A10 Softball Blog

An Atlantic 10 Conference Softball Fan Blog written from a fan's perspective. It is not affiliated with the conference or any of the teams.

Friday, February 5, 2016

2016 Preview: Fordham

Right now, the Rams are the dominant force in the conference and Coach Bridget Orchard has her 2016 squad poised to continue its run.
Rachel Gillen (photo by Thom Kendall)

Pitching: It all starts in the circle and with Rachel Gillen, Fordham may have the best pitcher in the conference. Last year, Gillen went 24-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 250 SO in 213.1 innings. As the season went on, Gillen only seemed to grow stronger, which is a great sign for 2016. Gillen is a bonafide ace who could lead Fordham past the regional round for the first time. Lauren Quense returns to the circle in 2016, after suffering a season-ending injury in 2015. Quense had a solid rookie campaign in 2014 and will be counted on for big innings in 2016. The one concern for the Rams is depth, as Gillen and Quense are the only pitchers on the roster.
Sydney Canessa (photo by Thom Kendall)

Offense: The good news for Coach Orchard is that she returns many big bats in her lineup. At the top of the lineup, Amy Van Hoven and Sydney Canessa return after solid 2015 seasons. Van Hoven hit .384 with 76 hits, 25 RBI, and recorded 16 steals, while Canessa hit .323 with 63 hits, 5 HR, and 36 RBI. Rachel Gillen also packs a big punch at the plate, as she hit .374 with 52 hits, 6 HR, and 39 RBI. Lindsay Mayer is back after a stellar season, which saw her hit .319 with 59 hits, 9 HR, and 52 RBI. Coach Orchard will need to replace the big bats of Kayla Lombardo, Michele Daubman, Cora Ianiro, and Paige Ortiz. The good news is the that she has some talented bats returning from her bench in 2015. Morgan Figueroa and Madison Shaw had solid rookie seasons, but are poised for breakout campaigns in 2016.
Lindsay Mayer (photo by Thom Kendall)

Catching: After the departure of Kayla Lombardo, the Fordham will look to Ally Vergona and Stephanie Ferri to hold down the fort. Vergona has a stellar arm behind the dish and may have the early edge. Vergona also hit .273 in part time duty last year. Freshman Kylie Michael should also figure into the mix.

Newcomers: Coach Orchard brought in a talented group of freshman who figure to make a big impact in 2016. Chelsea Skrepenak, Jessica Hughes, and Jordana Storm are a couple to keep an eye on.

Schedule: Fordham is going to face a grueling nonconference schedule which includes early season matchups against Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, James Madison, UCF, Hofstra, and St. John's. Fordham's toughest test in conference play will come when they hit the road to face Dayton.

Outlook: Fordham is the favorite to win the conference and should have a great shot at an at-large bid regardless of whether or not they win the conference tournament.

2016 Preview: Dayton

Dayton had its best season in program history in 2015 and the Flyers are back for more in 2016. Dayton has a great shot at winning its first ever Atlantic 10 title.
Manda Cash (photo by Thom Kendall)

Pitching: Just like Fordham, Dayton is led by a stellar southpaw in Manda Cash. Cash burst on to the scene in 2015 and put up the best numbers in the Atlantic 10. Cash went 13-2 with a 1.49 ERA and 167 SO in 122.1 innings. Cash should carry an even bigger work load in 2016 and Dayton will go as far as she can take them. While Kayla English has graduated, the good news is that Gabrielle Snyder is back. Snyder went 8-6 with a 3.00 ERA and 52 SO in 93.1 innings. Snyder should figure to have an even bigger role this season. Coach Cara LaPlaca is also bolstered by the return of Emily Froment who missed all of 2015 due to injury. If Froment can return to her all-Rookie form from 2013, Dayton is going to be in great shape. Freshman Jessica Gillam also figures to see some big innings. Dayton's depth in the circle may be their biggest strength in 2016.

Offense: Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Tiffany Ricks and her huge bat are gone, leaving a big hole in the Flyers' lineup. In addition, Natalie Mariano and Jordan Jennings have also graduated. Gabrielle Snyder leads the way for the Flyers after hitting .396 with 65 hits, 2 HR, and 37 RBI. Kailee Budicin and Hannah DeSalvo are also back after solid seasons, which saw them each hit .297. The Flyers will need someone to step up and provide some power at the plate, as Dayton lost 24 of its 30 HR from last season.

Catching: Kathy Hess returns behind the dish and she should be a key player for Dayton once again. In 2015, Hess hit .279 with 10 RBI. She also did a nice job defensively, as she threw out 9 would be base stealers. Kyle Davidson, Kailee Budicin, and Kelly Fitzgerald could also see some time behind the plate.

Newcomers: Coach LaPlaca has a talented group of freshmen in 2016. Madi Maloof is the sister of former All-Conference performer Kathleen Maloof and could see some time in the outfield for Dayton. Aspyn Novak, Kayla Laquiere, and Jessica Gillam figure to see key playing time as well.

Schedule: Dayton's schedule starts off easy, but then gets quite difficult as they will face Chattanooga, Tennessee, Louisville, Michigan, and Ohio State in nonconference play. The Flyers may have the best conference schedule, as they will get Fordham, St. Louis, and St. Joseph's at home.

Outlook: Dayton has the pitching and the schedule to get them to the NCAA tournament, but the Flyers success will come down to how well they hit.

