PLYMOUTH, N.H. - It should be an improved team that takes the field next week when the Plymouth State College softball squad officially opens the season during the annual spring break trip to Fort Myers, Fla.
The Panthers will play 10 games in the annual Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic, beginning with the opener Sunday (Mar. 19) at 9 a.m. against Bowdoin and concluding with a 4 p.m. contest Friday (Mar. 24) against Middlebury. PSC's New England debut is scheduled for Tuesday, Mar. 28 at New Hampshire College (2:30 p.m.), with the home opener slated for Sun., Apr. 2nd vs. Bowdoin (1 p.m.)
PSC is coming off an 11-26 season in 1999, and second-year head coach Moira Long returns 10 veterans, including seven starters, to go along with a solid cast of newcomers. The Panthers finished sixth in the Little East Conference last year (4-10), but Long thinks this could be the year for PSC to get over the hump.
2000 PSC Softball Season Outlook
Plymouth State is seeking its first post-season softball appearance since 1994. The Panthers will have to contend with the top teams in the LEC. It will be a tough challenge as the LEC is one of the toughest conferences in the region.
"I think we can have a good season," said Long. "Finishing over .500 something we haven't been able to do recently, but this year we have a lot of talent and we're playing better already. Last year we were kind of getting people on the same page, this year we're more of a team."
The Panthers should have balanced squad, with solid pitching and defense and what Coach Long feels will be a powerful offensive line-up.
"Our hitting will be a strength," said Long. "We don't have a lot of speed but we have people who can flat out hit the ball. Our fielding will also be a strength; We have veterans at catcher, first and short, and all of our outfielders have outstanding arms and the ability to field the ball."
The Panthers welcome the return of last season's top pitcher, senior Jen Moulton (Bow, NH) who should anchor the staff. Moulton set the school record with 58 strikeouts last season, maintaining a 2.77 earned run average. The righthander will be complimented nicely by freshman lefthander Lyndsy Patten (Ellsworth, Maine).
"Lyndsy is similar to Jen in that they both have excellent control," said Long. "Patten has the advantage of being a lefty, because there aren't that many of them. I expect she'll contribute a ton."
Adding depth to the pitching staff is senior Heather Gadourey (North Billerica, Mass.) and sophomore Ashley Thompson (Gorham, NH). Gadourey is an experienced four-year veteran, and Thompson is a transfer from Southern Maine.
The Panthers have one of the best defensive backstops in the league in junior Steph Ruel (Biddeford, Maine), who appears as healthy as she's ever been. Look for her to be able to "snap some throws and pick a lot of people off," says Long, as well as improve her contributions at the plate. Freshman Adriene Harvey (Nantucket, Mass.) will also see playing time behind the plate. She's solid defensively, according to Long, and adds some pop at the plate.
PSC has outstanding returnees in senior first baseman Sara Wormwood (Rutland, Vt.) and junior shortstop Kelly Anderson (Exeter, NH). A four-year starter, Wormwood owns all of PSC's home run records and is a career .359 hitter. Anderson is a strong defensive player who batted .327 in her first full season as a starter last spring.
The second base position will be a battle between sophomore Kristen Fusick (Windsor Locks, Conn.) and freshman Nikki Gwynn (Littleton, NH), who are both strong defensively. Fusick batted .375 in Florida last spring before suffering a season ending injury. At third base, freshmen Christina Dell (Porter Corners, NY) and Sara Morin (Litchfield, NH) will both see playing time, according to Long, and both have real potential at the plate. Sophomore Cara Shepard (Hamptoin, NH) provides back-up for Wormwood at first base.
The Panthers will use a blend of newcomers and veterans for what should be an improved outfield unit. Freshman Steph Marsland (Cumberland, RI) takes over in center, according to Long. She displays an outstanding throwing arm and a good bat at the plate. Junior Lorienne Fink (Laconia, NH), who started every game last season, will see plenty of playing time, likely in left field. Freshman slugger Adriene Harvey (Nantucket, Mass.) will also be an outfielder when she's not backing up behind the plate.
There's plenty of depth in the Panther outfield with returning veterans Jennell Carter (Allenstown, NH) and Abby Russell (Newfane, Vt.) and freshman Lynsey Hoyt (Franklin, NH) all looking for playing time.
"We have a great core of first year players that came in with a lot of knowledge and ability," said Long, "that we hope will fill some of the holes we had last year. The returnees have improved a lot since last spring and over the course of the fall season. With the experience and youth we have, it's a pretty good combination."
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