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The Wilkes University softball team will open their 2007 season on Friday when they play in the Virginia Wesleyan Tournament. The Lady Colonels will take on Lynchburg College in their opening game at 1 p.m., before finishing the day with a game against Roanoke College. The Lady Colonels will also play two games on Saturday to conclude play in the event.
Wilkes is coming off a season in which they posted a 28-15 record and claimed the Freedom Conference championship. The Lady Colonels earned the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament and garnered a 2-2 record at the East Regional. Head coach Frank Matthews has an experienced group of players to rely on as they look to repeat their efforts from a season ago.
“With the loss of just two seniors from last year’s team, most of our players have traveled this road before and knows what to expect,” explained Coach Matthews. “The squad is very excited. Mentally they are prepared and ready to play. They have their sights set high.”
Leading the way for Wilkes will be three-time Freedom Conference Pitcher of the Year, senior Laurie Agresti. Agresti was a National Fastpitch Coaches Association East Region All-American a year ago after fashioning an overall record of 15-6 with seven wins by shutout and a scant 0.76 earned run average. The right-hander struck out an average of 12.1 hitters per game and allowed the opposition to hit a mere .135 against her. Agresti enters the year ranked eighth on the NCAA Division III career strikeout list with 780. She has also averaged an amazing 12.4 strikeouts per game during her first three seasons and is in line to break the Division III record for career strikeout ratio which currently stands at 10.8.
A trio of veterans will add depth and experience to the pitching staff thanks to the return of sophomores Samantha Evanich and Kaitlyn Kormanik, and junior Sarah Plavchak. Evanich was the Freedom Conference Rookie of the Year and earned first team All-Conference honors as a freshman. She posted a 9-5 record in the circle with a 1.35 earned run average and 96 strikeouts. The Most Valuable Player of the Freedom Conference Tournament and a member of the East Regional All-Tournament Team, Evanich further established herself as a force at the plate. She blasted a school record 14 homeruns during her rookie campaign and ended the year with a .304 batting average and a .664 slugging percentage. Plavchak appeared in three games and started two as a sophomore. She fashioned a 2-1 record with one save and a 3.50 earned run average. Kaitlyn Kormanik also saw time on the mound during her rookie campaign and posted a 2-1 record.
Behind the plate, the Lady Colonels will rely on sophomore Erin Plank. Plank hit .239 with one double, one homer and eight RBI's. Sophomore Kerry Finnerty will also vie for playing time at catcher after hitting .251 in her first year. Freshman Alison Franz will provide additional backup behind the plate.
The infield returns a capable rotation of Lady Colonels, including 2006 first team All-Freedom Conference second baseman Kathy Dalton. The sophomore returns to the diamond after leading the Wilkes regulars last season with a .324 batting average from the leadoff position. Dalton registered nine doubles, two triples, and two homeruns during her rookie season. She was the team leader in stolen bases with eight and finished the season with a .946 fielding percentage.
Dalton is joined by Julie Henry at first base, who returns for her senior season. Henry posted a .929 fielding percentage for the 2006 campaign and compiled a .258 batting average after amassing one double, two homeruns, and 11 runs batted in. Sophomore Colleen Labor will share the first base responsibility with Henry, while acting as a reserve on the pitching staff as well.
Middle infield will fall to the competent hands of sophomore Amanda Michaud and rookie Gina Stefanelli. Michaud saw action in 11 games last season, including five as a starter, during which she acquired a .917 fielding percentage. Stefanelli looks to defend the Wilkes infield from the shortstop and second base positions.
Third base will be occupied by veterans Evanich and sophomore Melisa Bracone. Bracone started 34 games a season ago and hit .293 with six doubles, four homeruns, and 19 runs batted in.
The Lady Colonels have a great deal of depth in the outfield thanks to the return of seven veterans and the addition of two newcomers. Junior Alex Ingram hit .297 as a sophomore and started 15 of the 26 games she appeared in. Also returning are seniors Shelley Pheiff and Katie Orr, along with junior Sarah Miller. Pheiff had a .240 average at the plate in 27 games last spring, while Orr hit .156 in 25 games. Miller played in 11 contests and had a .368 average. Sophomores Nichole McCloskey and Sarah Elliot will also push for playing time in the outfield after hitting .250 and .271 respectively a year ago. Kormanik, who had two hits in five plate appearances in 2006, is also expected to see time in the outfield. Two newcomers, Alyssa Ciesla and Amanda Shingler, will also figure into the outfield mix.
Although Coach Matthews’ strategy involves looking at the season one game at a time, the Wilkes University softball team is focused on a specific goal. “The goal of the season is to get back to the NCAA Tournament. We have the personnel to get there. Now it’s just a matter of effort.”