PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Coming off one of the most successful seasons in school history, the Plymouth State College softball team is optimistic for another big year in 2003.
The Panthers will open the campaign with the annual trip to Ft. Myers, Fla., over the school's spring break, which begins Friday. PSC will play 10 games in six days against 10 different opponents in the annual Gene Cusic Classic, beginning this Sunday (Mar. 16) and running through Friday (Mar. 23) with an off day on Wednesday.
After returning to New England, the Panthers will have a week off before the Little East Conference opener at UMass Dartmouth on Saturday, Mar. 29. PSC's home opener is slated for Saturday, Apr. 5, against Eastern Connecticut.
The Panthers have 24 games on the slate after the Florida trip, including 14 conference contests. The regular season wraps up on Apr. 26, with the annual LEC Tournament the following week. The Little East Tournament champion receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Softball Championship Tournament.
2003 P.S.C. Softball Outlook
PSC won a school-record 24 games in 2002, finishing 24-13-2 for its first winning season since 1994. The Panthers advanced to the ECAC New England Tournament, had one All-America and two All-New England selections, and lost only one player to graduation.
Third-year head coach Harry Blood is optimistic that the 13 returning veterans and five newcomers can repeat the achievements of last year's squad. In fact, the Panthers have set their sights higher.
"The captains have set the goals," says Blood. "They want to go deeper into the post-season. The confidence level is different this year. We won't sneak up on anybody. But we know what we did (last year), and we know we can do more."
A big key to the season is the return of sophomore pitcher Kim Jeffs (Stoughton, Mass.), who earned Third Team All-America status as a freshman after leading the nation with 360 strikeouts. She finished 21-8 with a 0.68 ERA, and is expected to again be a dominant hurler. Freshman Rose Eaton (Concord,N.H.) will be worked into the mix as the season progresses.
"Obviously Kim had a great freshman year," says Blood, "and we're thrilled to have her back. She gives us a very good chance to win every time she goes out there. I expect her to have just as good a season this spring, if not better."
Jeff's battery-mate is another big key to the Panthers. Senior catcher and co-captain Adriene Harvey (Nantucket, Mass.), earned All-New England honors last season after equaling or breaking PSC single-season records for doubles, home runs and RBIs in a season. As well as she hits, Blood is happy to have her behind the plate.
"Adriene has outstanding leadership, and she's a solid catcher," says Blood. "She understands what we want to do with our pitching staff, and that's key."
PSC should have an improved infield, according to Blood. Sophomore Annie Metz (Stoughton, Mass.) returns with a year's experience at third base, and possesses one of the strongest bats in the Panther line-up. Junior co-captain Kristin Balles (Bedford, N.H./Manchester West), who has started at first base the past two years, will move over to short. Sophomore Anna Godard (Florence, Mass.) could take over the second base job, and Michelle Knox (Gilmanton, N.H.) is the likely starter at first.
Coach Blood indicated that talented freshman Shawn Cooley (Waterford, Conn.) may end up as the starter at one of the middle infield spots. Other infielders include freshman 1B Kim Krause (Pound Ridge, N.Y.), freshman 2B Lindsey Huntington (Windsor, Conn.), junior catcher Heidi Beaulac (Newmarket, N.H.), and freshman catcher Ali Otway (Reading, Mass.).
Senior co-captain Steph Marsland (Cumberland, R.I.) is a four-year veteran in centerfield, and the team's top defensive outfielder. Sophomores Maria Curran (Scarborough, Maine) and Michelle Dubois (Auburn, Maine) are the likely candidates in left, with classmates Sara Madden (Londonderry, N.H.) and Jess Rousselle (Deerfield, N.H.) getting their shot in right.
Blood has his eye on junior Krissy Crego (Rochester, N.Y.), who hit the ball well during fall ball, as the designated player.
"Our goal is to win the Little East Conference," says Blood. "Last year we didn't say that, but this we believe we can."
2003 PSC Softball Roster 2003 PSC Softball Schedule