Tuesday, April 14, 2015

MAAC Softball Race Tightens

This past weekend's conference games marked the point where the race for the 2015 MAAC championship gets heated and interesting. Two teams have risen to the top, while a logjam has been created of teams fighting for position. The top six will qualify for postseason play. Of course, the standings are still subject to dramatic change with many games remaining. Also part of the race is the new tournament format - #1 seed will host. Here's a brief look at what's happening.

Manhattan and Canisius have both gotten off to 8-0 starts. Both teams are also on top statistically in hitting and pitching. Manhattan appears to have the more difficult remaining schedule, and must travel to Canisius for a doubleheader, in two weeks. That should be an epic matchup, and it may decide who will host the tournament. Fairfield, after a slow start, has risen all the way to third place as of this writing. This seems to be a repeat of their 2014 season. Their young players are developing quickly, and their pitching is steadily improving. Defending champion Iona suffered a bit of a slump, but rebounded nicely last weekend taking three of four games. The Gaels can still smack the ball around, as evidenced by Kristen Turner's weekend performance. However, their All-MAAC pitcher Carly Argyle will not return to the lineup, and will redshirt. The Gaels also suffered the loss of All-MAAC shortstop Bri Schauer, whose career has sadly ended with injury. Siena had a setback this past weekend, getting swept in their home opener. But they are still in good shape, and hold the tiebreaker over Marist. The Saints are a good hitting team, whose pitching has steadily improved over the course of the season. The Red Foxes lost a pair of close games at Canisius, and will look to rebound this weekend with four games they will be favored to win. They're getting solid pitching from their two starters, and have a balanced lineup. The injury bug has struck them though, and it appears All-MAAC outfielder Taylor Kuzma is out for the season. No word on her redshirt status as of this writing. Monmouth lost a pair of games at Manhattan this past weekend, getting shutout twice. But they played the most challenging preseason schedule of all the MAAC teams, and they hope this will pay off in the home stretch. Rider is much improved this season, getting their best pitching since Rachael Matreale roamed the circle. This coming weekend's games, particularly against Fairfield at home, are a huge test for them. They have a good opportunity to establish themselves as contenders. Quinnipiac got a "shot in the arm" with the return of their star player Jordan Paolucci, and went home with a 4-4 record. They have a big matchup with Fairfield today - a split would be big for them. Niagara and St. Peter's will have to wait till next year, as they say. Both have suffered pitching woes. Niagara clearly misses their All-MAAC player Bridget Hogan, who was to be their number one pitcher this season. And St. Peter's has regressed, allowing double figure runs to their MAAC opponents far too often.

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