Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Conference Play Set To Begin

The Fairfield Stags will attempt to become first repeat champs since 2012
The MAAC championship race begins this weekend with ten conference doubleheaders scheduled. No matter what has transpired over the first two months of the season, each team is currently 0-0 in MAAC play!

With the lack of atrocious winter weather, as in the past two seasons, the MAAC's pre-conference season record has shown much improvement. Without an endless string of cancellations, the various teams have gotten plenty of good work in. The result should be a very competitive race. The MAAC is in its second season of a new format, with six teams to qualify for the tournament, and with the number one seed earning hosting privilege. This makes for a more exciting conference season.

As of this writing, the Marist Red Foxes are 17-7, and have played very well in all facets of the game. They also have a large degree of motivation: they were the best team not to qualify in 2015, narrowly missing out. They don't want that happening again. They have a strong senior class, all ALL-MAACers with championship experience. Maureen Duddy is running wild on the base paths, threatening to eclipse conference records. They have the deepest pitching staff in the MAAC, with five pitchers they can go to with confidence.

Manhattan also has some motivation. After an outstanding regular season in 2015, their tournament performance had to be a let down, with an early exit. They are currently 11-8. Led by senior Elena Bowman, who is beginning get on a hot streak, the Jaspers can still hit the ball hard and often. They seem to have found their "go to" pitcher in Briana Matazinsky, who struck out 11 in a recent game.

The defending champion Fairfield Stags, currently 10-10, have played very well in most their games thus far. This is a team that of course has championship experience on the roster, with players like Lauren Filicia and Lauren Falkanger. But they are also getting good production from some of their freshmen, most notably Courtney Hankins and Alisha Marshall. Sophomore Angelina McGuire also seems to have found her way, and has had many big games.

In my opinion, the Monmouth Hawks are a team to watch this season. They are currently 10-11, and have six players batting over .300. Justene Reyes has shown she can change a game with a swing of her bat. But they have four other players who can drive home runs on a consistent basis, and Emma Hill to run wild and score them. Their pitching has been very good this season, and this time around Sydney Underhill is not being asked to do it all herself. Sophomore Amanda Riley has come into her own, allowing opposing teams a stingy .212 batting average.

The Siena Saints lost some top performers to graduation, but are actually playing better at this point in the season (9-8) than last year when they lost their first 11 games as I recall. Although their lineup is not as powerful as last season, they are getting good production down the line. A freshman, Mady Cossack, has brought a .341 average to the team. Their pitching has been solid, with Lauren Butts leading the way, and a fully recovered Danielle Cacciola becoming more of a factor this season. However, they have lost a pitcher, Amanda Gatt (I'm not privy as to why). This may hurt their chances.

The Quinnipiac Bobcats have shown definite improvement from last season, and are currently 10-11. Senior Sydney Robey has shown herself to be solid in the pitching circle, with sophomore Casey Herzog developing very quickly as the Bobcats' second pitcher. They don't seem to have a dominant hitter at the moment, but rather spread the production around offensively. They will compete to qualify, especially if they get some key early wins.

Defending regular season champion Canisius has struggled this early season, compiling 20 losses. They've had some injury issues, and a short roster. The roster got even shorter with a player leaving the team. Starting pitcher Erika Mackie has tried to stem the tide; she has a 2.99 ERA. Freshman Lauren Castro has pitched very well as of late, and seems to have earned the number two pitching spot as of now. Offensively, Lindsey Silfer is having a terrific season, with six homers and 23 RBIs plus a .363 batting average. Sophomore Moriah Harris has stepped into a larger role. The Golden Griffins must cut down on their errors however.

Iona stands at 5-16 right now, but as I recall, they had a similar record last season before surging during MAAC play. Their batting, once over .300, has cooled off a bit as of late, although Kristen Turner is having another outstanding season. Freshman Marisa Gergel is batting .365, bringing an additional threat to the lineup. Their pitching, though, has struggled a bit, and I've noticed redshirt senior Carly Argyle has not played much recently, although I have no information concerning her status. The Gaels, however, always seem to raise the level of their play this time of the season.

Niagara has struggled this season, winning only twice. I feel they have not had a schedule conducive to getting them ready for conference play, but we'll see. They seem to have found a pitcher to rely on in freshman Sierra Bertrand, who has thrown some strong games. Sydney Smyers has also pitched well at times. Redshirt sophomore Bridget Hogan is back and hitting .340. Sarah March is also having an outstanding season.

The situation with the Rider Broncs is difficult. After the messy departure of longtime Coach Carroll, their new coach, Jaci Timko did not begin her new job until January. That super short notice makes it unfair to judge her at all this season. She's still getting to know her team, which has shown both offensive and pitching sparks.

St. Peter's had their most challenging early schedule in years, and came out of it winless. The performance of freshman Tiffani Lambert is intriguing, but the Peacocks have failed to produce much in the way of offense this season.

