Release: February 25, 2009
With five starters returning from last year's squad, third-year head coach Ali Brian has a Bearcat team that is ready to take giant steps forward in 2009. The Binghamton softball program has a good mix of veterans and newcomers and will feature a solid balance of pitching, defense, offense and base running.
"I think we are going to surprise some teams that may want to look past us," Brian said. "Overall we expect to compete in every contest that we play in and we are looking forward to positive improvements and a solid season."
"Our defense returns the majority of its starters and offensively, despite losing Bri Andrews, the gaps are filled with improved abilities from top to bottom."
An unfortunate task for the team will be to replace the production of Andrews, a 2008 America East all-rookie selection. Andrews started 29 games as a freshman and was expected to be a key contributor to the 2009 team. However, Andrews sustained a knee injury and will sit out the upcoming season as a medical redshirt.
"Bri's tough," Brian said. "She's got one of the best work ethics and the biggest heart. Offensively, she was one of our top hitters and she was also capable of playing wherever we needed her defensively."
McLeese and Plemon will highlight Bearcat infield
Junior shortstop Shannon McLeese and sophomore catcher Deannie Plemon highlight a talented infield that will feature a good mix of firepower at the plate and defensive prowess. After leading the team in assists as a sophomore transfer in 2008, McLeese will once again be relied upon as the team's everyday shortstop and looks poised for a breakout year.
"Shannon's range is arguably as good as anyone's in the conference. She has the ability to be one of the best middle infielders in the league," Brian said.
Plemon, who was an all-rookie selection last season, will spend most of her time as the team's starting catcher, but is also capable of playing the outfield. As a freshman, Plemon led the team in both RBI and home runs, while starting 38 games behind the plate. Plemon will bat somewhere in the heart of the lineup and has recently shown defensive improvement.
"Deannie's already solid ability to throw out runners has improved along with her throwing strength since last year. She also makes solid contact at the plate and is one of the toughest outs on our team."
Sharing time with Plemon behind the plate will be freshman Colleen Whitaker. Whitaker is one of the team's top newcomers and also has the potential to see significant time at third base.
"Stephanie [DeLuca's] hitting ability is probably the area that she improved in the most. She is capable of hitting the ball to both sides of the field with power," Brian said.
The Bearcats will feature a talented platoon at second base with senior Michelle Olivieri and junior transfer Stephanie Valencia. Olivieri moved immediately to a starting role last season after transferring from Daytona Beach CC and is a versatile player who will also see action in the outfield.
"Michelle has the ability to play defense wherever we need her to go," Brian said. "On the base paths, she is capable of wrecking havoc. Her biggest strength is her ability to run the bases."
Valencia joins the program
this season after transferring from Arizona Western CC.
A starter has yet to emerge at first base for the Bearcats, but junior Stephanie Kolodziejski and DeLuca are both likely to log time at the position.
Meadows returns for senior campaign to anchor outfield
Senior Sandy Meadows, a four-year starter, is one of the top returning players for BU and will anchor the outfield as the team's starting center fielder. In 2008, Meadows was the team's primary leadoff hitter and ranked second on the team with a .252 batting average. Meadows also swiped 16 bases in as many attempts and sported a team-best .986 fielding percentage.
"Sandy's speed, throwing arm, offensive power and leadership abilities make her a multi-tool threat," Brian said.
Joining Meadows in the outfield will be sophomore Kelly Schuldt, who started 43 games as a freshman in 2008. Schuldt will be used mostly as a right fielder but can also play left and has improved her game dramatically in the off-season.
"Kelly's offense has improved
300 percent from last year," Brian said. "She has added
power to her repertoire and has one of the strongest arms in
the outfield, with great range. She is a good complement to Sandy."
Healthy Bearcat pitching staff is deep and diverse
Coming off a 2008 season in which four pitchers dealt with injuries, the team is looking forward to entering this season with healthy arms. Junior Cyrilla Suker, sophomore Nicole Constantatos and newcomers Meghan Tucker and Kristen Emerling are ready to take the mound for the Bearcats in 2009.
"The pitching staff has worked incredibly hard to prepare for the rigors of the season," Brian said. "I'm extremely confident that their competitiveness and their determination for perfection will help lead the team to the success that we are looking for. The pitchers are all different and they each bring a unique look to the mound."
With a nice blend of veteran experience to go along with high-potential newcomers, Binghamton looks to take full advantage of a healthy staff, something that the team lacked in 2008.
Preseason schedule will prime Bearcats for conference play
Binghamton will play a 47-game
slate against 20 teams representing nine conferences in 2009.
BU will travel to three in-season tournaments to kick off the
season and to prepare for the America East portion of their schedule.
The team will open their season at the Gael Classic at St. Mary's
(Calif.) on February 27. A week later the Bearcats will travel
to Virginia to compete in Norfolk State's Spartan Clash. Binghamton
will face some stiff competition in defending MEAC Champions
and 2008 NCAA Regional participant Delaware State. The Bearcats
will play their final in-season tournament on March 21 and 22
at the UMBC Spring Classic.
The Bearcat's home opener will be against Marist on Wednesday, March 25, one of 14 home games for the Bearcats on the season. The first America East conference game will be at Stony Brook, the reigning conference champions, on March 28. The conference schedule will conclude at home against Boston University on May 3. If Binghamton is among the top four America East teams at the end of the season, the squad will advance to the conference tournament, hosted by the regular season champions beginning May 7.
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