February 28, 2008

Holy Cross Softball Set To Kick Off The 2008 Season

Feb. 28, 2008

By Jessica Cegarra
Special to GoHolyCross.com

The Holy Cross softball team returns 12 players and welcomes eight newcomers for the 2008 season. The Crusaders will look to the new coaching staff and the returning players to help the team improve upon last year's 5-39 record. "The Holy Cross softball team is taking on a new look," said first year head coach Brian Claypool. "We are working on having a more fearless, aggressive approach to the game than Holy Cross has traditionally had."

With softball being a sport that relies heavily on the pitchers, Claypool knows that the key to success is to utilize his entire pitching staff. Claypool plans to coach the pitchers at becoming a smarter pitching staff in order to achieve wins. "It is essential for the pitchers to get into good counts against the hitters and cut down on the number of walks," Claypool said. "If our pitchers can be more aggressive and trust their pitches, they will keep us in the game and give us the chance to win."

With a crew of six, the pitchers include junior Natalie Cruz (Manalapan, N.J.), sophomores Amanda Audette (New Bedford, Mass.) and Julie Girard (Montague, Mass.) freshmen Katie Alexander (Tigard, Ore.), Caitlin Belanger (Fall River, Mass.) and Erin Fleming (Townsend, Mass.). Sophomore Melissa Pivonka (Tolland, Conn.), who pitched 74 innings in 21 games last season, will miss the 2008 season due to an injury. Cruz and Audette will share the starting role, while Alexander, Belanger and Fleming will add depth to this years pitching crew.

With the pitching staff in place, the Crusaders look to build up their defense with consistent play. "I want the team to make routine plays and put a little icing on the cake with the occasional great play," says Claypool. "The key to our success defensively is to stay mentally balanced; the ground ball with one out in the first inning carries the same importance as the last out of the seventh inning."

The senior class will return five players. Amanda Webster (Kenmore, N.Y.) and Kelly O'Neil (White Plains, N.Y.) will compete for the designated hitter position and will see action at first base. All-conference player Jayme Elliott (Gardena, Calif.) will start the season in center field and is looking to be a key component offensively. Caitlin Deitz (Delmar, N.Y.) looks to compete for the second base position. Competing for the starting catcher position is Rory Ogden (Latham, N.Y.). All other Crusader returnees are looking to make a positive impact on the field. Elizabeth Foley (Charlton, Mass.) will be competing for an outfield position. Courtney Nealon (Rochester, N.Y.) will be used primarily as a hitter and Mandy Correale (Peabody, Mass.) is leading the race for the starting third baseman. Cruz, Audette, and Girard when not pitching, will contribute in other defensive positions. Cruz will be competing for a starting infield position, Audette will see time in the outfield and possibly third base, and Girard will be used as a utility player.

The first year players joining the Crusaders include outfielders Keeley Seniuk (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Sam Lenhardt (Duxbury, Mass.). Tiffany Medwid (Imperial, Pa.) and Gibson Banta (Pasadena, Calif.) will be competing for an infield position and Alyssa Olsen (Shelton, Conn.) will be looking to spend time behind the plate. Belanger and Fleming, when not pitching, will see time on the infield.

Offensively the Crusaders look to be more dynamic. Coach Claypool is looking for the team to be aggressive at the plate and make smart decisions while on the bases. "We want our hitters to be ready to attack from the first pitch of the game and not only look to hit the ball, but hit it hard," said Claypool. "If we can cut down on the strikeouts and create pressure situations for the defense, we'll be a much more dynamic team that will score more runs."

There will be a strong emphasis on teamwork this season. Coach Claypool plans to play the athlete who best fits the role necessary to achieve the most successful outcome. "There may be people who started a majority of the games last year that will have a different role this year and there may be some younger players that get their shot early," said Claypool. He plans to add a more competitive edge to practice and will give the starting role to the most worthy player. "For us to be successful, we need that constant feeling of competition at each position to keep us sharp, said Claypool. "If it's a senior, great. If it's a freshmen, great."

The upperclassmen will give the team guidance and lead by showing their desire to win says Claypool. "What we need from the freshmen and sophomores is the hunger to get out there and play. We need them to play with energy and youthful enthusiasm"

The Crusaders travel to Kissimmee, Fla. March 2 to face Sacred Heart in the first of 10 games. They travel to Washington, D.C. for a four game tournament before returning north to play a non-conference doubleheader at Boston College March 26 (3:00 p.m.) and will play their season home-opener April 8 as they host Harvard in a doubleheader starting at 3:00 p.m.