomore
  • 5 Jordan Sandrini SS/OF Freshman
  • 7 Mikaela Searight C Freshman
  • 11 Mackenzie Cronin P Freshman
  • 19 Alyssa Lancaster P/1B Freshman
  • 23 Melanie Kalesse SS/OF Freshman
This will be an important season for the Siena Saints, as they not only have a great chance to qualify for the MAAC tournament for the first time since 2003, but could win it all.

The senior class is led, of course, by the reigning MAAC Player Of The Year Shannon Jones (pictured left). Shannon had a record breaking season in 2012, leading the MAAC with a .434 average. She also was tops in the conference in hits, runs, home runs, and RBIs. She set a number of Siena records, and finished in the top 20 nationally with her batting average. She boasts an incredible .398 career average. Expect more of the same as she winds down her career in 2013, but I know Shannon would surrender it all for a MAAC title. This season will be her best chance at accomplishing that goal. The other senior on the team, outfielder Mandy Ferro, has not matched her great freshman season that saw her hit .323. Nevertheless, she is a productive player who runs well, stealing eight bases and scoring 18 runs in 2012.

A fact that has seemingly flown under the radar is that junior Jessika-Jo Sandrini (pictured left) absolutely dominated MAAC games in 2012. She was so "head and shoulders" above everyone else in the conference that the case could be made for her to have been recognized as Player Of The Year. She was named to the All-MAAC team twice anyway (as a hitter and pitcher). In conference games, J-J led in nearly every offensive category: batting average, .522 (118 points higher than number two!); slugging percentage, 1.043 (282 points higher than number two); home runs, hits, RBIs, doubles, total bases and on base percentage. As a pitcher, she was second in the conference with a 1.43 ERA. Jessika-Jo will be seeing a lot of time in the circle this season, and as a junior we may see her become the dominant pitching force in the MAAC. The other junior on the team, third baseman Samantha Ray, had a very productive season in 2012, finishing with a .293 average after hitting .286 as a freshman. She also scored 19 runs, and was solid in conference games.

Of the sophomores, only Meg Volz (pictured left) and Stephanie Viggiano saw regular playing time in 2012. Both had solid freshman seasons. Meg hit .250 after 46 starts last year, driving home 22 runs while scoring 23. Ten of her RBIs came in conference play. Stephanie finished with a .235 average after 29 starts. Chelsea Stout, Lauren Milligan and Abby Carpenter all saw limited action as freshmen. First baseman Paige Lloyd and pitcher Antonia Edwards join the Saints this season as transfers.

A talented group of freshmen will join Siena this season, including Jessika-Jo Sandrini's sister Jordan, who may be an immediate starter. Two pitchers, Alyssa Lancaster and Mackenzie Cronin will have the opportunity of significant circle time. Also making their debuts will be Mikaela Searight out of Washington state, and  Melanie Kalesse from Philadelphia.

The Saints will need a few of their young players to step up, but they have who may be the MAAC's top two players in the lineup. Opposing teams can not intentionally walk both Shannon Jones and Jessika-Jo Sandrini; this pair will continue to cause headaches. The one potential problem for Siena this year is that they lost two pitchers this past off season. Darcy Gardner, who would have been a junior, and freshman prospect Rachel Quackenbush have both left school. The Saints will look for one of their three new pitchers to assume the number two position behind Jessika-Jo. Only time will tell how that will work out. Siena's primary goal will be to qualify for the post season; they have the tools in place to do just that.

