Softball, the defending NESCAC West champion, will look to avenge disappointing NESCAC tourney

Softball coach Fran Vandermeer’s first season at Williams was a resounding success as the Ephs captured both the Little Three and NESCAC West Division titles and posted the second highest season win total in Eph history with 26. Vandermeer’s Ephs closed out the regular season with a 13-game win streak and advanced to the ECAC-North semifinals. Williams went 8-0 in conference play (26-12 overall) but was bounced from the playoffs following a tough 2-1 loss to Tufts and a 9-3 drubbing courtesy of a Bowdoin team the Ephs had embarrassed on the first day of the playoffs with a 9-0 victory.

The Ephs lost only two players from last year’s squad to graduation, outfielder (OF) Caitlin Carr ’01 and OF/catcher (C) Jen Garabedian ’01. Carr started 33 games last spring and batted .299, while Garabedian saw action in 27 contests and batted .190. “We lost a lot of speed and some versatility to graduation as both Caitlin and Jen could hit from both sides of the plate,” said Vandermeer.

Vandermeer will have her two primary pitchers from last season back in Katherine Baldwin ’03 and Kaitlyn DeLuca ’03.

The workhorse Baldwin, a first team All-NESCAC and National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-New England selection, appeared in 26 games last season, going the distance in 20 of them, amassing 151.1 innings and posting an ERA of 1.30, good for fourth in the NESCAC in ERA. Baldwin went 16-7 last spring, striking out 98 batters while walking 22 to register a solid 4.45-1 strikeout to bases on balls ratio (K-BB). She allowed only 115 hits as opponents batted an anemic .206 against her. Baldwin hit .239 at the dish with 13 runs batted in (RBI) in 92 trips to the plate.

DeLuca compiled a 10-5 record and hurled 90 innings en route to a 3.19 ERA on the year. DeLuca handed out 23 free passes against 19 K’s and opponents batted .289 against her.

Added to the talents of this junior duo will be Liz Gluck ’05 and Beth Mulligan ’05, though it remains somewhat unclear as to what roles the two first-years will fill.

Vandermeer also has the NESCAC’s top double play combo returning in Gisele Pinck ’02 and co-captain Jessica Hartley ’02. Pinck and Hartley were both named first team All-NESCAC and NFCA All-New England in 2001.

Pinck and Hartley are also key ingredients in the Ephs’ offense. Pinck batted .336 last season and led the Ephs in runs (29) and stolen bases (19). Hartley led the Ephs in hits with 44 and in total bases (53). She batted .393 on the year, fourth best in NESCAC. Pinck was successful in 19 of 24 stolen base attempts, while Hartley had the highest success rate, swiping 18 bases in 19 tries.

Kristen Massimiano ’03 will once again handle the hot corner. In 34 games last spring Massimiano batted .265 and drove in 18 runs. She also scored 17 runs and nabbed 13 bases in 16 attempts. Kerri McMahon ’05 will do her best Joe McEwing this spring as she will be called upon to provide valuable backup depth at every infield position.

Vandermeer has the task of sorting out who will see time in the outfield, as he has four candidates currently competing for the three positions. Tracy Henderson ’03 started in each of the team’s 38 games last season, batting .303, scoring 10 runs and was successful on all eight of her stolen base attempts last spring. Courtney Hunter ’03 batted .277 with 17 runs scored and stole 12 bases in 15 tries. Johanna Rodriguez ’04 showed some pop in her bat last spring, batting .303 and driving in 18 runs – tops on the team along with Carr – in only 89 at bats. The versatile Rodriguez played second, short, third and outfield in 2001, but is expected to see more time in the latter this season.

Speedster Carly Massey ’04 will also contend for starting time. Massey appeared in 30 games last spring and batted .426 with 23 hits in 54 at bats. Massey scored 12 runs and was successful on eight of 10 stolen base attempts. Kristin Sageser ’04 returns after an injury-plagued first season to lend depth in the outfield along with Mulligan.

It’s likely that the Ephs will start a first-year at catcher. Either Mary Baccash ’05 or Courtney Gordon ’05 will handle the chores behind the plate. “The good news is that they will both be working with an experienced pitching staff and they have played a lot softball already,” said Vandermeer. A year ago the Ephs batted .289, stole 106 bases in 122 attempts (87 percent) and scored 183 runs (.3/game). Defensively, the Ephs committed 68 errors en route to a .936 team fielding percentage.

“I’m so excited for Williams softball this spring.” said Vandermeer. “We return an extremely experienced and talented core group of players, but the new piece in the puzzle will be opening with a first-year at catcher. “We have the best defensive unit returning in the NESCAC and three all-region players in Baldwin, Pinck and Hartley. I can’t wait to get to California.”

The Ephs will face competition for the first time this year in Orange, Calif., where the team travels to over spring break. The Ephwomen will square off against 14 teams from across the country in a nine-day span before opening their season against Bates on March 30 in a doubleheader that begins at 11 a.m. A youthful Bobcats squad went 3-5 in NESCAC competition last season, good for third in the East Division.

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