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The Wilkes University softball team will open their 2008 season on Friday and Saturday, February 29 and March 1, when they travel to Virginia Beach, VA, to participate in the Beach Blast hosted by Virginia Wesleyan College.
The Lady Colonels will take on Rowan University at 9 a.m. on Friday and Lynchburg College at 3 p.m. that same day. The squad will then square off with Albright College on Saturday at 11 a.m. and Neumann College on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Wilkes is coming off a season in which they fashioned an overall record of 24-13. The Lady Colonels advanced to the Freedom Conference championship game before falling 6-3 to rival King’s College.
One of the question marks the team faces is how they will cope without the services of graduated pitcher Laurie Agresti. Agresti was a four-time Freedom Conference Pitcher of the Year and two-time All-American for the Lady Colonels and set a Division III record by averaging 12.39 strikeouts per game during her four seasons.
Wilkes has four pitchers who will look to fill the avoid, including senior Sarah Plavchak, juniors Kaitlyn Kormanik and Maureen Pelot, and freshman Lindsay Behrenshausen. Plavchak and Kormanik both saw limited duties last season, while Pelot missed the last two seasons due to an injury.
“We don’t have that one pitcher this season that we know we can throw out there as a stopper,” commented head coach Frank Matthews. “However, I feel that this group of pitchers is more than capable of keeping us competitive in every game we play.”
Experience will not be a factor behind the plate thanks to the return of starter and first team All-Freedom Conference selection Erin Plank. Plank, a junior, hit .313 last season with seven doubles, one homerun and 14 runs batted in. Junior Kerry Finnerty is also back after appearing in 22 games last year and hitting .268 with a pair of doubles. Sophomore Alison Frantz, who saw playing time in 15 games and hit .286 as a freshman, rounds out the trio of players who will push for time.
The infield features four returning veterans, all of whom started at times last season. Sophomore Gina Stefanelli earned first team All-Conference honors last year after playing in 36 games and hitting .350 with six doubles, seven homers and 27 runs batted in. Junior second baseman Kathy Dalton was a second team All-Conference selection in 2007. Dalton hit .250 with seven doubles and one triple. Junior Melisa Bracone started all 30 games she appeared in last year at third base and hit .330 with six doubles and three homeruns. Junior Colleen Labor started 17 of the 31 games she played in at first base and had an outstanding .986 fielding percentage. Labor will battle it out with freshman Kristy Ordile for the starting nod at first base this spring.
Senior Alex Ingram returns to anchor the outfield from her center field position. Ingram hit .247 last season with four doubles and one homerun. She also stole a team-leading nine bases during the campaign. Also back are juniors Sarah Elliott and Sarah Miller, and sophomore Alyssa Ciesla. Elliott hit .220 in 19 games, while Miller had a .189 batting average and appeared in 25 contests. Ciesla saw time in nine game and had a .125 average during her freshman season. Kormanik, along with freshmen Cori Saltzer and Shaina Vernitsky, will also figure into the outfield mix.
“I feel that this team will have solid pitching and will be solid defensively,” said Matthews. “We need to improve offensively from last season in order to be more successful. Our goals will remain the same as they were last season, we want to win 25 games and the Freedom Conference championship.”