2016 Preview: St. Louis

St. Louis heads into 2016 with big expectations and a great chance at bringing home the program's first ever Atlantic 10 title.
Brianna Lore (photo by Thom Kendall)

Pitching: Brianna Lore is back for her senior season and the former Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year is looking to reclaim that title once again in 2016. The senior southpaw is already the St. Louis' career leader in wins and she is looking to lead the Billikens to new heights. The great thing for Coach Christy Connoyer is that St. Louis brings back its other two pitchers from 2015. Laney Kneib served as the club's closer in 2016 and she was stellar in that role going 8-1 with 2.86 ERA with 31 SO in 83.1 innings, while recording 6 saves. Maddie Baalman is back after a solid freshman campaign which saw her go 10-7 with a 4.71 ERA with 31 SO in 91 innings. Freshman Kallen Loveless should also see some key innings in the circle.
Alex Nickel (photo by Thom Kendall)

Hitting: The Billikens wielded some big bats in 2015, hitting .301, while slugging 55 HR. Leading the charge on offense is junior shortstop Alex Nickel. Nickel had an outstanding season, hitting .415 with 71 hits, 56 runs scored, 11 HR, 32 RBI, and 10 steals. She is one of the top all-around players in the conference and should be an early favorite for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. Beyond Nickel, the Billikens also bring back six .300 hitters from 2015. Brianna Lore hit .340 last year with 52 hits, 4 HR, and 32 RBI. Emma Buckles hit .336 with 38 hits, 1 HR, and 19 RBI, while recording 8 steals. Allie Macfarlane is back as St. Louis' RBI leaders after a stellar rookie season, which saw her hit .327 with 51 hits, 8 HR, and 50 RBI. Coach Connoyer will also count on Mackenzie Peter, Elizabeth Everingham, and Josie Knesel for big seasons at the plate.
Hailey Weavers (photo by Thom Kendall)

Friday, February 6, 2015

2015 St. Joseph's Preview: Young Pitching, Experienced Hitting

St. Joseph's comes into 2015, after a slightly disappointing 2014. The Hawks were never really able to capture momentum from their finish in 2013 and were inconsistent all year long, especially in the circle. Coach Terri Adams' squad still showed great fight last and almost advanced to the Atlantic 10 Tournament final. She is going to be looking for this squad to finish the job.
Niki Carillo (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

It all starts in the circle and Coach Adams has a very young, but talented staff. Anna Lauterbach and Niki Carillo return in the circle, while talented freshman Madison Clarke joins the mix. Former Fordham great Jen Mineau is also on board as the team's new pitching coach, which should pay huge dividends for this young group. Last year, Lauterbach went 6-4 with a 3.12 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 54 innings. Lauterbach brings the ball with some heat and Coach Adams is going to need her to step up. Carillo comes back after a solid freshman year, which saw her go 5-2 with a 2.98 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 54 innings. Coach Adams is going to be counting on her two tall pitchers for significant innings in 2015. Canada native Madison Clarke joins the fold and she is going to be a good one. Clarke has talent galore and she can bring the ball with some heat. Clarke will definitely be a contender for Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year.
Hannah Dionne (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

The Hawks are extremely deep behind the plate, as both starters return from last season. Hannah Dionne is the incumbent at catcher, as she came on strong at the end of last year. Dionne hit .359 with 23 hits, 1 HR, and 15 RBI. If Dionne can put up these numbers again, St. Joseph's is going to be in great shape. Stephanie Chaiser is also back behind the plate and she should see some time out there as well. Alexis Bush may also see some action at catcher.
Ashley Alden (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

The Hawks are in great shape in the infield, as most of their talented group is back. Nicole Palase is back at shortstop, Sarah Yoos is back at second, and Ashley Alden returns at first. Last year, Palase hit .276 with 34 hits, 4 HR, and 18 RBI. Coach Adams is going to be looking for her to put up even bigger numbers in 2015. Yoos suffered a bit of a sophomore slump after winning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year in 2013, but she still had a solid season in 2014. Yoos hit .268 with 30 hits, 1 HR, and 15 RBI, but also had an on base percentage of .436. The Hawks are going to need more production out of Yoos this year. Ashley Alden had an outstanding 2014 season after transferring from Rutgers, hitting .345 with 39 hits, 6 HR, and 23 RBI. Morgan Earling has graduated, which means the Hawks will have a new starter at third and it looks like Brandi Harkness may get the nod. Last year, Harkness hit .230 with 29 hits, 4 HR, and 20 RBI. Coach Adams is going to look for even bigger power numbers from Harkness in 2015.
Melissa Ruf (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

St. Joseph's will have a young outfield in 2015, but a mighty talented one. Leadoff hitter Isabella Picard is back after a solid freshman season, which saw her hit .279 with 9 RBI and 11 steals. The Hawks are going to count on Picard to get on base once again and cause problems for opposing defenses. Melissa Ruf is back after an outstanding junior season. Last year, Ruf hit .363 with 33 hits, 2 HR, 17 RBI, and 9 steals. Ruf is an important player for the Hawks, both in the outfield and at the plate. Madeline Brunck is also back and her speed could be a difference maker for the Hawks. Brunck is a speedy lefty, continuing St. Joseph's tradition of talented lefty hitters. Freshman Nikki Alden is going to be a player to watch. Nikki Alden is the sister of Ashley Alden and she is a stud. Nikki Alden is a highly touted power hitter and she is going to be a handful for opposing hitters.

Designated Player
Kerrie Kortmann finished last season hitting very well and could earn the spot of designated player. Kortmann hit .292 and was clutch at the Atlantic 10 Tournament last season. A number of other players could also see time at designated player for the Hawks.

St. Joseph's will feature a very manageable nonconference schedule in 2015, as it will start with a few easier games, before ramping up the competition. The Hawks will travel to Wilmington, Raleigh, Myrtle Beach, and Tampa for tournament to open up the year. Some highlights of the nonconference slate include matchups against NC State, Coastal Carolina, North Dakota State, Iowa State, Purdue, and Long Island. For conference play, St. Joseph's will host URI, UMass, Dayton, and St. Louis. The Hawks will hit the road to face George Mason, Fordham, La Salle, and St. Bonaventure. St. Joseph's will not face George Washington this season.

