Panthers begin regular season title defense Mar. 16
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Plymouth State University softball team has been picked to finish third in the Little East Conference (LEC) in 2018, after a vote of the league's eight head coaches.
The University of Massachusetts Boston, the defending LEC Tournament champions, were picked to finish first, collecting six first place votes. Western Connecticut State University finished second with the Panthers third. The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, University of Southern Maine and Eastern Connecticut State University all tied for fourth place, with Keene State College and Rhode Island College filling the seventh and eight spots.
Plymouth State finished last season in a four-way tie for the league lead, earning its second regular season title under head coach Bruce Addison. PSU hosted the LEC Tournament by virtue of the league tie-breaker procedure and advanced to the championship game before falling to the Beacons. Addison, who is entering his 15th season at the helm for the Panthers, has high expectations for his 2018 squad.
"We're not going to sneak up on anyone this year," Addison said. "If we get just the same production from our returning players we'll be even better this season, but I'm expecting improvements from everyone."
The Panthers have an upperclassmen heavy roster with five seniors and nine juniors, all of whom bring valuable experience to the table.
"Our seniors will lead the way," said Addison. "And we have a large junior class that has gained lots of experience. This season will be one of the few years where we have lots of returners with significant experience and that should work to our favor."
Senior captains Allison Moylan (Methuen, Mass.), Mary King (Lancaster, N.H.) and Nina Murray (Saugus, Mass.), along with junior captain Debra Morrill (Concord, N.H.), will provide the bulk of the leadership.
"Nina [Murray] was a captain as a junior last year as well and the four of them have a great dynamic," praised Addison. "They all lead by example with a variety of different personalities."
Offensively the Panthers will look to execute Addison's game plan of putting together consistent, strong at bats throughout the lineup. Junior Cassidy Emerson (Concord, N.H.), an All-LEC First Team selection last season, and classmate Mel Goss (Templeton, Mass.), who earned Second Team honors at third base and utility player, along with senior Abrie Davis (Amherst, N.H.) will be looked to provide some power through the middle of the lineup.
Davis led the Panthers with 22 RBI while posting a slash line of .290/.364/.336 with five doubles in 107 at bats last spring, while Emerson hit .337/.347/.379 with four doubles and 11 ribbies. Goss provided quality at bats while posting a .337 on base percentage.
Junior transfer Ashley Deyo (Dover, N.H.), who spent the last two seasons at Franklin Pierce University, could also be an impactful addition to the lineup after hitting .299/.353/.403 for the Ravens last year.
"We want to be a bit more productive offensively," said Addison. "Score some more runs and add some power to our lineup. Ten returners had at least 50 at bats last spring, so we're expecting the carryover from 2017 to help."
In the circle, Addison will look to sophomore Caitlyn Miller (Lee, N.H.) to lead the pitching staff after a dynamic rookie season. Last spring Miller led the Panthers in innings pitched (108.1), strikeouts (69), ERA (2.07) and complete games (8), while posting an 11-6 mark and adding a pair of saves.
She's joined by a trio of pitchers who, "all throw the ball well and have done so before," in Moylan and juniors Hannah Seidner (Pembroke, N.H.) and Kayla Mathieu (Fairfax, Vt.). The foursome combined for a 2.78 ERA last year, the third best mark in the LEC.
A trio of catchers will contribute behind the plate. Sophomore Haley Birch (Salem, Conn.) logged the most games last year, while junior Kayla Nester (Fairfax, Vt.) and freshman Samantha Cushing (Amherst, N.H.) will both compete for time.
The Panthers' depth will be a major advantage heading into 2018. Senior Taylor Wood (Londonderry, N.H.) and junior Lindsey Hall (Midlothian, Va.) give Addison additional options in the outfield, and junior Autumn Beyor (Highgate, Vt.) and sophomores Nora Butler (Tewksbury, Mass.) and Jen Landers (Berlin, N.H.) will see time in the infield. Additionally, freshman Rylee MacMillan (Mystic, Conn.) can play all over the field.
"We have interchangeable parts," said Addison. "We will use lots of different lineups, especially during the Florida trip, and we'll look for players to step up. Everybody is going to get their time and the team has been great about focusing on the 'we,' and not 'me' aspect."
When asked where he sees his team finishing Addison answered, "We will be in the mix, but so will seven other teams."
2018 LEC Softball Preseason Coaches' Poll
(First Place Votes in Parentheses)
|1||UMass Boston (6)||48|
|2||Western Connecticut (2)||40|
|8||Rhode Island College||7|
Note: Coaches are not permitted to vote for their own team.
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