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Panther Softball begins season with Florida trip

           PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University softball team makes its annual trip to Fort Myers, Fla., this weekend for the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic.

            The Panthers will play 10 contests in six days in the round-robin classic, with a day off in the middle.  PSU has 24 more games on tap back in New England with 14 Little East Conference affairs, including 12 slated for PSU's home field, D & M Park.

            PSU is scheduled to open LEC action on Saturday, Apr. 2, at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.  The home opener is on the calendar for Sunday, Apr. 3, against Bowdoin. The regular season wraps up on Apr. 30, with the annual LEC Tournament the first week of May.  The Little East Tournament champion receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament.

            The Panthers are coming off a .500 season in the LEC (7-7) and a 15-16 overall record.  With eight returning veterans and a strong group of newcomers, there's no reason PSU can't improve on that in 2005, according to head coach Bruce Addison.

  2005 PSU Softball Outlook

              It will be a combination of familiar faces and new names when Plymouth State takes the field in 2005.  Addison is hoping the group will blend into a unit that can contend for the top of the LEC.

            "We have a good combination of experienced players and young kids," says Addison.  "Hopefully we can intertwine them into a good unit.  We want to be competitive in every game.  Winning is important, but more so we want to play well every day, inning to inning, game to game."

             "We should be just as strong, if not better, but we don't know how the younger kids will respond," says Addison.  "If we can minimize mistakes, hopefully we'll be in the top four in the conference at the end of the season.  Obviously it helps that our strength is pitching."

            Leading the Panthers is two-time All-American pitcher Kim Jeffs (Stoughton, Mass.).  Jeffs has a career record of 57-25 with 32 shutouts and could become the NCAA Division III all-time strikeout queen.

            "We're hoping Kim returns to the form of her freshman and sophomore seasons," says Addison after Jeffs finished 10-10 last year.  "She's put in a lot of work and she looks like she's back.  This being her senior season, she's even more determined to help the team be successful."

            Providing a solid compliment to Jeffs is junior pitcher Rose Eaton (Concord, N.H.).  She has started 19 games over the past two years, posting a 9-7 record, and has continued to improve.  Eaton is a strong athlete who will also see time at first base.

            "Rose is a very important part of our team," says Addison.  "She pitched well last year, but we didn't play well behind her.  We need to support her better, but we'll expect much from Rose, just like we expect things from Kim."

            The Panther outfield will have familiar faces this spring.  Senior Michelle Dubois (Auburn, Maine/Edward Little) and Jess Rousselle (Deerfield, N.H./Coe-Brown) will likely start in left and center, respectively.  They are both four-year veterans who have been part-time starters since their freshman year.  Sophomore Colleen Courtney (Millis, Mass.) will get a chance in right, with freshman Lisa Pelosi (Reading, Mass.) serving as the fourth outfielder.

            Senior 2B Anna Godard (Florence, Mass./Northampton) is the only returning starter in the Panther infield.  Junior Jess Fortin (Chester, N.H./Pinkerton) should take over at shortstop after gaining experience as a reserve last season.  Freshman Kristi Curry (Nottingham, N.H./Dover) has been impressive in the preseason and looks primed to start at third base.  When Eaton is pitching, look for freshman Ashley Fleming (Farmington, Conn.) to start at first base.

            Others looking for playing time in the Panther infield include freshmen Lori Pettengill (Holderness, N.H./Plymouth Reg.), Danielle Normand (Rumford, R.I./East Providence), Ashley Riberdy  (Manchester, N.H./Memorial), and Kara Marvelli (Franconia, N.H./Profile).  PSU has three catchers that will get a chance to prove themselves - sophomore Jenny Norton (Minot, Maine/Edward Little), freshman Devin Caswell (Wilton, N.H.) and Pettengill.

            Rounding out the roster is freshman pitcher Jen Dupont (Pembroke, Mass.) and freshman outfielders Shauna Isham (Auburn, N.H./Manchester Memorial) and Alyssa Satas (Troy, N.H./ Monadnock).

            "This year's team is a more close-knit unit," says Addison.  "I'm pleased with their attitudes.  Some of the returning players remember what it was like when we won the ECAC Tournament and challenged for the conference championship two years ago.  They understand what needs to be done to return to that level."

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