The Hawks are going to be a young team in the circle and experienced everywhere else. St. Joseph's is going to have a powerful offensive lineup that could one of Coach Terri Adams' best lineups ever. These Hawks have power and speed and they are ready to fly. This team could have the ability to go toe to toe with Fordham offensively. For the Hawks, it will all come down to pitching. If the young pitching staff can step it up, they will compete for the Atlantic 10 title.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

2015 St. Louis Preview: Breakthrough Year?

St. Louis had an outstanding run in 2014, which saw the Billikens finish second in the regular season and second at the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Coach Christy Connoyer and her squad are hungry for more this year. The Billikens had one of their best seasons in program history, as they went 30-21 overall and 12-5 in Atlantic 10 play. St. Louis is experienced at the plate and in the circle and they are hungry for a title.
Brianna Lore (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

It all starts in the circle for St. Louis with standout Brianna Lore. The big lefty carried St. Louis last year and earned Co-Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year honors. Last year, Lore went 25-13 with a 3.14 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 243 innings. She is one of the toughest pitchers in the conference and gets even tougher with runners on base. She will need some more help this season, as she threw 50 more innings than the next closest pitcher in the conference. If Lore is rested down the stretch, she could very well carry St. Louis to a title. Laney Kneib is also back in the circle. Kneib went 5-8 last year with a 4.67 ERA. The Billikens will look for Kneib to return to her freshman year form, which saw her go 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA. If Kneib bounces back, St. Louis' two-headed monster is going to be scary for opposing offenses. Maddie Baalman also joins the fold in the circle and Coach Connoyer is going to look to her to throw some meaningful innings too.

Hailey Weavers is back after an excellent freshman season, especially defensively. In 2014, Weavers kept the opposing offenses in check on the base paths as she gunned down 12 runners trying to steal. Weavers also hit .200 with 2 HR and 17 RBI. Coach Connoyer is going to look for Weavers to be a leader behind the plate in 2015. Sophomore Macie Wheeler could also see some action behind the plate.
Elizabeth Everingham (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

Coach Connoyer returns some key starters from her infield from last season, including standout shortstop Alex Nickel and third baseman Elizabeth Everingham. The St. Louis lineup is also bolstered by Evansville transfer Emma Buckles who could start at first. Last year, Nickel hit .333 with 49 hits, 3 HR, 20 RBI, and 10 steals. She was an extremely effective leadoff hitter and may be counted on to fill that role again in 2015. Everingham is back after a 2014 season, which saw her hit .290 with 40 hits, 7 HR, and 28 RBI. Everingham is a key bat in the St. Louis order, as she will help protect Lindsay Friedman in the lineup. Coach Connoyer would love to see her put up even bigger numbers this season. Buckles comes to St. Louis after a solid freshman year at Evansville. At Evansville, she hit .263 with 35 hits, 14 RBI, and 12 steals. St. Louis is going to count on her defense at first and her lefty bat at the plate. Miranda Cotton, Brittany Durant, Allie Macfarlane, and Alyssa Tarquino are also fighting for playing time and a starting spot.
Lindsay Friedman (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

Leading the Billiken outfield is Lindsay Friedman and she does a bit of everything for St. Louis. Last year, Friedman hit .346 with 53 hits, 9 HR, 35 RBI, and 32 steals. Friedman is an absolute stud and definitely one of the early favorites for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. Friedman is joined in the outfield by returning starters Madeline Brungardt and Mackenzie Peter, while freshman Josie Knesel also joins the mix. Peter had a very solid year in 2014, hitting .331 with 46 hits, 2 HR, and 27 RBI. Coach Connoyer is going to look to her for even more production in 2015, during her sophomore season.
Brianna Lore (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

Designated Player
Not only can she pitch, but Bri Lore is also a pretty darn good hitter too. Last year, Lore hit .271 with 36 hits, 3 HR, and 33 RBI. Coach Connoyer is going to look for her lefty bat to hit once again in 2015.

St. Louis starts off nonconference play with difficult tournaments at Mississippi State and Western Kentucky, but from there the level of competition tapers off quite a bit. The Billikens will have ample opportunities to pick up wins and develop confidence heading into Atlantic 10 play. St. Louis opens up conference play with nine straight games at home against Fordham, Dayton, and George Mason. The Billikens will then close the season with four of their last five conference series on the road, including trips to St. Joseph's and UMass to close out the year. St. Louis has a fairly tough road in conference play, but it is certainly manageable for this talented squad.

On the heels of last year's performance, St. Louis is ready to take that next step and win a title. Bri Lore is back in the circle and she gives the Billikens an opportunity to win every time she sets toes the rubber. If Coach Connoyer can find some solid pitching behind her, they are going to be scary good. St. Louis' offense is going to be even better than it was last year and with Lindsay Friedman leading the way, they are going to be tough to stop. St. Louis is ready to knock off Fordham as conference champions, but that will not be an easy task.

2015 St. Bonaventure Preview

St. Bonaventure had rough 2014 with the weather, injuries, and a slow start, but the Bonnies are looking strong headed into 2015. Coach Mike Threehouse has a young, talented, team that is ready to throw itself into the Atlantic 10 Tournament hunt. The Bonnies are full of talent on offense, but this team will go only as far as its pitching will take them.

St. Bonaventure brings back all of its pitchers from last year and has added a very talented freshman to the mix. Josie Borysevicz joins St. Bonaventure and she is going to be a big difference maker for the Bonnies. Borysevicz comes to Olean from the Polar Crush travel program, where she was a standout in the circle. Coach Threehouse is going to look to her to step in right away and throw big innings. Kristen Hickling is also back for her sophomore season after going 4-10 last year. Coach Threehouse is going to need big innings from both Hickling and Borysevicz this year. Alexis Sloat, Carly Bilchak, and Julia Pratt are also back and Coach Threehouse will need contributions from his entire staff against some powerful opposing lineups. Freshman Haley Majot may also see some key innings in the circle.

Anndrea Burgess and Lauren Waite are back behind the plate and both figure to see significant action in 2015. Coach Threehouse may also turn to the very talented freshman Morgan Phillips. Coach Threehouse has three excellent options behind the plate, so it will come down to who can get it done at the plate.

The Bonnies bring back their entire infield, including standout shortstop Emily McDonough. McDonough hit .394 last year with 37 hits, 5 RBI, and 12 steals. Coach Threehouse is going to be counting on her to be the leadoff for St. Bonaventure once again. Katie Sinclair, Grace Rooney, and Kiera Lorenzo also return as starters. Last year, Sinclair hit .321 with 34 hits, 1 HR, and 18 RBI. Coach Threehouse will be looking for more power numbers from this group, as his infielders only combined to hit three of the team's 10 home runs last year. Haley Blencowe and Courtney Rogers could also see time in the infield.