Next up: Rider

Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 MAAC Preview - Marist Red Foxes

Senior Dani Koltz will lead the Red Foxes in '13

  • 5 Sarah Carmody C Senior
  • 3 Dani Koltz 3B Senior
  • 7 Christina Lausch IF/OF Senior
  • 14 Emily Osterhaus P Senior
  • 9 Joelle Zahka 1B Senior
  • 13 Haley Birnbaum 2B Junior
  • 11 Aly Klemmer OF Junior
  • 25 Paige Lewis P Junior
  • 12 Alyssa Zahka SS Junior
  • 4 Taylor Kuzma OF Sophomore
  • 1 Janine Lalli P Sophomore
  • 19 Melanie White P Sophomore
  • 22 Nicole Cheek OF Freshman
  • 6 Maureen Duddy OF Freshman
  • 17 Alex Hraniotis C Freshman
  • 2 Colleen McWilliams OF
  • 10 Kyrsten Van Natta SS Freshman
The Marist Red Foxes lost some talented players to graduation, but roster depth and a pitching staff that remains intact from last season will keep them in contention for a MAAC championship in 2013.

Leading this season's senior class will be third baseman Dani Koltz, who is coming off a great 2012 season which saw her named to the All-MAAC team. She led the team in home runs (8), RBIs (39) and slugging percentage (.529) while finishing with a .314 average. Dani is a clutch hitter; a telling statistic shows that 23 of her 39 RBIs came with two outs. Solid under pressure. Emily Osterhaus (pictured left) will lead the pitching staff, and although she struggled early last year, by the time MAAC season rolled around she was Coach Ausanio's "go to" arm. And with good reason...Emily was among the MAAC's leaders in conference games, posting a 1.77 ERA and a 6-3 record. Catcher Sarah Carmody will look to return to her 2011 form which saw her named to the All-MAAC team after hitting .316 for that season. Her average dropped nearly 100 points in 2012. Christina Lausch has been a steady utility player for the Red Foxes during her career, able to play multiple positions. Joelle Zahka enjoyed her best season in 2012, hitting .250 in the conference. I would expect her to see more action this season.

The Red Foxes will field a very strong junior class in 2013, led by All-MAAC first teamer Alyssa Zahka (pictured left). Alyssa had a great 2012 season, hitting a team leading .327 along with five homers and 31 RBIs. She led the team in runs scored (40), and also stole five bases. In conference only games, she ranked third in the MAAC with a .396 average; third with 14 RBIs. Primarily a shortstop, she can also fill in behind the plate. Second Baseman Haley Birnbaum had another solid season in 2012, hitting .283 with five homers and 23 RBIs. She's hit 13 out in her career; but she's also a very good runner, stealing 11 bases last season. She was also solid in MAAC play, hitting .292. Outfielder Aly Klemmer had a powerful season in 2012, hitting seven homers and 27 RBIs. Pitcher Paige Lewis slumped a bit in 2012 after a freshman season which saw her finish with a 15-8 record. Getting her back into that form is a top priority for Marist this season.

The Red Foxes' sophomore class all made big contributions as freshmen, in particular outfielder Taylor Kuzma (pictured left). Taylor had a solid overall season in 2012, hitting .262 with 17 runs and 10 stolen bases. She was at her best, however, during conference games, among the MAAC's leaders with a .350 average. Two pitchers round out the sophomore class. Janine Lalli finished 2012 with an 8-1 record; Melanie White was 5-10, with a 3.07 ERA. Melanie's most noteworthy performance was against then #1 California, in which she scattered six hits in a 1-0 loss.

Marist will have a talented group of freshmen joining the team in 2013, including: Nicole Cheek, Maureen Duddy and Colleen McWilliams, all hailing from California; and Kyrsten Van Natta and Alex Hraniotis.

Marist led the MAAC in offense in 2012; their depth and added newcomers should keep their production at about the same level. If their pitching staff, all returnees from last season, builds on their experience, the Red Foxes will be one of the favorites to win the MAAC in 2013.

