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.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

2013 Atlantic 10 Preview

Our pick to win the A10 in 2013 is...

1.      George Washington
The Colonials made some noise last May when they made it all the way to the Atlantic 10 Championship game. While the Colonials did lose veteran pitchers Heidi Penna and Kara Clauss, they will be even better in 2013. George Washington brought in an outstanding recruiting class, which may be enough to finally push them over the edge. Meghan Rico is the top pitcher in that recruiting class and she will give the Colonials a chance to win every game she pitches in. Rico won’t have to go at it alone, as Courtney Martin and Chelsey Pedley will also provide solid support behind her. On offense, the Colonials are exciting to watch, as they play with a fearless attitude led by Victoria Valos. The Colonials should have both the power and speed games working in 2013. Some Colonials to keep an eye on in 2013 include Chelsea Lenhart and Autumn Taylor who will be counted on to be big run producers this season.

2.      Fordham
Jen Mineau has graduated, taking just about every school record in pitching with her, but there is hope as evidenced by Fordham’s takedown of Alabama last year. This fall Michele Daubman, Taylor Pirone, and Jamie LaBovick were quite effective against some fairly solid competition. Fordham should have some of the best pitching in the league with this trio. The other remarkable thing about Daubman, Pirone, and LaBovick is that these three are solid hitters as well and should find themselves in the lineup even when they aren’t pitching. Some other Rams who look poised for big seasons on offense include Elise Fortier, Chelsea Palumbo, Paige Ortiz, and Gabby Luety.

3.      UMass
Sara Plourde is gone and the conference and UMass program will enter a new era. At the moment, UMass does not have any proven pitchers, which is why they are ranked third here. If UMass can get solid pitching from Lindsey Webster, Caroline Raymond, Bridget Lemire, and Emma Mendoker, this team will win the conference again. For UMass the offense is there with Cyndil Matthew, Quianna Diaz-Patterson, Lindsey Webster, and Christine Della Vecchia. UMass is the fastest team in the conference and will also be one of the more powerful teams in 2013. UMass will also have its third catcher in three years, so it will be interesting to watch the production from the catching spot.

4.      St. Joseph’s
The Hawks are in a serious state of transition as Erin Gallagher, Alaina Loguidice, and Bernadette Moran have graduated and Lauren Rendon transferred. But there is hope on Hawk hill, as Coach Terri Adams brought in an outstanding recruiting class of nine players. The cupboard is also far from bare, as pitcher Taryn Ashway returns, along with Dana Parks, Nicole Palase, and Monica Aguilar who is eager to get back on the field after sitting out last season with an injury. This core nucleus will be bolstered by some talented freshmen. Sarah Yoos and Brandi Harkness are two to keep an eye on right away at the plate and in the field. Liz Mendez and Anna Lauterbach will be counted on right away to provide significant innings in the circle. Lauterbach will be the tallest pitcher in the league at 6’2” and she can put some heat behind the ball. Both Mendez and Lauterbach pitched well for the Hawks this fall.  

5.      Charlotte
This will be the 49ers final season in the A10 and they will look to accomplish the one thing that has eluded them winning the Atlantic 10 Championship. The 49ers have one of the most powerful lineups in the conference and it will be even stronger in 2013. Briana Gwaltney leads the way for the 49ers as she returns after a 2012 campaign which saw her hit .304 with 14 HR and 40 RBI. Alex Rogers is also back after a solid freshman season and she will anchor the top of the lineup for Charlotte. The 49ers have the ability to put up better power numbers in 2013 and Coach DeVos will look to Kalie Lang and Samantha Slade to be the other big bats in the lineup. Katie Watkins and Lexi Betancourt should see the lion’s share of time in the circle and if they can elevate their game to the next level, Charlotte could be a serious contender.

6.      Temple
2013 will also be the final swansong for the Owls in the Atlantic 10, as they will soon depart for the Big East. Temple put together a solid season in 2012 and with most of the players returning from last year’s team, the Owls should be even better in 2013. Shortstop Sarah Prezioso leads the way on offense; she hit .351 with 54 hits, 4 HR, 29 RBI, and 7 steals in 2012. Steph Pasquale is the other half of the Owls dynamic junior duo and they will once again lead the way. Ali Robinson was a great table setter for the Owls in 2012, as she scored just over a run a game for Temple. Brooklin White will lead the way for Temple in the circle with Jessica Mahoney and Australian freshman Jessica Tolmie providing pivotal support. The Owls will be right in the thick of things, but will they have enough to win it all, that remains to be seen.