Kelli Rohan and Emily Belfield are back to lead the way in the outfield for the Bonnies. Rohan had an excellent 2014 season, hitting .352 with 43 hits, 5 RBI, and 18 steals. Rohan's speed is a gamechanger for the Bonnies and they are going to count on her to get on base and have her put pressure on the opposition with her speed. Belfield led the Bonnies with 3 home runs last year and was second with 14 runs batted in. Coach Threehouse is going to be looking to her to do even more in 2015. Kelly Farrell, Haley Majot, and Courtney Rogers should also compete for playing time in the outfield.

Coach Threehouse put together a tough and challenging slate for his squad in 2015. The Bonnies will have two very difficult early tournaments, one at Coastal Carolina and the other at Hawaii. At Myrtle Beach, St. Bonaventure will face the host team, Ole Miss, and Iowa State. Out in Hawaii, the Bonnies will go up against the host Rainbow Wahine, Columbia, Virginia Tech, and Western Illinois. If the Bonnies can pull out wins at those two tournaments, it will be a very positive sign for the team headed into conference play. St. Bonaventure has a very favorable schedule, as they avoid St. Louis and will only play Fordham twice. The Bonnies will hit the road to face Dayton, George Washington, UMass, and Rhode Island and will host George Mason, St. Joseph's, La Salle, and Fordham.

The Bonnies are a young team going up against a tough nonconference schedule, but it will definitely prepare them for the gauntlet of Atlantic 10 play. The Bonnies are going to have the bats to compete this year, but their success all comes down to the circle. If St. Bonaventure can keep teams off the board more than last year, they could be a surprise challenger in the Atlantic 10 race. They have a favorable conference schedule, but they will need to take advantage of it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

2015 Rhode Island Preview: Lots of questions in the circle

Rhode Island comes into 2015, after a 2014 season, which saw them come very close to advancing to the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Unfortunately for the Rams, they lost a number of key contributors from that team, including ace Sam Bedore. 2015 is going to be a very long season down in Kingston.
Caitlin Kennedy (photo by URI Athletics)

Sam Bedore carried this team last year, going 9-9 with a 3.17 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 132 innings. She recorded all but four of Rhode Island's wins last year. To make matters worse, Ashley Dumoulin transferred to Louisiana-Monroe, Cassie Baker graduated, and Jessica Proia is no longer listed on the roster. Lauren Kennedy and Andrea Chiaradio are the only pitchers listed on the roster. Coach Erin Layton is going to need her pitchers to stay healthy or it could be an even longer year down in Kingston.

The Rams have more depth behind the plate than they do in the circle this year. Despite the loss of Stacey Fox, URI returns Ali Summers and Taylor Archer and adds Bri Castro to the mix. Summers hit .209 last year, while Archer led the team with a .269 mark. Jenna Newborn could also see some time at catcher. Ashley Olson is back and she is going to add some power to this squad. Olson is going to be counted on to be a run producer this year.
Marylynn Muldowney (photo by URI Athletics)

URI does bring back some key starters in the infield, as Marylynn Muldowney and Lauren Klepchick return at second and third respectively. Muldowney hit .256 last year, while Klepchick hit .236. Jenna Cubello, Paige Julich, Kylie Shivery, Olivia Hendricks, and Deanna Wolf should also see some key action in the infield.
Megan Congro (photo by URI Athletics)

In the outfield, the Rams bring back Megan Congro, Olivia Hendricks, and Danielle Gariglio as starters. Coach Layton is going to be counting on them for big things both at the plate and on defense. Kayla Cruz could also push for time in the outfield.

Designated Player
Ashley Olson or Taylor Archer should start at designated player for Rhode Island. Archer and Olson are the Rams top two hitters and Coach Layton is going to need to have both of them in the lineup.

URI has a somewhat challenging nonconference slate, which should let us know right away how good this team will be. The Rams will have challenging nonconference games against James Madison, Stetson, Michigan State, and Stony Brook. If URI can manage to get six or more wins in nonconference play, it will be a very positive sign for the team going into conference play. URI has one of the most favorable conference schedules, as they will avoid Fordham and will only face UMass twice. Unfortunately, the Rams have a very front loaded schedule, as they will open up Atlantic 10 play by facing 5 teams that advanced to the Atlantic 10 Tournament last year.

2015 may be a tough season for the Rams and Coach Layton. The Rams are pretty thin in the circle and don't return much power at the plate. Unless some players step up, it could be a very long season with some very short games. It is hard to see URI advancing to the Atlantic 10 Tournament this year, especially with the strength of the rest of the league.

Monday, February 2, 2015

2015 UMass Preview: A Return to Winning Ways

UMass had a tumultuous 2014 season from freak weather storms to freak injuries. This team faced an incredible amount of diversity, as they dealt with the loss of Coach Elaine Sortino right before the fall season last year. Despite, everything this team went through, they found a way to finish strong and advance to the Atlantic 10 Tournament. This team is going be much better in 2015 and they are ready to return to their winning ways.
Caroline Raymond (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

The days of Sara Plourde, Brandice Balschmiter, and Danielle Henderson are gone, but this is one of the better UMass staffs in the past few years. Leading the way is Caroline Raymond. Raymond is back for her fifth season after going 10-13 with a 3.39 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 138.1 innings. Raymond's numbers were a significant improvement from 2013. Coach Kristi Stefanoni is going to be counting on Raymond to be a leader in the circle for this young talented squad. If Raymond can keep her walks and gopher balls down, she is going to have a very successful year. Sophomore Tara Klee is also back in the circle. Klee had a bit of a roller coaster season, but ended on a high note in conference play. In 2014, Klee went 6-5 with a 4.93 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 81 innings. However, in Atlantic 10 play, Klee went 4-0 with a 2.95 ERA. If Klee can build off that momentum, the Minutewomen could be in very good shape. Emma Mendoker is working her way back from shoulder surgery and she could see some significant innings. Mendoker has battled injuries in her first few seasons, so it would be nice to see what could do healthy. Meg Colleran is a freshman pitcher that should be a key contributor to this staff. Coach Stefanoni is going to be looking to Colleran to step in right away and throw some big innings. Dakota Smith-Porter and Bridget Lemire could also see some time in the circle. UMass is going to have a big and talented pitching staff, the key will be if they can pitch to contact and let the defense do the work.
Olivia Godin, Caroline Raymond, Ashton Wince (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