Next up: Siena.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2013 MAAC Preview - Canisius Golden Griffins

  • 20 Amanda Baun P Senior
  • 00 Chloe Contreras OF/PR Senior
  • 33 Katie Medina 2B Senior
  • 18 Stephanie Pfentner C Senior
  • 8 Jen Consaul P Junior
  • 9 Val Nappo 1B Junior
  • 4 Erica Afanador SS/3B Sophomore
  • 15 Michelle DelPrince OF Sophomore
  • 6 Robin Kennery 2B/3B Sophomore
  • 28 Kalie Michalski OF/PR
  • 17 Marissa Miller C/DP Redshirt Sophomore
  • 2 Corinne Schaus P Sophomore
  • 10 Meghan Cuda 2B/OF Freshman
  • 21 Bethany DeMarco C/3B Freshman
  • 14 Tori Nappo OF Freshman
  • 11 Alexis Roman SS Freshman
  • 5 Jenn Solis P Freshman
After a disappointing 2011 season, Canisius College rebounded in 2012 to qualify for the MAAC tournament, finishing in third place. They hope to build on that success in 2013, and will try to do so with some new faces in the starting lineup and, they hope, with a returning star.

The Golden Griffins' senior class will play a big role in determining how far the team goes in '13. The focus as the season begins will be on pitcher Amanda Baun (pictured left). After having a terrific freshman season which saw her break a couple of school records and earn All-MAAC status, Amanda fell on hard times the next two seasons. In fact, in 2012 she was not a factor at all. However, after having a very good fall season, look for Coach Rappl to hand her the ball early and often to see if she has regained her former form when she was among the conference's leaders in wins, strikeouts and ERA. If that form returns, Canisius will be a title contender. What will happen remains to be seen, but if Amanda can regain starting status, the Griffs' pitching suddenly becomes very deep.

Second Baseman Katie Medina's (pictured left) return from injury during the 2012 season sparked her team to a late season run that landed them in the tournament. She led the Griffs in batting last year with a .330 average; often producing big and timely hits. Also very good in the field, Katie's presence in the lineup seems to give the team confidence. But she has been injury prone her whole career; Canisius will need her healthy and on the field to make a run in 2013. Another player who has battled through injury is senior catcher Stephanie Pfentner. Stephanie may be the best defensive backstop in the MAAC; the Griffs missed her noticeably last season when she was out. Actually, teams ran wild on the Griffs without her on the field. They need her healthy too, especially in conference games. At the bat, she has the ability to hit one out at any time, and did so against Fairfield in the 7th inning of a tournament game last year. If she stays healthy, she should be among the conference leaders in home runs. Chloe Contreras is the team's primary pinch runner; and may see some action in the outfield.

Canisius has only two juniors on their roster; but they are important players. Val Nappo and Jen Consaul will serve as the team's co-captains in 2013, and likely 2014 as well. Jen Consaul struggled early in the circle in 2012, but by the time MAAC season rolled around she was pitching very well. In fact, she again was among the leaders in conference play, with a 1.96 ERA and 5-2 record. She showed great control, walking only eight batters. Her biggest game last season was a two hit shutout win over eventual champion Iona, which kept her team in the hunt. Val Nappo, one of the top defensive players in the MAAC, closed out her 2012 season by being named to the All-Tournament team. Although she struggled early at the plate, she finished second on the team with 23 RBIs.

The Golden Griffins will field a strong sophomore class, with players that made major contributions as freshmen. Pitcher Corinne Schaus (pictured left) was pressed into action last season during the team's first conference game. A five run deficit turned into a win; Corinne would go on to gain more victories as the season progressed. She finished among the leaders with a 2.76 ERA in a season which figured to see her on the bench learning. Robin Kennery became the Griffs' third baseman in 2012, and finished the season leading the team in RBIs and doubles. She also stole 11 bases, good for second on the team. Six of those thefts were in conference play, best in the MAAC. Erica Afanador saw significant action at shortstop, and as designated player last season, and performed well, especially in a conference game vs. Siena. It looks like she will see time at shortstop and third base this year. Outfielder Michelle DelPrince had a solid freshman season, hitting .248 with a pair of homers and ten stolen bases. A player to watch out for in 2013 will be redshirt sophomore catcher/dp Marissa Miller. Hampered by injuries her first two years in college, Marissa is now healthy and had a terrific fall season. She hasn't up to this point had the opportunity to play much, but should be a regular this season. Walk on Kalie Michalski was used as an effective pinch runner in '12; stealing a couple bases and scoring five times.

