Softball Ready For 2013 Season

Contact: Ben Badua

Amherst

SEASON OUTLOOK
After several years on the doorstep of the postseason, Amherst softball finally broke through in 2012, reeling off a program-record 22-game win streak to open the year en route to a school-best 36-6 overall record and the top seed in the NESCAC Championship. Cracking the NFCA top-25 for the first time since 2000, Amherst also secured its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1999, hosting the Regional Championships for the first time in program history.

With eight players hitting over .300, the Jeffs outscored opponents by a 259-96 margin, turning a minus-10 run differential from 2011 to a plus-163 edge in 2012.

“We gained a new sense of confidence,” said interim head coach Whitney Mollica Goldstein. “Getting that far [into the postseason] was a great experience because it helped the team realize what they were working for. Every year is a new journey, but it was the first step for this group of young players toward building a culture of being consistent and mentally tougher. This preseason, everything they do has a purpose and one of our themes for the year is staying in the moment. It’s about who has the fire to compete, who has the passion to push their teammates, and who has the grit to be consistent mentally and physically. It’s about being day to day, at bat to at bat, and pitch to pitch.”

Amherst opens its season against Allegheny College and Plattsburgh St. on Mar. 17 as part of a six-day, 12-game stretch at the NTC Games in Clermont, Fla.

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PITCHING STAFF
While Amherst saw improvement in almost every offensive category last season, it was the Jeff pitching staff that helped steer the ship, leading the NESCAC in earned run average (1.86), while ranking second in opponent batting average (.208). Senior co-captain Theresa Kelley headlined Amherst’s pitching corps, raking in All-NESCAC, NEISCA and NFCA All-Region accolades.

Jumping out to an 8-0 start over her first 10 appearances, she posted a 0.68 ERA with 63 strikeouts and two walks. Kelley closed out the year in similar fashion, fanning 57 batters, while issuing just two free passes in her final 14 games. Surrendering just five earned runs in six postseason outings, the senior finished with a 19-3 record, ranking second in the conference in strikeouts (186) and OBA (.191), while sitting third in ERA (1.16).

“She’s the leader of the pack,” said Mollica Goldstein. “She’s the heart of our team and her leadership and presence are going to be crucial.”

Putting together a stellar sophomore season, Arielle Doering ’14 lowered her ERA by over a run (3.50 to 2.39) from 2011 to 2012, while seeing a 60-plus point drop in opponent batting average (.288 to .222). Poised to make another jump this season, Doering struck out 87 batters a year ago, and enters the year with a career 2.69 ERA and .242 OBA.

“Consistency is going to be key,” Mollica Goldstein said. “She has the ability to start games and come in and close games like last year. She’s worked really hard this offseason to improve her speed and spins. She exemplifies great leadership and I am excited to see her grow even more.”

Rounding out the Jeff staff are Caroline Sealander ’15 and Nicolette Miranda ’16. Posting a 5-0 record with a 3.46 earned run average last season, Sealander should continue to improve, while Miranda will look to make an impact out of the bullpen.

“Caroline has worked tirelessly to improve all aspects of her pitching,” said Mollica Goldstein. “At 5'11 Her presence on the mound alone is intimidating. I am excited to see her hard work this year transfer into games as a starter and or coming in relief.  We have a complete pitching staff. All four pitchers bring a unique quality to the mound and give us many opportunities to use them all in different capacities.”

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INFIELDERS
Leading the Jeffs in the infield is senior co-captain Reilly Horan ’13. Hitting safely in 10 of her first 11 games, she batted .421 during the team’s spring trip before later going 4-for-8 with a home run and three RBI during the NESCAC Tournament. Earning second team all-league accolades, she ranked among the squad’s leaders in batting average (.345), while starting all 42 games at second base. A career .354 hitter, she will once again be a factor in heart of the Jeff order, entering the 2013 campaign with 63 runs scored and 73 RBI.

“I can’t say enough about Reilly’s leadership skills,” said Mollica Goldstein. “She’s the pump of our infield and she’s the one that gets them going. She never makes excuses and is always accountable.”

Junior Carolyn Miller, who has started all 72 of her career appearances, will once again be a fixture at third base, while Ashleigh Rutherford ’16 takes over at shortstop. Alyssa Sherwill ’15 and Brianna Cook ’16 could both see time at first, while Kelsey Ayers ’15 and Sarah McKay ’16 vie for time behind the plate.

“This core of infielders provides great depth and versatility,” Mollica Goldstein said. “The chemistry amongst different combinations is seamless and their willingness to move around to different positions has been selfless.”

Hitting .311 a year ago, Miller finished tied for the team lead with four homers, while Ayers garnered second team all-conference recognition after hitting .338 with six doubles, five triples and 14 stolen bases. Enjoying an 11-game hit streak during the middle of the season, she also pieced together an impressive eight-game stretch at the end of the year, hitting .400 with six runs scored.

“Carolyn hit in the heart of the order the past two years,” said Mollica Goldstein. “She has a rocket for an arm and now has a calm presence about her in the field. Kelsey is a triple threat offensively [slapping, hitting, bunting], is a good base stealer and should factor prominently at the top of our lineup. She is that spark plug that is infectious with her teammates, while Alyssa’s drive to be more consistent day in and day out has been evident every practice. She can drive the ball as far as anyone and I am excited to see her execution at practice continue to transfer into games.”

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OUTFIELD
Bursting onto the scene as a first-year, Donna Leet ’15 started all 42 games in right field, picking up first team All-NESCAC and NEISCA honors, along with NFCA All-Region accolades. Hitting .410 during the Jeffs’ spring break trip, Leet later enjoyed a 15-game hit streak in which she batted .537 with a .569 on-base and a .889 slugging percentage, with 24 RBI, 21 runs scored, six doubles, three homers and two triples.

Ranked fifth in the NESCAC in hits (58) and runs batted in (41), she broke the squad’s RBI record with 18 games to play, finishing the year hitting .408 with a team-high 14 doubles, 13 stolen bases and 39 runs scored.

“Donna has done a better job of being a leader. She leads by example, but has emerged more vocally,” said Mollica Goldstein. “She is one of our most consistent hitters. It really is fun to watch her at practice and in games. I like to call her Paul O’Neill. No matter where she is, she is always practicing her swing.”

Joining Leet in the outfield are veterans Kaitlin Silkowitz ’14, Idalia Friedson ’15 and Karina Kossler ’15. Crossing the plate a program-best 46 times last season, Silkowitz hit .379, while successfully nabbing 21-of-24 bases. Friedson batted .310 with a .526 slugging percentage in 2012, racking up nine doubles, four home runs and 29 RBI, while Kossler saw significant time in the designated player role after hitting .330 with 20 runs scored.

“Kaitlin and Idalia are gamers,” Mollica Goldstein said. “They are people you want up in pressure situations. You know they’re going to do whatever it takes to get the job done and that helps raise the bar for their teammates. Karina did a great job as our DP and she has worked hard this offseason to improve her speed and power.”