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Bearcats aiming to make conference tournament

After a respectable first season at the NCAA Division I level as well as in the America East Conference, the Binghamton softball team enters the 2003 season with a deeper squad than last year. The Bearcats went 23-35 (11-13 in the America East Conference) and just missed qualifying for the conference tournament. This season, however, Binghamton feels that the pieces are in place to get over the hump and into the America East Tournament, which will be held May 8-10 at Stony Brook.

“We are really looking forward to this season because we have a lot more depth than we did last season,” head coach Holly Brown said. “We were disappointed not to make the tournament last season, but we’ve had a good fall and will have a year’s worth of conference experience. Our goal this season will be to make the tournament.”

PITCHING

Last season, Binghamton was thin on pitchers and as a result, ran out of steam late in games. This season, Binghamton has five pitchers on the staff, which alone could prove a huge difference.

“Last season, a lot of our games went into extra innings and our starters wore out,” Brown said. “This season we’ll be able to bring in well-rested pitchers so we will be much more capable of turning those games around in our favor.

Senior Mary Karen Wheat is the top returning starter from last season. She went 11-11 last season and posted a 2.68 ERA. Junior Karen Prievo was a spot starter last season and also returns to the staff.

After taking last year off, sophomore Michelle Weeks returns to the Bearcats. She was a starting pitcher in her freshman season and despite having a 6-12 record, she finished with a 1.75 ERA.

“Having Michelle back is huge,” Brown said. “She has both the experience and the style. She is a very good rise ball pitcher.”

Transferring from Centenary College is junior Shannon Fleishman, who pitched 83.0 innings last season and went 6-5.

“Shannon is a workhorse on the mound,” Brown said. “She adds both strength and versatility to our pitching staff and has a good knowledge of what pitches to throw.”

Also joining the pitching staff this season is freshman Katie Hansen, who was a three-time all-state selection at Minisink Valley High School in Westtown, N.Y.

“ Katie comes from a great program,” said Binghamton head coach Holly Brown. “She has showed continued improvement and will prove to be a strong leader and impact player for our program.”

INFIELD

Binghamton returns two all-conference players from last season in catcher Jessica Chellis (first-team) and third baseman Jen Richardson (second-team). Last season, Chellis led the team with a .318 batting average and belted a single-season, school-record six home runs. She also drove in 29 runs. Richardson finished second on the team with three home runs and 17 RBI.

At the shortstop position, freshman Rose Barre, who was a three-time all-league pick from General Brown High School in Watertown, N.Y., appears ready to take over the starting job.

“Rose was a great pick up for us,” Brown said. “She is a very confident and intense player who will be a great leadoff hitter.”

The most interesting addition for the team in the infield is graduate student Leah Truncale, who concluded a stellar basketball career at Binghamton last season. Having also played softball in high school, she will help shore up the first base position.

“Leah has done a great job so far,” Brown said. “Defensively, she is a very strong player and hitting-wise, she has picked up a lot of things quickly.”

Other returning infielders include Marybeth Yerdon and Samantha Todd and redshirt freshman Jennifer Whitley. Freshman Nicole Vitello is the other newcomer.

OUTFIELD

In the outfield, Binghamton returns an all-conference pick in junior Leigh Ann Savidge. Last season, she tied for the team lead with three triples and ranked fourth on the team with six stolen bases.

Also returning is junior Christine Sweeney, who started 45 times last season and was third on the team with seven stolen bases.

Junior Jessica Dima is the top newcomer in the outfield. She played for St. John’s the past two seasons and in her sophomore season, she hit .310 in Big East Conference games. Dima also had 54 total bases as a freshman.

"Jessica will serve as a force at the plate and her versatility on the field can tremendously aid our team,” Brown said. “We believe that her past experience at the Division I level will positively impact our team."

Sophomores Vanessa Lalley and Marisa DeStasio also return to the outfield this season. Freshman Lauren Verrusio is the other newcomer.

SCHEDULE AND OUTLOOK

After opening up the season with a spring trip to Florida (March 8-16) and at the George Mason Tournament (March 21-23), the Bearcats will move into the conference portion of their schedule. Maine, Albany and Boston will come to town for the tradition four-game weekend series. The Bearcats will also play weekend series at Vermont, Hartford and Stony Brook. Other non-conference opponents include Syracuse, Colgate, Cornell and Drexel.

“We feel good about this season but we do have our work cut out for us in the conference,” Brown said. “Boston (the defending champion) is always tough and Albany and Stony Brook are both very good. Still, we learned a lot from last season and that experience plus our depth could help us finish in the top four and get into the tournament.”
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