The Minutewomen bring back both starters from last year behind the plate. Olivia Godin and Ashton Wince are both back after solid seasons and it would not a surprise to see them split action once again, unless one of them really steps up at the plate. Ashton Wince had a solid freshman season, hitting .229 with 16 hits, 1 HR, and 8 RBI. Wince was also rock solid on defense, nailing five runners trying to steal and picking off three runners. Godin is back after a sophomore season, which saw her hit .171. The Minutewomen will need more offensive output from the catching position, if they want to move up in the standings in 2015.
Quianna Diaz-Patterson (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

The strength of this UMass team lies with its infield, as Coach Stefanoni might have one of the most talented groups in the conference. Quianna Diaz-Patterson, Jena Cozza, and Taylor Carbone all return. Diaz-Patterson had a solid freshman season, hitting .357 with 46 hits, 7 RBI, and 8 steals. UMass will be looking for Diaz-Patterson to lead the way offensively once again and increase her power numbers a bit. The Minutewomen would love to see her return to her power numbers from her freshman season. Jena Cozza is back after winning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year in 2014 and she could be poised for an even bigger sophomore season. Cozza hit .351 with 39 hits, 5 HR, and 24 RBI, but in conference play, she hit .442 with 14 RBI in 16 games. Taylor Carbone is back at first base after a sophomore season which saw her hit .270 with 34 hits, 4 HR, and 25 RBI. The Minutewomen are going to be counting on her for big power numbers in 2015. The last infield position is up for grabs, but Gianna Hathaway could be the favorite for it. Hathaway is a talented middle infielder that may start at shortstop. Hathaway played for the powerhouse Rhode Island Thunder and she is a definite contender for Rookie of the Year. Whitney Cooper and Anna Kelley also figure to see some significant time.
Cote Clark (photo by Thom Kendall)

The Minutewomen have a deep and young outfield, which is ready to show off its speed. Cote Clark is back after a solid freshman season, which saw her hit .263 with 30 hits, 10 RBI, and 5 steals. UMass is going to look for Clark to get on base and cause problems for opponents with her speed. Lindsay Zenk is also back after breaking into the starting lineup during her sophomore season. Zenk hit .269 with 21 hits and 11 RBI, including some clutch hits at the end of the year. The final outfield position is definitely up for grabs, but senior Mikayla Panko should have the inside edge. Sophomore Caitlyn Hickey could also see some time in the outfield.

Designated Player
Bridget Lemire is back at designated player and she should be the starter again in 2015. Lemire hit .257 with 19 hits, 6 HR, and 16 RBI. Lemire is poised for big power numbers in 2015, especially if she can cut down on her strikeout numbers. Tara Klee, Dakota Smith-Porter, and Whitney Cooper could also fight for time at designated player.

UMass will once again go up against a tough schedule, but the schedule is not nearly as daunting as some past schedules. The Minutewomen will open up in Texas for the first time, as they will head to Houston to start the season. UMass will have tough games against Houston and DePaul, but all of the other games are very winnable. Following Houston, the Minutewomen will head to Charleston, where they will have five winnable games. The toughest tournament on the schedule will be when UMass heads to Louisville to take on Louisville, Northwestern, Illinois State, and Ball State. This tournament will give us a good indication of how good this team will be. UMass will wrap up the nonconference tournament slate down in Clearwater. For Atlantic 10 play, the Minutewomen will hit the road to face St. Joseph's, George Mason, URI, and Dayton. UMass will host Fordham, St. Louis, George Washington, and St. Bonaventure and will not play La Salle this season. UMass will also have some tough nonconference games up north against Boston College, Harvard, Boston University, and Marist. The best news for the Minutewomen is that the Atlantic 10 Tournament will be at Sortino Field, where they are very tough to beat.

UMass is going to look to get off to a strong start in 2015 and keep that momentum going throughout the entire season. The Minutewomen had a tough start to 2014 with both weather and injuries, which made it hard for them to get into a rhythm early on. UMass will need some pitchers to step up in the circle and keep enemy hitters at bay. Defensively, the Minutewomen should be very stout. On offense, UMass has the potential to be one of the better teams in the conference, especially if they can increase their home run and walk numbers, while decreasing strikeouts. UMass could challenge for an Atlantic 10 Tournament bye, but it may take even more to knock off Fordham. UMass should have a winning record for the first time since 2012.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

2015 La Salle Preview: Taking the next step

La Salle stunned the conference last year by advancing to its first Atlantic 10 Tournament in over a decade. Coach Ron Shoemaker has transformed the Explorers from a cellar dweller to a contender. La Salle went 9-9 in conference play, finishing tied for 5th in the conference. The Explorers are young and talented and are a bit of a mystery heading into 2015. It will be interesting to see whether last year was an aberration or a sign that the Explorers are here to stay.
Alicia Aughton (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

One of the big reasons for La Salle's success in 2014 was pitcher Alicia Aughton. Aughton had been effective in her first two seasons, but she really elevated her game in her junior season. Aughton went 11-11 with a 2.89 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 128.1 innings. One of the huge keys to Aughton's success was not giving away free bases. Aughton allowed just 31 walks all season. If Aughton can pitch like she did in 2014, La Salle has a great shot of advancing to the Atlantic 10 Tournament again. Mary Cate Scott is also back in the circle for the Explorers after a 2014 season, which saw her go 7-13 with a 4.48 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 123.1 innings. Aughton and Scott will have some reinforcements in the circle this year, as Taylor Rohrbaugh and McKenzie Peace should see some significant action. Coach Shoemaker finally has a deep pitching staff, which will prove to be crucial with the new conference format.

