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 seasons...in 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

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