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Softball gears up for 2013 season
Bearcats open season this weekend at Florida International Tournament
February 11, 2013Tweet
Heading into the 2013 season, the Binghamton softball team is determined to return to the America East Tournament for the second time in three years. To do that, the Bearcats will rely on an experienced group of returnees as well as several promising newcomers. With a challenging schedule and a new home facility, fourth-year head coach Michelle Burrell has high hopes for this season.
“We are excited to start,” she said. “It has been a long winter and we are looking forward to getting out on the dirt. Our expectations are that we play hard and give ourselves a good shot to win every game we play. Our goals are to be hosting the America East tournament and advancing to post-season play.”
After earning their first-ever trip to the America East Tournament in 2011, the Bearcats settled for a fifth-place finish in the conference last year. Despite winning at least 22 games for the third straight year, Binghamton was left out of the conference tournament – a setback it feels can be overcome with the right mindset.
“One thing that we’re going to focus on though is playing more relaxed,” Burrell said. “We were playing with high expectations last year and this year I think we are better prepared to handle the expectations.”
Binghamton returns 12 letterwinners, including five position starters and three pitchers from last season’s squad. A group of seven freshmen, however, could make a substantial difference this season.
“Our freshmen are a talented group that will be very impactful,” Burrell said. “We will have four of them in our everyday starting line-up and I expect all of them will have opportunities (to contribute).”
Perhaps the biggest reason for excitement this season comes from the opening of the Bearcats’ new softball complex, which is located adjacent to the Bearcats Sports Complex. After going 14-3 at home last season, Binghamton is determined to continue that winning tradition at its new home.
“It was such a different atmosphere this fall for not only our players but our parents and fans as well,” Burrell said. “We are able to accomplish more during practices because of our outdoor cages and bullpen space. Our players and coaches are very thankful and proud of the new facility and we hope everyone will come out and see it.”
Senior outfielder Jessica Phillips returns for the final campaign of her stellar career. A three-time all-conference selection, she was a second-team pick last year as well as in 2010. As a sophomore, she was named first-team all-conference and was the America East Co-Player of the Year. During her career, she has batted .369 with a school-record 41 home runs and 99 RBI.
“Jessica has been our constant in left field,” Burrell said. “It is nice to have that consistency for four years. She has done a tremendous job to improve her skills as an outfielder and she will be a leader out there this year for us.”
Senior Shannon Kane was the starting right fielder in 2011 but her junior year was cut short by an injury. Junior Colleen Dougherty made 13 starts in the outfield last year and ranked second on the squad with 11 stolen bases.
The top newcomer in the outfield this year is freshman Sydney Harbaugh. At Cicero-North Syracuse, she was a third-team Class AA All-State selection as a senior.
In the infield, the Bearcats have three returning starters in juniors Jessica Bump and Mikala King along with sophomore Caitlyn Friis. A trio of freshman infielders also figures to contribute significantly this year.
“This is the strongest infield that we’ve had,” Burrell said. “They were working hard together all fall and we also have good depth at every infield position.”
Bump is in her third year as a starter and her second season as the second baseman. After earning America East All-Rookie honors in 2011, she hit six home runs and finished with 23 RBI last season. King, who moves from first base to third base, had five home runs and also drove in 23 runs as a sophomore. Friis, who was named to the conference’s All-Rookie team last year, returns at shortstop.
At first base, freshman Tiffany McIntosh is the leading candidate to start. She arrives from Temecula Valley (Calif.) High School. Behind the plate, freshmen Taylor Chafee and Lisa Cadogan, are the top two players on the depth chart. Chaffee comes from Watkins Glen High School, where she was a second-team Class C All-State selection by the NYSSWA as a senior. Cadogan, meanwhile, comes from Villa Park (Calif.) High School.
Junior Chelsea Noler will provide added depth to the catching position.
This year’s pitching staff is a predominantly veteran group, led by seniors Rhoda Marsteller and Kate Price, along with junior Demi Laney. Marsteller is in her third year as a starter and has racked up 24 wins during her career. As the top reliever, Price has already nailed down a program-record 13 saves. Laney, meanwhile, led the Bearcats last season in innings pitched (122) and strikeouts (124).
“We have a staff that all throws very different from each other so we will look to use them all in their individual roles,” Burrell said. “I thought Rhoda had a great fall season and she has looked strong in practices. Demi had mono for most of the fall but worked hard over the winter break to come back from it and is in a good spot.”
Joining the pitching staff this season is freshman Stephanie Arneson, a third-team all-state player from St. Thomas Acquinas (Fla.) High School.
A pair of proven veterans will settle into the utility role this season. Junior Lisa Cutrona was a second-team all-conference selection at second base in 2011. Last year, due to a lack of depth behind the plate, she was the team’s starting catcher. Junior Chelsey Locatell, meanwhile, belted four home runs as a pinch hitter last season. Like Cutrona, Locatell is also one of the team’s most versatile players position-wise.
Binghamton has five in-season tournaments to start off the season. After going to Florida International (Feb. 15-17), and Arizona State (March 2-3), the Bearcats finish off that portion of their schedule at Maryland (March 9-10), James Madison (March 15-17) and Radford (March 23-24).
“Sometimes when you schedule you are not exactly sure who you will be matched up against in some of the tournaments,” Burrell said. “But I am really happy with this year’s schedule and opponents. It is challenging for sure but we will see how we match up against some of the best teams in the country.”
Binghamton’s first action in its new complex comes on March 28 against Niagara. Other home non-conference games come against Syracuse on April 4. On the road, the Bearcats have non-conference games against George Washington (March 26), St. Bonaventure (April 10), Colgate (April 23) and Cornell (May 1).
In the America East Conference, Binghamton hosts defending champion Boston University (March 30-31), Maine (April 13-14) and Albany (May 4-5). On the road, the Bearcats are at UMBC (April 6-7), Hartford (April 20-21) and Stony Brook (April 27-28).
This year, the America East Tournament will be held at the site of the regular-season champion May 9-11.