Back behind the dish for her junior season is Gen Gaynor. Last year, Gaynor saw the majority of the action behind the plate and hit .170 on the year. Kristin Martin and Suzanne Swanicke could also push for starting time at catcher. Coach Shoemaker may have to decide between offense or defense at some point and it will be interesting to see what he chooses.
Michelle Hagarty (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

Coach Shoemaker returns most of his young infield from last year. Michelle Hagarty, Christina Bascara, and Suzanne Swanicke all return after outstanding rookie seasons. Last year, Bascara hit .331 with 39 hits, 4 HR, and 14 RBI. Swanicke hit .300 with 36 hits, 1 HR, and 17 RBI. Hagarty held down the position of shortstop all year and hit .294 with 35 hits, 9 HR, 14 RBI, and 19 HBP. La Salle is going to count on these four to lead the way at the plate and in the field. La Salle is going to be looking for someone to step up and play second base. Right now, Mackenzie Obert, Erica Reis, and Marissa Kineer. Valerie Pineiro could make a strong push for action at third base. Freshmen pitchers Taylor Rohrbaugh and McKenzie Peace could also see time at first base.
Linnette Siedler (photo by Vincent Dusovic)

In the outfield, Linnette Siedler, Kendra Heyer, and Kristin Travers return as starters, but the Explorers must replace All-Time Home Run leader Megan Hodgson. Siedler had a solid season, hitting .291 with 16 hits and 4 steals. Heyer had a bit of a sophomore slump last season, only hitting .175 after hitting .342 in 2013. La Salle will need Heyer to return to that form in order to challenge for an Atlantic 10 Tournament bid. Angelina Refice is a talented freshman outfielder who figures to be in the mix for one of the starting spots. Her speed will be a difference maker, both on defense and at the plate.

Designated Player
Not only was Alicia Aughton successful in the circle, but she was a force at the plate. Aughton hit .297 with 30 hits, 7 HR, and 25 RBI. The Explorers are going to be counting on her for big numbers once again. Taylor Rohrbaugh, McKenzie Peace, Valerie Pineiro, and Bridget Magee could also push for time at designated player.

Coach Shoemaker put together a good nonconference slate for his team this year. There are definitely some difficult games on the schedule, but also some very winnable games. The schedule is highlighted by tournaments in North Carolina, Florida, and Maryland. The weekend tournament at Stetson is going to be a grueling one, as Stetson, Kansas, and Chattanooga all advanced to NCAA Regionals last year. A peculiar highlight of the nonconference schedule is that La Salle is currently scheduled to play a nonconference game against URI. As far as conference play, La Salle avoids UMass this season and has a fairly balanced slate. The Explorers will host George Washington, Rhode Island, St. Joseph's, and Dayton, while they will hit the road to take on Fordham, St. Louis, George Mason, and St. Bonaventure. If La Salle wants to make it back to the Atlantic 10 Tournament, they are definitely going to have to earn it.

La Salle is coming off one of its best seasons in program history, now they will have to prove that last year wasn't a fluke. The Explorers have talent, but they will be up against some incredibly fierce competition. It will be a dogfight all year long, but La Salle has as good of a shot as anyone to advance to the Atlantic 10 Tournament. La Salle will need to improve its defense, as they finished dead last in the conference for fielding percentage. The conference is too competitive to be giving away extra outs.

Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 George Washington Preview: Redemption

Coach Stacey Schramm isn't afraid to go all out for her team!
George Washington came into 2014 with big expectations and left with huge disappointment. The Colonials were picked to finish second in the conference, but instead finished in last place. The good news for George Washington is that they have almost all of their major contributors back and have added even more talent to the fold. Coach Stacey Schramm and her squad are poised for a big bounce-back year.
Meghan Rico (photo by Thom Kendall)

The Colonials are going to need their pitchers to step up in 2015. The Achilles heel for this squad last year was walks. George Washington allowed almost 300 walks last year in 320 innings. That is one of the major reasons that the Colonials finished with a 4.59 ERA. Meghan Rico is back after a grueling 2014 season, which saw her shoulder most of the load in the circle. She went 13-15 with a 3.96 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 194 innings. If Rico can get some rest in the circle this year, her numbers are going to look much better. Paige Kovalsky is also back in the circle. Kovalsky missed most of the season with an injury, but she showed signs of promise in the circle. She finished the year with solid outings against Rhode Island and St. Louis. If she can stay healthy, the Colonials are going to be in great shape. The biggest key for George Washington's pitching in 2015 though, will be the performance of freshman Sarah Costlow. Costlow is one of the most highly regarded recruits that George Washington has ever brought in and they are going to need her to perform in the circle. Costlow is not a huge strikeout pitcher, but she knows how to let her defense do the work and she does not allow many free bases. She will be a strong contender for Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year in 2015. Freshman Ashley Pilcher also figures to see some key innings in the circle.
Samantha Dos Santos and Meghan Rico (photo by Thom Kendall)

Three year starter Samantha Dos Santos is back behind the dish for her senior season. Dos Santos is an excellent defensive catcher, especially in terms of blocking balls. At the plate, Dos Santos went .186 with 18 hits, 9 RBI, and 19 steals. Dos Santos should raise those numbers quite a bit. Freshman Aiyana Leal-Robles is also making a strong push for playing time. Leal-Robles has been teammates with freshman pitcher Sarah Costlow for a long time.
Victoria Valos (photo by Thom Kendall)

George Washington brings back a talented infield that did most of the damage last year at the plate for the Colonials. Leading the way is senior captain Victoria Valos at shortstop. Valos has held down the fort at shortstop for the last three seasons and had another solid campaign last year, hitting .355 with 50 hits, 6 HR, 42 RBI, and 12 steals. Valos is already George Washington's career leader in home runs, doubles, runs batted in, and slugging percentage. She is also poised to become the career leader in hits and runs scored. Megan Linn is back at second base after a stellar freshman season, which saw her hit .370 with 61 hits, 4 HR, 35 RBI, and 30 steals. Linn just missed out on being named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year. Coach Schramm is going to count on Linn to be an excellent leadoff hitter again in 2015. Morgan Matetic is back at third base after a breakout season, which saw her hit .319 with 26 hits, 9 doubles, 6 HR, and 19 RBI. There is going to be some serious competition at first base, as George Washington is very deep at that position. Carlee Gray, Mary Wiley, and Jillian Galich could all see time at first. All three swing powerful bats, though Gray should have the edge going into the season with her excellent defense. Paige Kovalsky could also push for playing time at third base. Kovalsky began the season there before she was injured. Other contenders for playing time in the infield are Rochelle Draper and Maura Murphy.

