Holy Cross Softball Set To Start 2007 Season

Feb. 28, 2007

By Megan Cross
Special to GoHolyCross.com

WORCESTER, Mass. - The Holy Cross softball team returns 11 players and welcomes six newcomers for the 2007 season. The Crusaders will look to the experience of the upperclassmen to help the team improve upon last year's 9-35 record.

"The upperclassmen have the game experience," said second year head coach Peter Maneggia. "They need to develop consistency from the beginning to the end of the game and play strong from the first pitch to the last pitch."

With softball being a sport that relies heavily on the pitchers, Maneggia knows that the key to success is to utilize his entire pitching staff so that he does not have to rely on just one person to win games for the team. He looks to use the pitchers more like a baseball team instead of the traditional softball approach.

"We have six pitchers and we need them to throw strikes to help keep us in the ball game," Maneggia said. "Not one pitcher has to carry the team, each one has their own strengths and we need to try to utilize all six pitchers as needed in different situations."

The pitchers include seniors Lindsey MacNeil (Plymouth, N.H.) and Sheena Stangler (Bremerton, Wash.) sophomore Natalie Cruz (Manalapan, N.J.) and freshmen Melissa Pivonka (Tolland, Conn.), Amanda Audette (New Bedford, Mass.) and Julie Girard (Montague, Mass.). MacNeil pitched 83.2 innings in 13 games recording 35 strikeouts and three wins in 2006. Cruz pitched 40.2 innings giving the Crusaders two wins while Stangler pitched 52.2 innings in six games last season. Pivonka, Audette and Girard expect to give more depth to the pitching staff this season.

With the pitching staff in place, Holy Cross looks to build a solid defense behind the mound.

"The next step is to improve our defense," Maneggia said. "I don't only need them to do their job, but I need them to make the ordinary extraordinary."

Behind the pitcher will be returning starters Kelly O'Neil (White Plains, N.Y.) who will be a vital part of the defense in her junior year after playing in and starting 42 games in 2006 between first base and designator hitter. Caitlin Deitz (Delmar, N.Y.) looks to fill in the deep holes of the field again after playing in 32 games with 24 starts between second base and shortstop her sophomore year. Jayme Elliott (Gardena, Calif.) is expected to lead the outfield from the center with her experience in 40 games with 40 starts last year. Amanda Webster (Kenmore, N.Y.) will look to see innings at first base or behind the plate after starting 36 games her sophomore year. Pitchers, Cruz, MacNeil and Stangler will also put time in at short stop, third base and outfield respectively.

Senior Beth Richard (Fitchburg, Mass.) expects to be a big impact in the infield after gaining experience in 33 games last year. Rory Ogden (Latham, N.Y.) will look to see more time behind the plate after catcher Heather Johnson graduated last year. Odgen saw action in 22 games with 19 starts in her sophomore year. Juniors Mallory Centonze (Victor, N.Y.) and Erica McKeever (Brookfield, Conn.) will build on their experience from last year to help fill in the outfield after graduating Megan Lally who started 40 games in right field last year.

The six freshmen joining the Crusaders in 2007 include infielder Mandy Correale (Peabody, Mass.) pitchers Girard, Audette and Pivonka, outfielder Elizabeth Foley (Charlton, Mass.) and catcher Courtney Nealon (Rochester, N.Y.).

In order to win games, offense must come along with the defense. Coach Maneggia is not looking for homerun hitters, he wants base runners. With Elliot and Cruz returning after ranking fifth and eighth in the league in stolen bases last year the Crusaders know that if they can get runners on the bases they can make things happen.

"Offensively we need to put the ball in play more, and put pressure on the opposing defense," Maneggia said. "The hits don't need to be big hits. We just need to put the ball in play. We need to apply pressure to the opposing team on the base path and score anyway we can."

The Crusaders look to build on last year's performances at the plate after four of the returning players held a .231 or higher batting average. Elliot was second on the team with a .295 batting average hitting three doubles and six RBI. Stangler had three triples, two doubles, a homerun and 20 runs batted in while maintaining a .394 slugging average. Cruz had 32 hits including four doubles, one triple, two homeruns and 15 RBI. O'Neil tied first on the team with four homeruns and was second on the team with seven doubles.

Maneggia will look to put the pitching, defense, and offense together to improve upon the 2006 season.

"Most of all we need to improve as a group and realize that we need everyone because not one person can carry us," Maneggia said.

The Crusaders travel to Orlando, Fla. March 3 to face Jackson State in the first of 12 games. They return north to play a non-conference doubleheader at Harvard March 17 (12:00 p.m.) and will play their season home-opener March 28 as they host Boston College in a doubleheader starting at 3:00 p.m.