2013 Softball Season Preview
Feb. 28, 2013
The Lafayette softball team will open the 2013 season on Friday, competing in the N.C State Wolfpack Challenge in Raleigh, N.C. The three-day event features games against Kansas, Stony Brook, North Carolina A&T and North Carolina State.
Lafayette softball head coach Meaghan Asselta is confident as the team prepares to open the 2013 season. The Leopards are coming off a 14-40 campaign that saw them finish in fourth place in the Patriot League standings. Lafayette's 7-13 conference clip placed it in the four-team Patriot League Tournament field for the first time since 2009 where the Leopards promptly eliminated No. 3 seed Colgate before losing to eventual runner-up Army.
This season Asselta feels like she has her players placed in the right spots to be successful.
"I'm much more confident this year, especially with the infield," Asselta said. "We finally have people in the positions that they were recruited to play. We're looking for a lot more consistency in the infield and the outfield and we feel like we're set up to see that."
Asselta has said that the team's biggest question mark is the offense.
"I'm concerned about the bats. Having so many young people in lineup, we know that hitting takes longer than the defensive side of things for freshmen to make adjustments and get in the groove," Asselta explained. "We've told the freshmen that they are all sophomores in terms of experience after having gone through the fall season and that they are no longer newbies on the team."
PITCHERS AND CATCHERS
As she enters her third season with the team, junior Melissa Robinson has been the program's top pitcher every season she has stepped into the circle at Metzgar Fields. Robinson was the team's workhorse in 2012, throwing 240.1 innings on her way to All-Patriot League Second-Team and All-Patriot League Tournament honors. Robinson finished the season with a 2.65 ERA and 13 victories, the second most in a season at Lafayette. She struck out 102 batters, the fifth most in a season. In terms of career numbers, Robinson is eighth in wins (19), sixth in strikeouts (145) and fifth in ERA (2.71).
Unlike in previous seasons, Robinson will be batting in the lineup when she is pitching or if she takes her place at third base. Robinson hit for a .205 average and drove in three runs with 17 hits in 83 at-bats.
"Our freshmen will definitely add some depth," Asselta said. "For us to be a more consistent team and compete in the Patriot League, we need to utilize all of our pitchers."
At the other end of the battery are freshman Jenna Kulback and junior captain Rachel Trupp. Neither has much collegiate experience. Kulback is in her first year with the program while Trupp has played just nine games in her first two seasons. Freshmen Allison Brown and Stephanie Schreiber will also compete for playing time behind the plate. The Leopards will look to replace Stacey Dorn who started 52 games last season and 131 in her career.
At first base, Brown is the likely starter and cleanup hitter in her rookie season. At Northern Valley Regional High School, Brown managed a career .422 batting average, earning all-league honors for three years while collecting All-Bergen County laurels in two seasons.
Kristen Berger is coming off a strong rookie campaign at shortstop and she will make the move to second base for her sophomore campaign. Berger, who was selected to the All-Patriot League Tournament Team, started all 54 games and hit for a .281 average. She is the team's top returning hitter in terms of average. The Garden State native had nine doubles, a triple and drove in four runs while hitting for a .328 average in Lafayette's 20 Patriot League games. Berger spent 35 games in the lead-off spot as a freshman and is expected to handle that role this season.
Hitting behind Berger is lefty slap hitter Brittany Paul. Paul was recruited as a shortstop and will take over at the infield's key position. Paul was part of Class AA Section 3 Championship teams in 2008 and 2011 at her high school Cicero-North Syracuse while earning first-team all-conference her final three seasons.
The hot corner looks to be a busy place. Allen is the likely starter there and will be challenged by freshman Alex Jacinto. Robinson will also spend time at third when she isn't pitching and will probably hit in the No. 5 spot.
Senior captain Jordan Parsons will hold down the left field spot, making the move back to the outfield after playing shortstop in her sophomore season and second base all of her junior campaign. Parsons hit for a .259 average in 2012, driving in 20 runs with eight doubles and a homer. Parsons is expected to hit in the three hole. Defensively, she will need to fill the gap left by the graduation of Gwen Turner who started all 54 games last season and 191 games in her outfield career. Turner was the team's leading hitter with a .359 average.
Sophomore Kelly Lallis is competing with Amy Gebhardt for playing time in centerfield. Lallis played in 36 games, used primarily as a pinch runner and a defensive replacement. Gebhardt was the full-time starter in centerfield, garnering Academic All-Patriot League laurels while starting 50 of 51 games.
If Lallis isn't starting in center, she will be competing with Allison Thomas for the starting spot in rightfield. That position was left vacant by the graduation of Carly Feiro. Thomas is an all-conference selection who finished her 2011 high school season with a .444 batting average with three home runs and 25 RBI. Thomas will also be used in the designated hitter role if she's not in right field.
Spencer spent her collegiate career playing at Longwood University where she was a starting pitcher and saw time at first base. She comes to Lafayette from First Colonial High School in Virginia Beach, Va. where she served as a pitching coach. Spencer is filling the same role for the Leopards, in addition to working with the catchers.
Chris LaTempa also joins the Leopards as an assistant, focusing on both the outfield and offensive strategies. LaTempa graduated magna cum laude from Lafayette in 2010. He is in his third year as Assistant Director of Admissions at Lafayette and is also a first-year student advisor.
Following the Wolfpack Challenge, Lafayette will play in two other tournaments before holding its home opener in late March. The Leopards will compete in the Towson Invitational on March 8-10 against Morgan State, Brown and the host Tigers.
A doubleheader at Penn on March 16 will serve as a segue before the team travels to Dover, Del. for the Sean Savage Tournament. Lafayette will face Brown, Princeton and host Delaware State.
The home opener is also the Patriot League opener for the Leopards on March 30-31, as they welcome Holy Cross in a four-game series. Following a doubleheader at Temple and a doubleheader at home versus Delaware State, the team will be on the road for 12 contests (six dates), travelling to Lehigh, Delaware, Marist and Bucknell. The team then returns home for a two-game set against St. Peter's before hitting the road again to face Wagner and a four-game series at Colgate.
The Leopards will wrap up the regular season with a 10-game homestand versus Rider, Villanova, Army and Rutgers. The Patriot League Tournament is scheduled for May 9-11 with all four qualifying teams convening at the site of the highest seed.