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March 6, 2007

PSU Softball to open 2007 campaign with annual Florida trip

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University softball team will make its annual journey to Florida next week to open the 2007 campaign at the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Fort Myers, Fla.

The Panthers will play 10 games in six days in the round-robin classic, with a day off in the middle. The first contests are Sunday, March 18, vs. Lasell College and Elms College, with match-ups the next day, March 19, against Fredonia State (N.Y.) and Lawrence (Wis.)

By the end of the week PSU will have played Western New England College, Bowdoin College, Trinity College, Thomas College, Buffalo State and SUNY New Paltz. Seven of PSU's 10 opponents posted .500 or better records last year, including two NCAA Tournament teams.

PSU has 26 more games on tap back in New England, including 14 Little East Conference affairs. The LEC opener is a doubleheader on Saturday, March 31, at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and the first home games at D&M Park are slated for Saturday, April 7, vs. Eastern Connecticut State University.

The regular season wraps up on April 28, with the top six teams advancing to 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.

2007 PSU Softball Outlook

It will be a blend of returning starters and new faces on this year's Panther squad, with eight veterans joined by 10 newcomers on the roster. Led by fourth-year head coach Bruce Addison (right), the Panthers want to make big improvements over last year's 8-25 season.

"We want to improve on last year's record, obviously," said Addison, "and we have the kids here to do that. We weren't as bad as our record indicated; we lost a lot of close games on one or two plays. Hopefully we can turn a lot of those games around."

The Panthers have four returning starters in the field, with several others with plenty of game experience. Addison will look to freshmen in centerfield and behind the plate, and he has several options on the pitching staff.

"Pitching will be our strength this year," said Addison. "We have one strong returnee and three new pitchers coming in."

The veteran of the group is sophomore co-captain Courtney MacFarland (Hampstead, N.H./Pinkerton). She gained valuable experience last season when she made 11 starts out of her 18 appearances, recording three wins, a 2.40 earned run average and striking our 63 batters in 81 innings. Freshman Kat Roland (Norton, Mass./Fontbonne Academy) leads the group of newcomers and will vie for the top in the rotation, with freshmen Beth Moretti (Woonsocket, R.I.) and Ashley Pinkham (Center Barnstead, N.H./Kingswood) battling for the third spot.

Sophomore left fielder Leanne Barry (Auburn, N.H./Pinkerton) returns after sharing the team batting lead (.306) and earning Second Team All-LEC honors in 2006. Junior Shauna Isham (Auburn, N.H./Manchester Memorial) has seen playing time the past two seasons and will likely take over in right field, and freshman Jenna George (Cumberland, R.I.) has emerged as the starter in center.

The Panthers have key returnees at three of the four infield positions. Sophomore 2B Heather Bartolo (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton) is coming off a strong rookie campaign when she started every game, contributing both at the plate and in the field. Junior co-captain Lori Pettengill (Holderness, N.H./Plymouth Regional) and sophomore Rachel Pothier (Reading, Mass.) will handle shortstop and third base duties; they were regulars last season and both have shown some pop at the plate, according to Addison. Freshman Sammi Romano (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Regional) and Amanda Parshley (Plaistow, N.H./Timberlane) could also see time on the left side of the infield.

The first base situation is still unsettled, with juniors Danielle Normand (Rumford, R.I./East Providence) and Ashley Fleming (Farmington, Conn.) both getting a shot. Freshman Michelle Kelly (Hill, N.H./Franklin) could be a defensive replacement, and MacFarland or Roland could also take over when they're not pitching.

All three of the catchers are newcomers, with freshman Kay LaBrie (Somersworth, N.H.) the likely starter and classmates Becca DiPietro (Portsmouth, R.I.) and Alyssa Marini (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Regional) serving as back-ups.

This is a young Panther team, with no seniors and only four juniors. Not a problem, according to Addison.

"We're young, but I'm not concerned about inexperience," said Addison. "They're pretty softball savvy. They just want to go out and play. If they're talented enough, which I think they are, that should overcome any inexperience."

"We should be pretty good defensively, and in pitching," added the coach. "We'll need more quality at bats, show more patience at the plate, and get some more clutch hits at key times."

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