Friday, March 31, 2017
2017 MAAC Season Preview
The Marist Red Foxes will look to become the first MAAC school to repeat as softball champion in five years, and there is ample reason to believe they could do just that. Although All-MAAC infielder Claire Oberdorf is lost to injury, the Red Foxes still boast a strong lineup. They retain their championship season pitching staff, which is deep and talented. They are the consesus favorite.
The Manhattan Jaspers emerge from tournament play with a strong pitching staff, including two freshmen who seem ready to contribute immediately. Elena Bowman has graduated, but life goes on and other Jaspers have picked up the slack, particularly Victoria Ross who is hitting in the high 300s. Manhattan should compete strongly for the number one seed, and the right to host the tournament.
The "sleeper" this season, in my opinion, is Niagara. Why? Because they've found a one-two punch in the pitching circle. Sierra Bertrand had a fine freshman season, when the Purple Eagles narrowly missed qualifying for the tournament. But she may have had too much on her shoulders. This season, Jen Szilagyi has picked up her game, and had an excellent tournament portion of the season. Along with good pitching, Niagara has some hitters who can really smack the ball. Look for them to make a strong bid to qualify.
The Iona Gaels still have players with championship experience, including senior Kristen Turner, who after a slow start has rocketed her average to .400, hitting with the usual power. They have a blanced batting lineup, including Tori Danner who has smashed seven home runs thus far this season. Their pitching has been somewhat by committee, with Lani Evans averaging a strikeout per inning.
Which team in the MAAC has the highest RPI rating? The Quinnipiac Bobcats. They've had an up and down tournament season though. They've shown the ability to hit and score in high numbers, including Rebecca Drake, who is a .400 hitter. But Casey Herzog was out for a while with injury. She's back, and pitched very well this past week, showing herself to be very valuable to her team.
The Canisius Golden Griffins have solid pitching with the junior tandem of Madi Weathers and Erika Mackie. They keep their team in all games, but the Griffs have suffered 11 one run losses. MAAC games are generally close, so they'll have to overcome that tendency somehow. In the hitting lineup, Lauren Castro has shown to have a dangerous bat. The Griffs aren't the speed team they were in the past, but are capable of big innings with plenty of extra base hits.
Like Iona, the Fairfield Stags still have players with championship experience, including Tori Reed who has hit 4 home runs. Added to that are two dynamic freshmen, Amanda Ulzheimer and Lacey Olaff, who lead the Stags in hitting with averages of .406 and .377 respectively. But Fairfield has lacked, so far, the pitching they need to win it all. Destinee Pallotto however has won it all before, Fairfield will need her to get back on track in conference play.
The Monmouth Hawks have struggled at times in the pitching circle, although Amanda Riley has a high strikeout count. But we know she and Sydney Underhill have been dominant in the past, and if they get back to form, the Hawks could fly to the top. Justene Reyes is having another stellar season in the batters box, very dangerous hitter. I feel the Hawks will be a factor in the end, but it depends on the pitching.
Siena is another team struggling in the pitching circle, lots of extra base hits surrendered. At the bat, Loryn DeFalco is having a terrific season, and Chelsey Drew has hit 5 homers.
Rider had a rough start to their season, but the pitching duo of Delaney DeMello and Kaitlyn Kallert have been throwing well as of late. If they pick up their hitting performance, they may make some noise.
St. Peter's already seems a different team with their new coach, and freshmen Alina Guevara and Bri Hutchinson are hitting very well. It's time for them to experience some success in conference play.