George Washington is loaded with talent in the outfield and may have the youngest and fastest outfield in the conference. Bradleigh Breland is back after a solid freshman season, which saw her hit .309 with 25 hits and 13 steals. Coach Schramm will be looking for Breland to put up even bigger numbers in 2015. Marissa Mangini is also back for her sophomore season and George Washington will be looking for her to put the ball on the ground and use her speed. Mangini and Breland will look to hold on to their starting spots against a number of talented freshmen. Alana Anderson, Rochelle Draper, and Morgan Rinehart are all gunning for those starting positions. In the end, it will come down to who is getting it done at the plate. Coach Schramm loves a fast team and all of her outfielders should have double digit steal totals if they can consistently get on base.

Designated Player
Jillian Galich and Mary Wiley are once again the favorites to hold down this position. Last year, Galich hit .268 with 1 HR and 23 RBI, while Wiley hit .263 with 25 hits and 12 RBI. Coach Schramm is going to be looking for a powerful lefty bat from this position. It would not be surprising to see Galich or Wiley with more that 5-7 home runs at the end of the season.

The Colonials will open up 2015 with a tough opening weekend against NCAA Tournament teams Auburn, Chattanooga, and UAB, as well as Evansville and Appalachian State. From there, the schedule eases up a bit. George Washington will have a fairly manageable nonconference slate, which should allow this nonconference team round into form before Atlantic 10 play. As far as the Atlantic 10 schedule, George Washington has an interesting lineup. The Colonials must hit the road to face Atlantic 10 Tournament teams La Salle, UMass, Fordham, and Dayton, while they will host St. Louis at home. George Washington will avoid St. Joseph's this year. The Colonials will also host George Mason, Rhode Island, and St. Bonaventure. If George Washington wants to advance to the Atlantic 10 Tournament, they are going to need to take care of business at home and steal a few games on the road.

George Washington is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2014 and it would be shocking if they were not back in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. There is too much talent on this team for them to miss out on the tournament two straight years. If George Washington's pitchers can avoid handing out walks, the Colonials are going to be in great shape to make the tournament. George Washington is also probably one of the few teams with the talent to challenge Fordham in 2015. If Coach Schramm's freshmen step up, this team might have a successful trip to Amherst in May.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 George Mason Preview

George Mason had a very solid year in 2014, going 22-21, yet they did not advance to the Atlantic 10 Tournament. That was despite having the best ERA in the conference and the third best batting average. The Patriots will need to shake off that disappointment in 2014 and finish 2015 on a high note.
Casey Herring (photo by George Mason Athletics)

Staff ace Anna Blessing has graduated, but the Patriots do return a talented trio of pitchers. Christina Gabriele is back after a solid season, which saw her go 5-6 with a 2.92 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 60 innings, while opponents hit just .221 against her. Coach Joe Verbanic is going to look to her for big innings this year. Casey Herring is also back after a decent 2014 season, which saw her go 5-5 with a 3.33 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 48 innings. Gabriele and Herring should lead the way, but Sarah Kleinfelter and Jess Middleton also figure to see significant time in the circle as well. If the Patriots are going to lead the conference in ERA again, someone is going to need to step up and be the ace.

Senior Angela Maioran is back at catcher for George Mason. Maioran has manned the dish for the last two seasons, so it would be a surprise if she wasn't back there again in 2015. Katie Kitts and Heather Ferguson should also compete for playing time behind the dish. Coach Verbanic may be looking for more offensive production out of his catchers this year.
Brooke Blankenship (photo by George Mason Athletics)

The Patriots return almost their entire infield from last year, headlined by Brooke Blankenship. Blankenship had a stellar season in 2014, hitting .394 with 54 hits, 7 HR, 49 RBI, and 12 steals. Blankenship is a legitimate contender for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and George Mason will need another big year from her if they want to make the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Shortstop Mary O'Connor also return after an excellent junior season, both in the field and at the plate.  O'Connor hit .308 with 28 hits, 10 RBI, and 8 steals. Perhaps, her most impressive stat though was her .952 fielding percentage at shortstop. Casey Price is back at first base after a solid 2014. Price hit .328 at the plate with 42 hits and 26 RBI. Coach Verbanic is going to need his infield to lead the way if they are going to advance to the Atlantic 10 Tournament this year. George Mason may look to Liz Seymour or Brianna Boyd to hold down the fort at second base.

Tiffany Webb and her immense offensive production are gone, but George Mason does bring back some solid talent in the outfield. Julia Czarnecki returns to lead the outfielders both at the plate and on defense. Czarnecki hit .331 last year with 45 hits, 14 RBI, and 9 steals. The Patriots are going to need her to keep up that production this season. There will be a whole host of players competing for the final two spots in the outfield. One thing is clear though, George Mason must get solid production from those other two spots.

Designated Player
Boyd saw some significant action at designated player last year, but the position may be up for grabs if she starts at second base. The Patriots are going to need production from this position, hopefully of the power variety.

George Mason has a fairly manageable nonconference slate. The Patriots will have a very tough opening weekend against UCF and Boston College, but after that the nonconference schedule eases up quite a bit. The Patriots will have 23 straight home games from February 27-March 23 and they will need to take advantage that. George Mason has a favorable conference schedule as they will face Fordham, UMass, St. Joseph's, and La Salle at home. They do not have to face Atlantic 10 Tournament team Dayton and their only road trip against an Atlantic 10 Tournament team is a trip to St. Louis. George Mason will also hit the road to take on George Washington, St. Bonaventure, and Rhode Island.

