PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Taking its annual trip to Ft. Myers, Fla., the Plymouth State College softball team will open the season next week in the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic.
The opening of the season begins a new era of softball at PSC, as the head coach is now Moira Long. Previously the head coach at Dickinson College in Penn., Long takes over from Robin Payne, who coached the team the past six seasons.
PSC will play 10 games in six days on the Florida trip, beginning Sunday (Mar. 21) against Southern Connecticut at 11:00 a.m. and vs. Colby College at 1:00 p.m. After the 10-game slate in Florida, the first game back in New England is a scheduled home doubleheader on April 1st against New Hampshire College (3:30 p.m.)
Long will have six returning starters from last year's team, which finished with a 14-21-1 overall record. She hopes to field a solid team in her first season, one that can contend in the Little East Conference.
"I'm really excited," said Long, "and we can't wait to get going. We have a strong group of returnees, and a lot of young players who will be able to fill in without losing a step. We want to finish in the top three in the LEC, and we think that's a pretty viable goal. We also want to improve every game."
1999 PSC SOFTBALL PREVIEW
by Chris Kilmer
Coach Long will look to senior co-captains Amanda Murphy (Canton, CT) and Kerry Bickford (Belmont, NH) to lead the squad. Murphy is a four-year veteran, while Bickford joined the team last season after transferring to PSC.
"Kerry works hard at everything and the rest of the team notices that," said Long. "She's always intense. Amanda is more of our vocal leader."
Junior Sara Wormwood (Rutland, VT) will also be looked to help guide the team. "Sara leads by example, she tries to push everyone and expects a lot from her teammates. The three of them are going to lead this team."
Long is pleased with the solid offensive unit and depth in the pitching staff, but hopes to improve the team's defense this season. Three returning starters in the infield should help.
A strong advantage for the Panther pitching squad is its depth and experience. Provided the staff stays healthy, Long will use a three-woman rotation similar to last season. The No. 1 pitcher for her fourth straight year is senior captain Amanda Murphy. She is third on the school's all-time wins list with 18 victories, and is looking for a big senior campaign. Murphy has dropped her ERA each of the last three seasons, and last year the southpaw finished 8-10 with an ERA of 3.20, pitching a team-high 113.2 innings.
"Amanda has great control and is an extremely smart pitcher," said Long. "She knows what she should and shouldn't throw and that's due to her strong experience."
Joining Murphy will be juniors Jen Moulton (Bow, NH) and Heather Gadourey (N. Billerica, MA), who are both in their third year in the rotation. Moulton is hoping to rebound after suffering from injuries much of '98, and has worked on a curve ball to accompany her hard fastball. Gadourey has logged nearly 140 innings in her two seasons, and "is pitching well for us now," according to Long.
Freshman Scarlette Mellow (E. Hampstead, NH) also joins the staff as a reliever.
The Panthers will have a new face behind the plate with the loss of Jen Arrajj, a standout offensive and defensive player. Long expects the starter to be sophomore Lorienne Fink (Laconia, NH), a transfer from Susquehanna University. She is strong defensively, according to Long, but is still learning the Panther pitchers.
Also catching for PSC is sophomore Steph Ruel (Biddeford, ME), who suffered from injuries last year and during the off-season. Ruel, according to Long, is "the best fundamental catcher I have seen in a really long time."
The Panthers will be strong through the infield, with veterans at every position. Junior Sara Wormwood (Rutland, VT) and senior Kerry Bickford (Belmont, NH) return at the corner positions. Wormwood moved to her natural position at first base midway through last season and Bickford switched to third, and they proved that's where they belong. The two are also offensive leaders. Wormwood is a career .375 hitter with 21 extra-base hits, batting .381 last season with six doubles and two home runs. Bickford batted .320 last spring, knocking in a single-season school record 32 runs.
Sophomore Kelly Anderson (Exeter, NH) returns as the starting shortstop, while classmate Jennell Carter (Allenstwon, NH) should handle second base. Anderson took over the starting role midway through last season and batted .295. Carter hit a team-high .429 while spending the season in the outfield and at DP, as second base was played by senior captain Andrea Scavuzzo.
"Jennell is one of the hardest workers I've ever seen," says Long. "She solidifies the infield, and can really hit the ball. Kelly creates a ton of problems for the opposition at the plate because of her speed. She can slap the ball, chop it into the dirt, or try to beat out a bunt."
Providing strong back-ups in the infield are freshmen Cara Shepard (Hampton, NH), Emily Ayres (Canaan, NH), Beth Dooly (Manchester, NH) and Shannon Hollingworth (Hampton, NH).
If there are some question marks in the outfield for PSC, it's only because of a lack of experience. Sophomore Abby Russell (Newfane, VT) will anchor the unit in center, and is the only returnee with consistent time in the field last year. Freshman Kristen Fusick (Windsor Locks, CT) looks to start in left, with sophomore Sarah Daye (Littleton, NH) in right.
"Abby is lightening quick with a good arm," said Long. "She has a real shot at catching anything in front of her. Kristen has a good arm, and looks real comfortable in the outfield. Sarah is solid defensively and gets a real good read on the ball. She has the most accurate arm on the team."
Both Jennell Carter and Lorienne Fink could spend some time in the outfield as well.
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