New-look softball team starts play this weekend in Virginia
|Now with five pitchers to choose from, Bates head softball coach Gwen Lexow has more reason to smile.|
The Bates College softball team plays this Friday, Feb. 29, at the Beach Blast in Virginia Beach, Va., kicking off what promises to be an interesting and exciting 2008 season.
One change from recent years will stand out above all for Bates: pitching depth. The Bobcats have five pitchers on the roster this season, in contrast to recent seasons when head coach Gwen Lexow had at most three, and more often two, arms at her disposal.
Despite the graduation of workhorse pitcher Kristin Masino, who worked 213 out of 353 innings for Bates over the past two seasons, the Bobcats hope to be in better shape on the mound with the addition of three first-year pitchers in hard-throwing Sarah Cullen (Dover, Mass.) and the more crafty-type hurlers Hannah Dwan (Litchfield, Conn.) and Liz Johnston (Westport, Conn.). “I’m excited about every one of them,” said Lexow, while noting that all three will need some time to adjust to the three feet of extra distance (from 40 to 43 feet) from mound to plate moving from high school softball to the college level.
These three join senior Shayna Waldman (Playa del Rey, Calif.), who has put in a great deal of offseason work (“Shayna is throwing much better than last year, and you’ll see her get many more innings than last year,” said Lexow), and the team’s most experienced returning hurler, junior Christina Knobel (Walpole, Mass.), who has worked 78 2/3 innings over the past two years, earning two wins with a 5.43 ERA.
“It’ll be the first time we’ve really had a ‘staff’, to have the opportunity to think about using them as a staff,” said Lexow. “Everybody will get innings, and for the first time we can use maybe three pitchers in the same game. That has never happened before, only because we didn’t have the luxury to do it.”
While not pitching, Cullen should see playing time in the outfield and bat at or near the top of the order, to take advantage of her exceptional speed and slapping and bunting abilities, all of which will be dimensions not seen at Bates in recent seasons.
Sophomore Liz Stahler (Lyndonville, Vt.) is likely to start at second base and also bat near the top of the order, and serve as the double-play combination partner of sophomore Carlen Arima (Bellevue, Wash.), who struggled with injury and illness last season but is a gifted shortstop.
|Stacia Saniuk ’09 boasts a lifetime slugging percentage of .671.|
Junior Stacia Saniuk (Sharon, Mass.) is the team’s captain and the centerpiece of the batting order. The catcher/infielder has earned All-NESCAC honors in both of her seasons at Bates so far thanks to some impressive hitting numbers. Saniuk hit .329 in 2007 with three home runs and a team-high 19 RBIs while starting all 24 games. She owns Bates’ single-season records in home runs (9) and total bases (73) from the 2006 season, when she earned NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors. Saniuk will likely split catching duties with sophomore Jean McIntyre (Marshfield, Mass.) while also playing third, first and designated player.
With Saniuk likely to hit third in the order following the graduation of three-time All-NESCAC outfielder Katie Franklin, it will likely fall upon either junior 3B Leah Citrin (Rye Brook, N.Y.) or sophomore OF Jill Cappucci (Saugus, Mass.) to replace Saniuk in the cleanup spot and to make sure Saniuk gets some pitches to hit. Cappucci had a strong first season, batting an even .300, slugging .433 and ranking third on the Bobcats in RBIs with 10. Citrin hit a respectable .258 but will look to perform at or above the level she showed as a rookie, when she batted .321 and slugged .411.
Senior Alex Bethel (Aspen, Colo.) returns to the team after a year away and, while showing improved mechanics at the plate, looks as if she will start in center field for Bates. Bethel hit .269 in 2006 and .290 in 2005.
Junior Val Beckwith (Woburn, Mass.) is a strong candidate to start at first base, and there will be a mix of first-years also competing for time at first, designated player and right field, among them first-years Kim Neubert (North Haven, Conn.), Jacquie Macdonald (Milton, Mass.) and Kate Brodoff (Newton, Mass.).
The team’s schedule in Virginia begins with a 9 a.m. game on Friday against Averett University and a 1 p.m. game against Kean University. On Saturday they’ll face Davis & Elkins College at 9 a.m., followed by Peace College at 11 a.m.