|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.
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.