Softball rebuilds with seven first-years after 16-17 2009 season

Softball, boasting a host of new talent which will hopefully bring a breath of fresh air to the program, is looking to improve on last season’s performance. Last year the team finished 16-17 overall, with an 8-4 NESCAC record and wins over Middlebury and Amherst. Though the Ephs graduated superstar Joey Lye ’09 last spring, Lye will return as assistant coach this season to hopefully help the team back to the top of the NESCAC.

“We really need to play games to know how the team will be,” Head Coach Kris Herman said when asked about how the team was progressing. “But we’ve been working very hard and each player is getting better every day. As always at this time of year, we are coming together and getting excited to play against other teams.”

The Ephs are a young team: With seven first-years and two sophomores making up the majority of the 14 women, the underclassmen will have to contribute a lot this season. Captain Jess Cross ’10, the only senior on the team, provides the squad’s veteran leadership alongside Caitlyn Cain ’11, Carly Ameen ’11, Jessie Herzer ’11 and Mary Beth Daub ’11. Cross recorded a .333 batting average last season, along with a .680 fielding percentage. Cain was just behind offensively, batting .313 on the year with 17 runs batted in.

“We have so many unknowns because of our youth that it is tough to say what our other strengths and weaknesses will be,” Herman said. “We will have freshman playing a lot of innings and returning players will be playing new positions all over the field, so the lack of experience is certainly an issue for us.”

Cross believes that the team’s youth will be an asset more than a hindrance this year. “We’re really looking forward to having such a young and diverse team,” she said. “There are a lot of different playing styles [on the field] and I think there’s a very unique and cool balance to having seven new and seven returning players.”

Focusing on the basics will be crucial for the team this year, especially because of the team’s youth. “The first- and second-years must contribute right away,” Herman said. “I expect us to work hard each day, make the routine plays, and be smart at the plate.”

After losing five very strong seniors – especially Lye – at the end of last spring, the Ephs will definitely have to look to Daub’s pitching and overall defensive play to lead the way this year, especially considering that the three most consistent batters last season all graduated in the spring. Daub allowed only 2.70 runs on average last year, striking out 65 batters over the course of the year.

“Pitching is one of the team’s strengths,” Herman noted. “Daub is joined this year by Megan Casey ’13 and Kaitlin Dinet ’13 so that really helps us on that front. Pitching is such a crucial part of fast pitch softball because if the pitchers can be consistent and have a strong catcher to help them, which they do in [our catcher] Caitlyn Cain, then we will have a chance every day.”

The rest of the first-years will fill out the Williams defensive squad around the field. Merrilee Weston ’13, Erica Wu ’13 and Cedar Blazek ’13 will play in the infield this season, while Amanda Correnti ’13 is slated to step up as another Eph catcher. Emily Levy ’13 rounds out the newcomers on the roster: She will be playing in the outfield this spring.

Williams is definitely looking to dominate the NESCAC during the 2010 season. “We always want to beat Amherst,” Cross said when asked about the team’s specific goals for the season. “We also really want to beat Wesleyan and Tufts this year … those are our two big competitions, especially Wesleyan. We really need to crush them this year.”

The women will begin the season with 14 games in California over spring break before heading home to a tough three game series against Wesleyan, with the first game on April 9 at 5 p.m. The matchups against Wesleyan could very well be an indicator for how the season will go: Last year, Williams dropped two of the first three meetings with Wesleyan and ended up just under .500 for the season.

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