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.


Anonymous said...

Des Maldonado did not play much. she was actually out during the season with a thumb injury. I dont think you can call it growing pains.

WNY Softball said...

She had 17 starts.

Anonymous said...

Fly high Purple Eagles.....We can't wait to watch you ladies play! New coach, new attitude. Put your swagger on & compete!

Anonymous said...

as an athlete you cannot focus on stats and definitely cannot focus on what you did last year or even yesterday. Everyday you have to start off fresh or else you will never be able to be better. I am sure coach Chan is not focusing on what players did last year. I am sure she is focusing on now and in winning! Yesterday doesnt matter, today does!

WNY Softball said...

I know, but I'm not Coach Chan. I'm just a writer using the past as an indicator of trends :)

Anonymous said...

Niagara Softball traveling to TN today to begin their season tomorrow. Good luck ladies & coaches!!