7.      Butler
Butler is the big unknown heading into 2013, as there are a lot of questions relating to both Butler and its place within the conference. In fact other than Dayton, no other A10 team is familiar with the Bulldogs. Pitcher Jenny Esparza has the ability to dominate, but her health may be a question after she missed most of last year. If she remains healthy, Butler will be contender. Behind her, Butler will look to Leah Bry to throw some significant innings, as well as getting contributions from two freshmen pitchers. On offense, Butler will be led by Kristin Boros and Meghan Sullivan who both hit over .300 last year. Butler will need to step up its power on offense as it returnees combined for just 8 of the team's 28 HRs. Butler may have the pitching to compete, but the offense may be the bigger question mark. Butler is very young with 10 freshmen, so it will be interesting to watch and see if they can rise to the occasion. 

8.      Dayton
The Flyers enter 2013 with a great opportunity to make the A10 Tournament. Dayton brings back one of the top pitchers in the conference in Kayla English who had an outstanding freshman season which saw her go 10-10 with a 2.55 ERA and 134 SO in 140 IP. English will be counted on to play an even bigger role in 2013 and she will have help from a deep pitching staff. Alysha Isaacson and Sydney Cicchetti both return and Emily Froment and Lyndsey Diggs will both be in their first season with the Flyers. The greatest strength for the Flyers is at the plate, as they are led by Brandy Brown and Kathleen Maloof. The Flyers didn’t put up the stellar power numbers that they did in 2011, but 2013 should see a return of the big bats. The Flyers also have a lot of speed led by Leah Sitter and Rachel Archer and if they can make it on base, life is going to be difficult for opposing catchers. To get to the A10 Tournament Dayton is going to have to get through some good teams.

9.  URI
The Rams are hard to read, as they got swept by last place La Salle and then went on to sweep 2nd place finisher Fordham. If the Rams of the Fordham series show up, URI could challenge for a spot in the A10 Tournament, if the La Salle Rams show up, it could be a long season. The Rams offense could be potent in 2013, led by Courtney Prendergast who had an outstanding season in 2012. Kelly Coker will also play a critical role in the Rams' offensive attack. Like many other A10 teams, URI has a huge freshmen class which will determine the Rams fate in 2013. In the circle, Erika Szymanski and Sam Bedore will see the majority of the action and the Rams will have a deep bullpen to turn to.

10.      St. Louis
The Billikens’ dynamic duo of in the circle Hannah Huebbe and Kelcie Matesa has departed and Coach Christy Connoyer enters her third season on the job in 2013. To further compound the loss of Huebbe and Matesa, Julian Austin is also no longer with the team. The Billikens will be relying on two new freshmen pitchers, which will put a lot of pressure on an offense that struggled. Jessica Buschjost will be counted on to lead the offense with her speed. Laura Bohning and Aly Brand are poised for breakout seasons and they will be counted on for leadership with a young St. Louis squad. There won’t be high expectations on this squad, but it is difficult to see them advancing to the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Freshmen Madeline Brungardt, Lacey Knieb, and Brianna Lore will be counted on to contribute right away and in many ways they will probably determine the success of the team.

11.  St. Bonaventure
The Bonnies enter 2013 with an almost completely new pitching staff, as Jen Sansano has transferred to    Niagara and Diana Phalon graduated. This means that the Bonnies’ hopes for a successful 2013, will rest on the shoulders of three unproven pitchers.   If the pitchers can step up St. Bonaventure has a chance to succeed, but   it will be a tough road for this young team, as they will not play a single home game until February. The offense for the Bonnies sputtered down the stretch last year, so they will look to maintain a high level throughout 2013. Ashley Snider will lead the way and she is an outstanding hitter. Snider has moved to the outfield, which increase her odds at all conference honors, as the A10 is loaded at shortstop. Snider will need some help and the St. Bonaventure freshman class will be asked to come in and contribute right away.