George Mason could be a team that surprises in 2015. They have the pitching and some stars offensively, but they need other players to step up. Brooke Blankenship is going to need some protection in the lineup or opposing pitchers are going to pitch around her. The Patriots are a fast team that likes to run, but they are going to need more power in 2015. George Mason had 9 home runs as a team, three players are on Fordham had more than 9 home runs last year. If the power numbers don't increase, it is hard to see George Mason advancing to Amherst for the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2015 Fordham Rams: The new dynasty in the Bronx

It's safe to officially say that there is a new dynasty in town. The Atlantic 10 was dominated for decades by UMass, but in the past five years Fordham has taken over. Fordham was very good in 2014, but they have the potential to be even better in 2015.
Michele Daubman (photo by Tom Wasiczko)

The Rams roll four deep in the circle and have the best staff in the conference. Atlantic 10 Co-Pitcher of the Year Michele Daubman returns after a very good 2014 season. Daubman went 18-11 with a 3.73 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 161.2 innings against just 28 walks. Daubman is as steady as they come and she figures to have an even better senior campaign. Southpaw Rachel Gillen is also back in the circle. Gillen had an inconsistent 2014, which is understandable given that it was her first time throwing in two years. She could be a force in 2015 for the Rams, as she showed signs of brilliance in 2014, keeping Oregon's touted offense in check for six innings. Fordham's relief specialist Patti Maloney is also back. Maloney did not start a single game in 2014, but went 5-1 out of the bullpen with 6 saves and a 3.19 ERA. Maloney has excelled in this relief role and Coach Bridget Orchard will look to her once again. Lauren Quense had a solid freshman campaign going 5-4 with a 3.32 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 82.1 innings. Fordham's pitching staff is built for the new conference format and with this staff the Rams are the prohibitive favorites in 2015.
Stephanie Ferri (photo by Tom Wasiczko)

Four year starter Gabby Luety has graduated, so Coach Orchard will be looking to someone new to call the pitches and hold down the fort behind the plate. Ally Vergona and Stephanie Ferri figure to compete for the starting role. If need be, Kayla Lombardo could also move behind the plate.
Madison Shaw (photo by Tom Wasiczko)

Fordham's infield and offensive anchor, Elise Fortier has graduated. The good news for Fordham is that Kayla Lombardo is back to anchor the hot corner and Amy Van Hoven is back at second base. Lombardo had a very solid junior campaign, as she hit .313 with 50 hits, 10 HR, 35 RBI, and 3 steals. Lombardo got off to a slow start in 2014, but she really kicked into gear in the second half of the season. Van Hoven is back after a very productive freshman season. She is a key table setter for the Rams and does an excellent job of getting on base, making it difficult for opposing pitchers to pitch around the big guns in the Fordham lineup. In 2014, she hit .367 with 61 hits, 0 HR, 9 RBI, and 2 steals. Without Luety and Fortier's long balls, Van Hoven could be let loose on the bases more to show off her speed. The Rams have a number of different athletes who could play shortstop, including Lindsay Mayer and Allie Bradian. The UVA transfer swings a great bat and more importantly she is stout defensively with a cannon of an arm. The former travel ball teammate of Fortier is going to fit right in on the Rams. The final spot up for grabs is first base and while there are some talented contenders, Madison Shaw is just too talented not to land the starting nod. Shaw swings a monster bat that opposing pitchers are not going to enjoy facing. Shaw will end up with a double digit home run total in 2015. She is that good. Lauren Quense and Paige Ortiz should also see some time at first.

Sydney Canessa (photo by Tom Wasiczko)

Fordham brings back its outfield from 2014 and adds even more talent. Sydney Canessa is back after a stellar freshman season to patrol centerfield once again. Canessa was the leadoff hitter for the Rams, hitting .309 with 54 hits, 6 HR, 28 RBI, and 4 steals. She also scored 48 runs, so that means scored a run almost 2/3 of the time she was on base. Brianna Turgeon, Cora Ianiro, and Michele Daubman also return in the outfield. Turgeon battled injuries in 2014, but still managed to play in 34 games and hit .256. If she can stay healthy, her offensive numbers should jump significantly. Ianiro was a pleasant surprise in 2014 and held down her spot in the outfield for most of the season, after serving as a pinch runner and pinch hitter for her first two seasons. She hit .291 with 34 hits and 10 RBI. Daubman saw time in the outfield when she wasn't in the circle and also did work at the plate. Daubman hit .238 with 38 hits, 6 HR, and 25 RBI. Rachel Gillen was also a mainstay in the outfield when she wasn't pitching. The Rams are not short on talent, however and Claudia Law figures to challenge for playing time after sitting out last year with an injury, not to mention speedy freshman Morgan Figueroa. In the end, it will come down to who gets it done at the plate. Coach Orchard is extremely deep in the outfield, which is definitely a problem she loves to have.
Paige Ortiz (photo by Tom Wasiczko)

Designated Player
Paige Ortiz should once again hold down the designated player spot. Ortiz swings a mighty bat and she is poised for a breakout year. Last year, she hit .217 with 33 hits, 6 HR, and 23 RBI. 2014 was a bit of a down year for Ortiz, but she is more than capable of returning to her double digit home run form in 2015. Ortiz will definitely be challenged for playing time as the Rams are extremely deep.

Coach Bridget Orchard has once again put together a daunting slate for the Rams in 2015. The Rams open up 2015 at the Kajikawa Classic and will face some decent competition, including Cal and Fresno State. Fordham can make a national statement if they can take care of business right away. After Arizona, the Rams will head down to the Sunshine State where the schedule will pick up at bit. Fordham will have challenging games on tap against Tennessee, USF, and Florida Gulf Coast. Following that, Fordham will head down to the Palmetto State to play against former pitching coach Kyle Jamieson's Furman Paladins and former Temple coach Joe DiPietro's Hampton squad. That weekend will be all about taking care of business. Fordham will then head down to Orlando for the Citrus Classic and will take on three Big Ten teams, including last year's conference champion Minnesota, as well as Georgia, and Georgetown. Finally, Fordham wraps up tournament play by traveling to NC State. Raleigh will be a tough weekend as the Rams will go up against the host Wolfpack, Missouri, Lipscomb, and perennial nonconference nemesis Longwood. The nonconference schedule up north is about as challenging as it could be. Fordham will square off against Northwestern, Hofstra, Syracuse, Iona, and St. John's. For conference play, the Rams will have tough trips to St. Louis and UMass, but the rest of the schedule is very manageable. Fordham will not play Rhode Island this year.

If Coach Orchard can get her squad through nonconference play with a record above .500, this team should be poised for an at-large bid. This team has the pitching, hitting, and defense to make it happen. They are one of the biggest conference favorites in years, perhaps since the 2009 UMass squad. Fordham is poised for a dominating run through conference play and they have a chance to advance further than any Fordham team has before. This team is going to be fun to watch. Prediction: they will exceed last season's batting average, home runs, and steals. Watch out Yankees! There is a new dynasty in the Bronx!