Softball set to draw on young talent

Softball polished off the 2010 season with a West Conference title and a 17-21-1 (9-3 in the NESCAC) record. Head Coach Kris Herman is expecting a lot from the women this year as they look to improve on last season’s NESCAC title run.

The majority of the Ephs will return for the upcoming season. The women graduated only one senior last year, Jess Cross ’10, and will gain six rookies this season. “Jess did a great job as a leader last season,” said Herman. “[She] articulated the coaches’ vision, was the hardest worker and most fit player on the team and really led by example. She is a great person and did a good job bringing a diverse team together.”
The team has returned 10 players, and Herman has high expectations for the team’s upperclassmen this season. “[I] expect them to continue to improve and be strong leaders on a young team,” she said. Two of the returning Ephs include top pitchers Mary Beth Daub ’11 and Megan Casey ’13. The women will look for the two pitchers to lower their ERAs and walks, but Herman is proud of her team’s “one-two punch,” as she put it. She is confident that the starters will keep her team in games. “Both are capable of being among the best in the league, and since pitching is the name of the game in our sport, they will be expected to step up their performance and rely on each other as well.”

The team atmosphere is something that co-captain Caitlyn Cain ’11 counts as integral to the women’s performance. “The team has created a great atmosphere of respect and trust, not just for each other but for the team as a whole and the program,” said Cain, “and that motivates all of us to do our best every day.”

Other returning Ephs include Cedar Blazek ’13, Alli Hart ’12, Merrilee Weston ’13, Amanda Correnti ’13 and co-captains Cain and Carly Ameen ’11. The returning women already have several accolades under their belts. Blazek was last year’s NESCAC Rookie of the Year and one of the Ephs’ offensive leaders, while second baseman Hart was an All-NESCAC selection. “[Hart] anchors our infield,” Herman said. “[She’s a] great athlete who is still improving all aspects of her game.” Cain and Correnti will be competing for time behind the plate. Weston started full-time at shortstop as a rookie. “[Weston] improved a lot over the course of the 2010 season and continues to get better on both offense and defense,” Herman said.

The women are hoping to improve on last season’s result this year. “Last year’s finish was a disappointment – not the record so much as not winning NESCACs,” Herman said. “We played a very tough schedule and learned a lot through that experience. The season was not as bad as it may look on paper, however, and we look forward to getting back out there and getting started.”

The women have a lot to look forward to this season with the addition of six talented first-years. With the injection of young talent, Herman is not certain where each of the rookies will fit into the women’s roster yet: “We use our first set of games to give people looks at various positions and see how we might put together a lineup,” she said.

Regardless, the coach is optimistic about the women’s possibilities this year. “I expect lots of good competition for playing time and the opportunity to help us get back to the top of the NESCAC,” she said. “The conference is strong … but we hope to keep our eyes focused straight ahead, take care of ourselves in terms of preparation and work to win each time.”

The women will open their season against Western Conn. State and Carroll on Monday during the team’s training trip to Florida. The women will play 13 games in Claremont, Fla., before returning to play their first NESCAC Conference game on March 31 at Tufts.

The women have set their sights for spring training high. “We have 12 games this year in Florida over spring break, and we’re looking to win them all,” Cain said. “The team can’t wait to get out of the field house and onto the field to play some tough competition.”

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