12.  La Salle
La Salle had a tough year in 2012, but they ended on a relatively strong note, sweeping URI and putting up 4 runs against UMass. Megan Hodgson and Alicia Aughton were the two big bright spots and they are poised to have breakout seasons in 2013. Hodgson can flat out hit and with just a little improvement she could easily hit above .300 with 10 HR. Aughton carried the load in the circle for La Salle in 2012 and she figures to do the same in 2013. Aughton gives the Explorers a chance to win every game she pitches in. Behind Aughton, Kristin Travers and Mary Cate Scott will look to provide significant innings. La Salle has always been a squad with a lot of spunk and under new coach Ron Shoemaker that spunk is going to start translating into wins. Coach Shoemaker has a solid freshmen class to work with and he is going to make this team a tough out. The improvement in the standings may not be immediate, but it is evident already that this team has improved.

Preseason Player of the Year: Quianna Diaz-Patterson, UMass
Diaz-Patterson burst on to the scene last season winning A10 Rookie of the Year. Diaz-Patterson put up great numbers especially during conference play, which might have won her Player of the Year too if not for Sara Plourde’s amazing season. Overall, Diaz-Patterson hit .327 with 56 hits, 4 HR, 41 RBI, and 9 steals. Probably the scariest thing of all is that she is just scratching at the surface of her potential. She has the talent and skills to put together a Carly Normandin-esque season with a .400+ BA, 10+ HR, and 20+ steals. She is that good.

Other contenders
Monica Aguilar suffered a season-ending injury in the first weekend of play last year, but she has redshirted and now she is back and ready to hit the field. Aguilar is tough as nails and is one of the most aggressive, yet disciplined hitters at the plate. Aguilar has one of the best strikeout to walk ratios that the conference has ever seen. Aguilar will be the key to the Hawks’ offensive success and given the way she has performed in the past the rest of the conference better watch out.

Victoria Valos made a name for herself as a fearless clutch player. Valos was the one player that GW could count on in crunch time again and again. In the A10 Championship she put an end to Jen Mineau’s career by getting down a suicide squeeze and she hit a 2 run HR against Sara Plourde in the Championship with her team trailing 2-0. She is also fearless on defense anchoring down the infield of the Colonials. Valos had an excellent debut campaign hitting .320 with 56 hits, 11 HR, and 33 RBI. Valos is going to put up even better numbers in 2013 and it could be a real dogfight between her and Diaz-Patterson for Player of the Year.

Other players to watch: Cyndil Matthew of UMass, Katie Bettencourt of UMass, Sarah Prezioso of Temple, and Stephanie Pasquale of Temple

Preseason Pitcher and Rookie of the Year: Meg Rico, George Washington
Sara Plourde, Jen Mineau, and Erin Gallagher have all graduated, which means the A10 is entering a new era. The A10 is unproven at the pitching position, which means that any pitcher in the league could step up to win this award. We believe that Meg Rico of George Washington will end up with the award when things are said and done. Perhaps no pitcher has come in with such expectations and hype since Brandice Balschmiter in 2006 and everyone know how that turned out. Rico has the stuff to be very successful not only in the A10, but also nationally. She helped take the RI Thunder travel ball program to a new level and we think she will do the same with George Washington. In our estimation she is the odds on favorite for both Pitcher and Rookie of the Year.

Jenny Esparza of Butler is the X Factor in the conference this year. Esparza suffered a season ending injury last season, though in the 12 games that she did pitch she was 6-4 with a 1.09 ERA and 90 SO in 64 IP. In 2011, Esparza was the Horizon League Pitcher of the Year, as she picked up 18 wins with a 1.67 ERA and 268 SO. If Esparza returns to form, Butler could challenge for the conference title right away.

Other pitchers to watch: Taryn Ashway of St. Joseph’s, Kayla English of Dayton, Lindsey Webster of UMass

Whitney Cooper of UMass will be right in the mix for Rookie of the Year, as she swings a powerful bat and will likely start right away for the Minutewomen. Cooper comes from a great travel ball team in the Arizona Storm, which definitely helped battle her. Cooper will be counted upon to replace the incredibly reliable and clutch Kyllie Magill.

Jessica Plemmons of Charlotte is another contender, as she had a breakout fall for the 49ers. Plemmons was instrumental in Charlotte’s win over SEC foe South Carolina and she figures to be an important part of Coach Aimee DeVos’ lineup.

Other rookies to keep an eye on: Carlee Gray of George Washington, Sarah Yoos of St. Joseph’s, Brandi Harkness of St. Joseph’s, and Cailin Winokur of Fordham.

Comebacks to watch in 2013
Devynne Nelons, Temple
Caroline Raymond, UMass
Jenny Esparza, Butler
Monica Aguilar, St. Joseph’s
Emma Mendoker, UMass