PLYMOUTH, N.H. - There will be a new coaching staff on the sideline when the Plymouth State College softball team opens the 2001 season next week at the annual Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Fort Myers, Fla.
The Panthers will play 10 games against 10 different opponents in six days, beginning Sunday (Mar. 18) and running through Friday (Mar. 23). The team returns to New England for the scheduled Little East Conference opener at UMass Dartmouth on Saturday, Mar. 31.
New Panther head coach Harry Blood is the interim coach for Moira Long, who is on administrative leave for maternity reasons. Blood is a 1973 PSC graduate who has been athletic director and assistant softball coach at Moultonborough Academy for several years, and he is joined on the PSC staff by assistants Tina Price and Lindsay Blood.
Plymouth State finished 15-20 overall and 6-8 in the Little East Conference last season, and Blood said the team wants to reverse those marks.
"We want to win 20 games, and finish no less than third in the Little East Conference," said Blood. "That's a reasonable goal for us that's not too high, but to get there we'll have to work hard."
2001 P.S.C. Softball Outlook
Hopes are high for PSC in 2001. The Panthers return 11 veterans from last year's team, including starters at eight positions, and they are joined by a solid group of newcomers. Particularly with a new staff, Coach Blood said the seniors will have to assume a leadership role. Based on pre-season workouts, the Panthers are in great shape.
"We have four senior captains who are leading the team," said Blood, "and you can go a long way with good leadership. The team is unified, and that is the mark of a good ‘team'"
The Panthers lost three seniors to graduation, first baseman and home run record holder Sara Wormwood, and pitchers Jen Moulton and Heather Gadourey.
"We'll be very competitive," said Blood. "If we continue to improve, our defense will be very solid and our offense will be able to score runs. We have some kids who are ready for break out years."
The Panthers have plenty of options behind the plate, with three catchers including two returning veterans. Blood plans to split the playing time between senior Steph Ruel (Biddeford, Maine) and sophomore Adriene Harvey (Nantucket, Mass.). Ruel is a standout defensive catcher, and Harvey is one of the top hitters in the league. Harvey, who was Honorable Mention All-LEC last year after batting .389 with 14 extra-base hits, will be in the line-up when she's not catching, either at DP or in the outfield. Coach Blood also has freshman Heidi Beaulac (Newmarket, N.H.) available as a third catcher.
Senior shortstop Kelly Anderson (Exeter, N.H.) and junior second baseman Kristen Fusick (Windsor Locks, Conn.) give the Panthers a solid duo up the middle. Anderson is a four-year veteran with an excellent glove and some pop at the plate. Fusick took over at second last year and earned Honorable Mention All-LEC after batting .284. Sophomore Nikki Gwynn (Littleton, N.H.) is a capable back-up at second, and Michelle Knox (Gilmanton, N.H.), a versatile freshman, can fill in at either spot.
There are battles for playing time going on with the corner positions. Sophomore Bo Dell (Porter Corners, N.Y.) was a part-time starter at third base last season, and she may share the job with Knox this year. Junior Cara Shepard (Hampton, N.H./Winnacunnet) was a reserve first baseman for PSC last season, and she is being challenged for the starting job this year by Kristin Balles (Bedford, N.H./Manchester West) and Bonnie Campbell (Nashua, N.H.)
The Panthers have experienced veterans returning at all three positions. Sophomore Steph Marsland (Cumberland, R.I.) enjoyed a good rookie season as the starting center fielder, batting .299 along with an excellent arm and solid defense. Seniors Abby Russell (Newfane, Vt.) and Lorienne Fink (Laconia, N.H.) have been starters the past two years, and return to play left and right field, respectively. Adriene Harvey will also play the outfield when she's not catching, and freshmen Mo Cancellieri (Stoughton, Mass.) and Maria Curran (Scarborough, Maine) will fill in as back-ups.
Blood welcomes the return of sophomore lefthander Lyndsy Patten (Ellsworth, Maine) as the leader of the staff, but the coach is also excited by freshmen righthanders Jes Leary (Farmington, N.H.) and Kristin Balles (Bedford, N.H./Manchester West). Patten started nine games last season, winning three and posting a respectable 3.81 ERA.
"We want our pitching to be as good as any in the league," said Blood. "Lyndsy worked hard during the off-season, and she has improved 100 percent. She has a nice array of pitches. The other two are learning the college game, but they have good command of the strike zone."
"We're young and inexperienced in pitching, but if they stay around the plate, we'll be fine," said Blood. "The offense is in good shape, I think we'll score a lot of runs."
"They've done everything I've asked," he added, "and I think we've made some good strides. They've bought into the style of softball I'm going to coach here. I'm excited for the year, and can't wait for the first pitch."
2001 PSC SOFTBALL SCHEDULE 2001 PSC SOFTBALL ROSTER