Saints Open 2013 Campaign Saturday in Clermont, FL
March 7: The St. Lawrence University softball team is set to open the 2013 campaign next week, competing in 12 games at the National Training Center spring games in Clermont, FL over the University's break. The Saints, who were tabbed to finish third in the Liberty League pre-season poll, will begin a new era under the direction of Elisa Van Kirk, who was named the new head coach in the summer of 2012.
"I feel very lucky to be working with such a great group of student athletes, as well as the staff," said Coach Van Kirk. "This preseason has flown by, and I think it is because the players come every day wanting to get better and work to 100% of their capability. They bring an incredible energy, and the hard work is such a credit to the players."
Coach Van Kirk inherited a St. Lawrence team that finished with a 20-13 record, tied for the most wins in the program's history, and was third in the Liberty League tournament. With twelve returners from last year's team, Coach Van Kirk is hopeful that the Saints will continue to work hard on improving day to day, and make a run at the conference championship come May.
"One of our team mottos is attention to detail," said Coach Van Kirk. "Paying attention to the little things, and wanting to do extra will help to make us better. A Liberty League championship is obviously one of our team goals for the season, but in the immediate, we are really striving to get 1-2% better every day. If we can do that, we will get to where we want to be."
St. Lawrence is led by a strong and experienced group of juniors and seniors, many of whom have seen a large amount of playing time since their rookie seasons. Coupled with a solid sophomore group and two talented newcomers, the Saints will look to be versatile and play off of each other's strengths.
"We have extremely strong junior and senior classes that will lead us this season," said Coach Van Kirk. "Those two groups lead by example and really complement each other well. The sophomores will also continue to make positive contributions, and with the addition of two first-years, I'm really looking forward to watching the underclassmen continue to grow as the season progresses."
In the infield, the Saints return All-Conference selections Leslie Stratton, a junior, and senior Liz McGinley. Stratton ranked second on the team in field percentage last season, playing in the middle infield or third base. McGinley, who will be a primary pitching option, split time at first base and held a .970 fielding percentage.
Also returning to the mix in the infield are sophomore Aisha O'Connor and seniors Lauren Weisbarth and Chelsea Cavellier. O'Connor earned honorable mention last season for her efforts in the infield and was also named to the All-Tournament team. Weisbarth showed agility at third base, but could see time in the middle infield as well. Cavellier, a three-time All-Conference honoree, will anchor the infield for the third straight year at catcher, while sophomore Marissa Boyer and first-year student Abby Hewett could also see time behind the plate.
Sophomore Brady Cooper, who started several games in the outfield last season, will see time in the infield this year, along with rookie Audra Caine.
Junior Becky Allen, an honorable mention selection last season, leads a solid group of outfielders, but could also be used in the infield. Junior Caroline Kieltyka, who saw the majority of her playing time at first base last season, will be transitioned to the outfield, along with Caine, Boyer, and juniors Cailyn Welsh and Natasha Bell.
Each player in both the infield and outfield positions brings different strengths that will allow for versatility. Meanwhile, the Saints return both pitchers from last season in McGinley and first team All-Conference honoree Kyle Plimpton. McGinley finished the season with a 2.86 ERA and was first in the league among active pitchers in the homeruns allowed category, giving up just one the entire season.
Plimpton had a stellar rookie year, setting single-season records for strikeouts as well as saves. The Williamsville, NY native pitched St. Lawrence's first-ever perfect game where she struck out the first 17 batters she faced. Cooper and O'Connor could also be called to the mound.
Offensively, St. Lawrence returns the top six hitters from last season, four of which batted over .300. "Our lineup has a lot of potential," said Coach Van Kirk. "We have all different kinds of hitters from power to contact to slappers. It gives us a lot of ways to score."
The Saints are competing in the NTC spring games for the first time and will face 11 different opponents from different regions and states, including UT Dallas, Wesleyan and Case Western Reserve. The level of competition should prove a healthy challenge for the squad, which will open the season on Saturday against Manhattanville at 3:00 in Clermont, FL.
"We want to continue to challenge ourselves, and we will be able to do just that in Florida," said Coach Van Kirk. "The level of competition we will face on this trip will be high, but we have prepared the best we can, and are looking forward to getting on the field."