Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2014 MAAC Preview - Niagara University

2013 MAAC Pitcher Of The Year Jen Sansano
Last season: The Purple Eagles finished 16-30 in 2013, but made a late surge into the MAAC tournament with a 9-7 conference record.

2014 roster: Niagara's senior class features two starting pitchers, one of whom, Jen Sansano, after transfer produced a great season which resulted in her being named pitcher of the year in the MAAC. Jen finished with an 11-12 record and 2.14 ERA, but was top pitcher in conference games with a 1.33 ERA. In those MAAC games, she allowed her opponents to hit just .155. Kim Bryson in the latter half of 2012, was probably the best pitcher in the MAAC. Last season she experienced a slump, possibly because of the chaotic coaching situation at Niagara. When that issue was resolved, she began to return to her old form. Outielder/infielder Brittany Richberg had her best season in 2013, finishing with a .315 batting average, leading the team with 11 stolen bases. She hit .333 in conference games. Aileen Hinton hit .227 in '13, which included a home run, but was at .333 in MAAC games. Connal Kelly hit .167 in limited action.

Outfielder Ambur Farmer leads the junior class after hitting .257 last season, with 13 extra base hits including three home runs. She however was one of the top hitters in conference play, producing a .409 average, scoring 10 runs in those games. Utility player Amanda Werth was second on the team with a .330 average, which included 15 RBIs. Infielder Desarae Maldonado hit .208 last season, .242 in conference play. Outfielder Katie Gruarin hit .203 last season, with 21 runs scored and six stolen bases.

With the exception of first baseman Becca Saggiomo, the Niagara sophomore class saw limited action in 2013. Becca did hit .138 in 38 starts. Pitcher Sydney Smyers finished with a 2-2 record. Ally Gay hit .154; Taylor Huenink hit .100. Miranda Ortega was used in a few games as a pinch runner.

Niagara will welcome aboard seven freshmen this season. Promising pitcher Bridget Hogan may not see extensive circle time behind the two seniors on the staff, but she also can hit. Chanelle Ward out of California may get an opportunity at shortstop. Rachel Ziarnowski, Sarah March and Theresa Fleckenstein can all play catcher. Ali VanGiesen can play outfield and infield. Alexandra Moore is an infielder.

Outlook: After Niagara resolved their coaching issue last season, the team went on a run that took them all the way to the MAAC tournament. Interim head coach Larry Puzan was afterward rewarded with a permanent position. He has been with the team several years as a pitching coach. His main job this season is to get senior pitcher Kim Bryson back on track; if he does, the Purple Eagles should have pitching unmatched by the rest of the conference. Jen Sansano was dominant in conference play, and figures to be so again; if Kim returns to her 2012 form, Niagara will be a top favorite to win it all. Although the team lost offensive production due to graduation, there is still enough there to complement the potentially great pitching.


Anonymous said...

Did you mean the freshman class last year saw limited time? Becca Saggiomo is a sophomore this year. I believe the majority of the sophomores from last year were all starters except for Becca. Maybe I'm wrong?

WNY Softball said...

Becca had 32 starts in '13, the rest of them were in single digits.

Richard Farmer said...

Have to respect your time and effort Lena! Spot on with the review! Thanks for giving us all more detail on the conference. I don't think you hear it enough and we all take it for granted. It's much appreciated! :-)