PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University softball team will get away from the winter weather and head to warmer climates this week to officially begin the 2008 campaign.
The Panthers will make their annual journey to Florida later this week to participate in the annual Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Fort Myers. PSU will play 10 games in six days in the round-robin classic, with a day off on Wednesday. The first contests are Sunday, March 16, against SUNY New Paltz and Bowdoin College, followed by contests on Monday against Worcester State College and Lasell College. The rest of the opponents for the week include Salve Regina University, Edgewood College (Wis.), Rutgers University-Newark, SUNY Brockport, Wisconsin-Superior, and St. Lawrence University.
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 29, at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and the first home games at D&M Park are slated for Tuesday, April 8, vs. Castleton State College.
The regular season wraps up on April 26, 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.
2008 PSU Softball Outlook
With no seniors on last year's team, the Panthers have nearly the entire squad back from last season. Fifth-year head coach Bruce Addison says that this year's group is primed for a good year.
"We made a five-game improvement last year over 2006, and I think that improvement should continue," said Addison (right). "It's a big advantage for us that we have so many players back from last year, and they all have more experience. That should help us tremendously. We've also added four outstanding freshmen."
Addison says the strength of the team should be pitching, with four or five players who can do the job. The coach hopes for more consistency in the field.
"Our pitching held its own last year, but the defense sometimes let us down when we needed them to step up," said Addison. "Offensively, we have good balance with a fair amount of power. If we can stay consistent in the field, a lot of good things are going to happen."
Junior co-captain Courtney MacFarland (Hampstead, N.H./Pinkerton) should be the anchor of the pitching staff. She has two years of experience and has good control, according to Addison. Sophomore Kat Roland (Norton, Mass./Fontbonne Academy) is coming off a solid rookie campaign and makes it tough on hitters. Sophomores Ashley Pinkham (Center Barnstead, N.H./Kingswood), Beth Moretti (Woonsocket, R.I.) and Jenna George (Cumberland, R.I.) will also get their chances.
"It's up in the air between all five of them," said Addison. "They'll all get an opportunity to get people out in Florida, and when we come back we'll set up the pitching staff. I have confidence in all of them."
PSU returns its entire outfield crew, with junior Leanne Barry (Auburn, N.H./Pinkerton) in left, George in center, and senior Shauna Isham (Auburn, N.H./Manchester Memorial) in right. Barry earned All-Conference honors in 2006 and is one of the top players. Sophomore Sammi Romano (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Regional), junior Michelle Kelly (Hill, N.H./Franklin) or Moretti could also see time in the outfield, along with freshman Andrea Pydynkowski (Danvers, Mass.)
The Panther middle infield is set with the return of senior shortstop and two-year co-captain Lori Pettengill (Holderness, N.H./Plymouth Regional) and junior second baseman Heather Bartolo (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton). Sophomore Kay LaBrie (Somersworth, N.H.), who played catcher last season, moves back to her original position at third base, backed up by freshman Kortney Nedeau (Kennebunk, Maine). Senior returning starter Danielle Normand (Rumford, R.I./East Providence) will likely get the most playing time at first base, with freshman Melissa Caiazzo (Portland, Maine/Deering) and senior Ashley Fleming (Farmington, Conn.) also filling in.
Freshman Laura Kaplan (Franklin, N.H.) has the early edge on the starting catcher position. Sophomore Alyssa Marini (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Regional) and Nedeau will also see playing time behind the plate.
"We want to come out of Florida with a winning record," said Addison. "We want to have at least a .500 record in the LEC games, and have a winning record in non-conference games. We try not to stress wins and losses, but rather just try to play up to our potential in each game and on every play. If we can do that, we'll take whatever happens in the outcome."
-- 30 --