The Golden Griffins' freshman class will likely provide three starters this season. Tori Nappo (Val's sister) is slated to be in center field as Lizzy Gatto's replacement. Alexis Roman will be at shortstop, and also third base. Speedy Meghan Cuda will be in the outfield, and possibly see some time at second base. Any or all of these players may make significant contributions. Bethany DeMarco should also see some playing time behind the plate. Jenn Solis doesn't figure to see a lot of time in the circle this season; however, the Griffs have gone to freshmen pitchers in the pinch the past two seasons, so she needs to be ready.

Canisius is very sound offensively, and in the field. What remains to be seen is how the pitching staff performs. The key is Amanda Baun...if she's back on her game, the Golden Griffins will be fighting for a championship. If she's not, they will need their younger pitchers to step up. At any rate, Canisius should be in the hunt for a postseason berth.

Next up: Marist College

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 MAAC Preview - Fairfield Stags

  •  19 Macy Cutshaw C Senior
  • 12 Tiffany Lawson OF Senior
  • 6 Emily Orr P Senior
  • 13 Rae Ball P/UTJunior
  • 4 Rachel Beaudoin OF Junior
  • 2 Kristen Filicia 2B Junior
  • 17 Kimi Kurata OF Junior
  • 9 Lauren Liseth C/SS Junior
  • 10 Nikki Osofsky 1B Junior
  • 8 Mikayla Shumate OF Junior
  • 18 Becca Trott P Junior
  • 20 Sam Frungillo 1B Sophomore
  • 5 Brianna Levick SS Sophomore
  • 1 Sammy Ruffolo OF Sophomore
  • 21 Taylor August IF Freshman
  • 16 Kelsey Brennan IF Freshman
  • 14 Shelby Butwell C Freshman
  • 7 Nicole Capra IF Freshman
  • 22 Lauren Falkanger P Freshman
  • 3 Lauren Filicia IF Freshman

Will 2013 be the year that the Fairfield Stags finally get over the hump and win it all? They've been very close to claiming the MAAC title in recent 2009 they cruised through the regular season, only to lose twice in extra innings at the tournament. The past two seasons saw them get through to Championship Saturday in the driver's seat. One win in four chances would have earned them a title; but they went 0-4. Fairfield's nemesis, Iona, has seen their championship roster depleted. The Stags however have retained most of the 2012 team shown in the photo above, and have added some talented freshmen. This could be their year.

The speedy Tiffany Lawson will likely be the only every day player amongst the senior class this season. Tiffany has averaged in double figures for stolen bases during her career. The Stags love to run; so look for Tiffany to be the starter in left field. Fellow seniors Macy Cutshaw and Emily Orr have seen spot duty during their careers. Emily may see more time as a relief pitcher in 2013 than she has in the past.

The nucleus of the Stags is of course their juniors, a group that has excelled since first stepping on the field in 2011. Fairfield looks to enter the 2013 season with solid pitching courtesy of a pair of juniors. Becca Trott (pictured left) emerged from the shadow of Sarah Minice to become one of the top pitchers in the conference last year. Becca was very stingy in MAAC games, ranking third in the conference with a 1.50 ERA. Rae Ball matured in the circle during last season, posting a 1.90 ERA in conference games. Fairfield will likely have the best 1-2 circle punch in the MAAC, and a repeat performance from these two will keep the Stags at the top of the standings once more.

