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Binghamton 2008 Softball Preview


The term “dark horse” could well apply to the 2008 Binghamton softball team. After a tough 2007 campaign, in which the Bearcats were thin in terms of depth and talent, this spring promises to be much different. Second-year head coach Ali Brian has brought in 12 new players, including three transfers. The returning players, as a group, has shown tremendous improvement since last year. Binghamton is at least two-deep in every position. All the signs are there for a year of significant improvement.

“We have improved a lot since last season,” Brian said. “Although we are a young team, the talent level and depth are there. Our upperclassmen have done a very good job of guiding the younger players.”

PITCHERS

Juniors Cryilla Suker, Jessica Whitaker and Patty Egan all return as starters. Suker ranked second in the America East Conference and No. 31 in the nation last season with 9.6 strikeouts per game. Whitaker and Egan have both improved substantially since last season. Both are versatile players who also bring key bats into the lineup.

“Our starting rotation is solid and deep,” Brian said. “Each pitcher brings something different so we have enough variety to keep opponents guessing.”

INFIELD

Freshman Emily Phillips, a highly-recruited standout from Pickerington, Ohio, is slated to start at first base. She is coming off an impressive fall and has the bat to hit for power in her first season. Backing her up will be freshman Stephanie DeLuca.

Junior transfer Michelle Olivieri, who arrives from Daytona Beach Community College, is the top option at second base. Sophomore Ashley Straface and freshmen Shawna Albright and Kim Cleveland are also in the mix.

Freshman Brianna Andrews and sophomore
Shannon McLeese will rotate between shortstop and left field. Andrews, who was named fourth-team all-state in 2006 at nearby Union Endicott High School, has one of the top bats on the team. McLeese transfers from Daytona Beach Community College, where she was an all-conference pick last season.

Senior Sara Eppolito, who was named to the 2004 America East All-Rookie Team returns to third base full time. After suffering through a medical redshirt season in 2005 and missing most of the 2006 campaign, Eppolito played mostly in right field last year. Entering this spring, however, she is back to her primary position and just as important, will be one of the Bearcats’ primary offensive threats. Senior Megan Quinn, who started at third base the previous three seasons, also returns.

“We have had a very good makeover in our infield,” Brian said. “This will really help out our pitchers. Our team ERA could drop significantly and our fielding percentage should increase with the upgrades we have made.”

CATCHER

The Bearcats have substantially bolstered the catcher position with a trio of newcomers. Freshman Deannie Plemon and sophomore Stephanie Kolodziejski are the top two players. Plemon , who arrives from Irvine, Calif., has had one of the top bats on the squad. Kolodziejski, who transfers from Fordham, was the 2004 New York State Gatorade Player of the Year at nearby Union-Endicott High School. Freshman Kelly Schuldt, who comes from nearby Whitney Point High School, will also be in the mix.

“We are young in terms of our catchers having the experience of calling pitches but there is solid potential,” Brian said. “They are good ball blockers and are capable of firing quick releases to throw out base runners.”

OUTFIELD

Junior Sandy Meadows will anchor the outfield from the center field position. A two-year starter, she is coming off a tremendous fall and appears ready to make major strides this year.

In left field, McLeese and Andrews will rotate, depending on who is starting at shortstop. Whitaker and Schuldt will rotate in right field, depending on the games Whitaker is pitching. Plemon could also be in the mix in right field.

“Sandy will do a tremendous job leading in the outfield,” Brian said. “She has a great arm, is very quick and become more aggressive at the plate. We have a lot of options in right and left field, depending on who is swinging the bat well.”

NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Binghamton starts off 2008 at four tournaments--Elon (Feb. 22-23), Texas-El Paso (Feb. 29-March 2), College of Charleston (March 14-16) and Ohio State (March 22-23). Other non-conference opponents on the schedule are Niagara, Marist, Syracuse, Colgate, Siena and Cornell.

“Everything we do during the non-conference (portion of the) season is to prepare ourselves for America East play,” Brian said. “This season, we open with four challenging tournaments, so our first 18 games will be against very good opponents. It is important for our team to focus on improving each game so we can be ready when the conference games start.”

AMERICA EAST CONFERENCE

In the America East Conference, Albany is the three-time defending tournament champion and Boston won the regular-season crown in 2007. Hartford and UMBC also made the post season and Stony Brook was in the running for a spot until the final weekend. While Binghamton has yet to make the America East Tournament, the foundation for success is starting to be set.

“The conference is very unilateral this year,” Brian said. “The main goal for any of us is to finish in the top four because anything can happen once you get into the conference tournament. We expect this season to be the start of making our mark in the America East.”

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