I gave up the crystal ball years ago, so all I'll say about the upcoming championship race is that I expect it to be exciting and dramatic. Good luck to everyone!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

MAAC Hitting Leaders 3/20/16

Freshman Alisha Marshall has her college career off to flying start!
Alisha Marshall (Fairfield) .432
Kristen Turner (Iona) .429
Dana Sensi (Rider) .417
Elena Bowman (Manhattan) .409
Angelina McGuire (Fairfield) .405
Ashalyn Umiamaka (Monmouth) .404
Jill Freese (Monmouth).400
Maureen Duddy (Marist) .382
Bridget Hogan (Niagara) .378
Jenn Vazquez (Manhattan) .373
Lauren Filicia (Fairfield) .367
Marisa Gergel (Iona) .366
Becca Freeman (Marist) .357
Rachel Shotzbarger (Monmouth) .356
Christine Costello (Iona) .353

MAAC Pitching Leaders 3/20/16

Megan Beiermeister has never lost a college game!
Megan Beiermeister (Marist) 5-0; 2.45
Sierra Bertrand (Niagara) 2-1; 2.47
Sydney Underhill (Monmouth) 7-6; 2.55
Jessica Van Alphen (Marist) 4-1; 2.62
Jayne Oberdorf (Marist) 1-2; 2.92
Christine Costello (Iona) 1-3; 2.97
Brianna Matazinsky (Manhattan) 2-3; 3.07
Amanda Riley (Monmouth) 2-2; 3.08
Stephanie Kristo (Manhattan) 4-2; 3.10
Destinee Pallotto (Fairfield) 5-4; 3.27
Sydney Robey (Quinnipiac) 3-6; 3.38
Lauren Butts (Siena) 5-3; 3.41
Brooke Peterson (Marist) 0-2; 3.58
Lauren Falkanger (Fairfield) 4-2; 3.66
Casey Herzog (Quinnipiac) 4-6; 3.73

*20 innings pitched minimum

Monday, March 7, 2016

Strong Weekend For Defending Champs

Lauren Filicia hit a rare inside the park homer vs. Stetson
Defending MAAC Champion Fairfield earned their first win this past weekend in DeLand, Florida; in fact they won 3 of 4 games at Stetson University's tournament. In their opening game Saturday vs. Bethune-Cookman, freshman Courtney Hankins drilled a dramatic three run homer in the bottom of the 8th inning for a walk off 5-2 win. The Stags lost a close one to host Stetson later day, 5-4. The game featured an inside the park home run by speedy senior Lauren Filicia, but the Stags could not hold the lead despite a 3 for 4 performance by Tori Reed. Fairfield did take both of their games on Sunday, first a 7-6 win over Bethune-Cookman. The Stags scored all their runs in the first inning, led by Nicole Capra's two RBI double. In the final game, they prevailed 5-2 over Wagner. Home runs were hit by Nicole Capra, Gianna Kinhofer and Kate Robinson. Freshman Alisha Marshall hit 3 for 3 with an RBI, and Destinee Pallotto went the distant for the circle win, striking out six.

Griffs Split At Miami

Allie Block earned her 1st college win
Ohio that is. Actually the games were in Oxford, but hosted by Miami University, who the Canisius Golden Griffins didn't play for some reason. After being no-hit by Western Illinois in their opening game this weekend, the Griffs bounced back to win 2 of 3. Against alphabet school IUPUI (Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis), freshman Allie Block pitched a complete game for her first college win (5-2). She also drove home a pair of runs with a double. Senior Tori Nappo scored the winning run; hit a double; and made two outstanding run saving plays in right field. The Griffs lost to W. Illinois again on Sunday, but another freshman pitcher, Lauren Castro, was outstanding in a 2-1 loss. She drove home the Griffs' only run. It was Lindsey Silfer's three run home run blast in the 5-3 win over IUPUI that earned the split for Canisius. The junior has four homers and 14 RBIs this early season. Sophomore Moriah Harris continued her hot hitting, going 2 for 2 with an RBI. She leads the team with a .350 average. Erika Mackie got the circle win, with Allie Block earning a save in relief.

Manhattan Sweeps The Weekend

Jaspers moved into tie for 1st place
The Manhattan Jaspers went 3 for 3 in Hampton, Virginia this past weekend, unleashing their bats to the tune of 29 runs. Freshman second baseman Lauren Pitney had an outstanding weekend, hitting two home runs, including a grand slam, while driving home nine runs. ALL-MAACer Jenn Vazquez didn't do that badly herself, hitting 5 for 9 with a pair of homers and five RBIs. Freshman pitcher Stephanie Kristo improved her record to 3-1 with a six strikeout performance in a win over N. Carolina A&T. For the record, the Jaspers earned wins over N. Carolina A&T (7-6), and Hampton (12-4 and 10-7)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Hawks Show No Mercy!

Junior Justene Reyes ended a game early with authority
The Monmouth Hawks used power to get themselves to the 2015 MAAC championship game, and they have picked in 2016 up where they left off. The Hawks earned a pair of impressive wins this weekend, not only beating two teams from big conferences, but run ruling each one. On Friday at the District Invite hosted by George Washington University, Monmouth beat the Big East's Georgetown 10-0, in five innings. Justene Reyes and Katie Baron both drove home a pair of runs, and Chloe Howerth went a perfect 3 for 3 at the plate. In the circle, sophomore Amanda Riley was dominant, limiting the Hoyas to just two hits for the shutout win.

On Saturday, Monmouth shocked the Big Ten's Maryland Terrapins, winning 11-2 in six innings. The Hawks pounded out 14 hits, with Chloe Howerth, Emma Hill and Ashalynn Umiamaka all with a pair. It was Justene Reyes who ended this game early, with a monster three run blast over the center field fence. Sydney Underhill picked up the circle win.

The Hawks continue Sunday at the District Invite, with a pair of games vs. Robert Morris, then host George Washington.