 Offensively, Lauren Liseth (pictured left) leads the charge again after another All-MAAC season in 2012. She led the team in extra base hits, while pitching in 32 RBIs. And don't forget that she's an excellent runner, stealing 21 bases in 22 attempts. Kristen Filicia may be the best leadoff hitter in the MAAC. Last season she led the Stags in hitting with a .314 average. She was the top run producer on the team with 38 scores; and was the MAAC's number one base stealer with 24 thefts. If she maintains her numbers, she will chase Lauren Hope's all time theft record. She's not known for power, but she hit a huge 7th inning walkoff homer against Canisius in the MAACs that propelled her team to the winner's bracket last season. Rae Ball is a two dimensional player; aside from her solid pitching, she is the Stags' top power threat. She led the team in home runs (8), and RBIs (36). 15 of those RBIs came in MAAC games, second best in the conference. Kimi Kurata had a solid 2012 season; but she was at her best in conference games, hitting .319. Of course, you'll remember that she drove home the winning run in the 15 inning marathon win over Iona in the MAAC winner's bracket game. Mikayla Shumate, Nikki Osofsky and Rachel Beaudoin are juniors who add depth to the lineup. Mikayla hit .267 in the 30 games she played last season.

 Among the sophomores, Sammy Ruffolo (pictured left) had a great freshman season which resulted in her being named to the All-MAAC second team. Sammy finished the 2012 season hitting .294. Another Stag threat on the base paths, she stole 16 bases in 18 attempts, and was second on the team in runs scored. But she was at her best in conference play, hitting .347 in MAAC games. Sammy was also outstanding defensively in centerfield, committing only one error during the season. Bri Levick became the Stags' regular shortstop in '12. She struggled at the plate with a .117 average, and will have to raise that, but she did score 13 runs and knocked out a pair of homers. Sam Frungillo saw limited time at first base her freshman season, and hit .213.

Fairfield will have six freshmen on their roster this season. Perhaps the most interesting player is Lauren Filicia, Kristen's younger sister, who is also a base stealer of note. Also joining the team will be Taylor August, Kelsey Brennan, Shelby Butwell, Nicole Capra and Lauren Falkanger.

On paper, one would have to favor Fairfield to win the MAAC in 2013. The core of the squad has been together for two years, and played in two MAAC Championship finals. The problem for the Stags is that they ran into a barrier the past two seasons, losing a chance at the title after twice emerging from the winner's bracket. They should have no problem qualifying for the tournament; but once in will have to overcome a mental wall.

Next up: Canisius College

Fairfield's All-MAAC battery; Becca Trott and Lauren Liseth

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Niagara 2013 Softball Schedule

Since Niagara is the only MAAC team left to release their 2013 softball schedule, I will piece it together myself. I'll edit this post when the team releases the official schedule.

The Purple Eagles will open their first season under new coach Ellie Chan on the weekend of February 22-24 in Chattanooga, TN at the Frost Classic. Ohio, Toledo, N. Carolina Central, Northern Kentucky (in their inaugural season in D-1), Tennesse Tech and the host Mocs make up the competition.

The Purple Eagles begin a busy March in Deland, FL at the Stetson Invitational March 1-3 playing Detroit Mercy and the host Hatters. On the weekend of March 8-10 the team makes a return appearance at UMBC's Dawg Pound Invitational before closing the tournament portion of the season at Delaware State's Hornet Invitational March 16-17.

Niagara will begin MAAC play at Fairfield on April 6; and close conference play at Iona on April 28.

Niagara 2013 Softball Schedule

Friday, January 4, 2013

St. Peter's 2013 Softball Schedule

Saint Peter's University will begin their 2013 softball season early this year, on February 9-10 with a pair of doubleheaders at Maryland-Eastern Shore. On the weekend of February 22-14, they will be in Elon, NC for the Phoenix Clash with games against Hampton, Temple and the host school. The Peahens start their March with a trip to Baltimore at the Retriever Classic, where they will play Farleigh Dickinson, Coppin St., St. Francis and host UMBC. Then it's off to Kissimmee, FL for a week of doubleheaders at the Rebel Spring Games.

Saint Peter's will open their nine date home schedule on March 20 with a doubleheader against Seton Hall. The Peahens will begin MAAC play on March 30 when they host Rider. They close this season with three consecutive MAAC matchups on their home field.

Saint Peter's Softball Schedule