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The Wilkes University softball team enters the 2006 campaign with high expectations after posting a 23-17 overall record last season and appearing in the Freedom Conference playoffs for the second straight season. With a solid mix of new athletes and seasoned veterans, head coach Frank Matthews feels that this season’s team should battle for a playoff berth once again.
Leading the way for Wilkes will be 2005 Freedom Conference Player of the Year Nadine Taylor, along with 2004 and 2005 Freedom Conference Pitcher of the Year Laurie Agresti. They are joined by seven other veterans and 15 new additions that are dedicated to improving on last year’s success.
Taylor enjoyed a tremendous junior season for the Lady Colonels. The team's center fielder and leadoff hitter, she was named a second team All-America and first team Regional All-America by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. She also earned ECAC South first team honors after hitting .394 and cracking ten doubles, two triples and six homeruns. Taylor, who had a sparkling .955 fielding percentage, added 24 RBI's and 38 runs scored, while successfully stealing 17-of-19 bases.
Sophomore Alex Ingram, who hit .267 with two doubles and one triple as a freshman, is among four holdovers who will vie for time in the outfield with Taylor. Also returning are sophomore Sarah Miller and juniors Katie Orr and Shelley Pheiff. Miller had a .235 average at the plate in 31 games last spring, while Orr hit .167 in 30 games. Pheiff played in 27 contests and had a .136 average. Two newcomers, Nichole McCloskey and Sara Elliot, are also expected to figure into the outfield mix.
Agresti was also a first team Regional All-America during her sophomore season. The right-hander set a new NCAA Division III record by striking out an average of 13.2 hitters per game. She posted a 19-6 record with 12 shutout victories during the season, while also recording one perfect game and one no-hitter. In 169 innings of work Agresti allowed only 81 hits and 36 walks, while striking out a school-record 318 hitters.
Sophomore Sarah Plavchak and four rookies will push Agresti for time on the mound. Plavchak appeared in 19 games and started 17 as a freshman. She fashioned a 7-7 record with one save and a 3.71 earned run average. The freshmen include Maureen Pelot, Samantha Evanich, Kaitlyn Kormanik and Colleen Labor.
“One of the real keys for us is going to be our depth on the pitching staff,” stated Matthews. “I feel that this is one of the strength’s of our team. Hopefully, having that depth will allow us to give Laurie additional rest during the regular season in order to keep her fresh for the post-season.”
Senior Jan Nunemacher is a returning starter behind the plate for Wilkes. Nunemacher hit .274 with six doubles, three homers and 17 RBI's. Providing backup will be a trio of freshmen, Erin Plank, Heidi Sauers and Kerry Finnerty. The lone returnee in the infield is junior first baseman Julie Henry. Henry played in 32 games a season ago and hit .228 with one double, two homeruns and 11 runs batted in. Labor will also be in the mix at first base when she isn’t on the mound. Second base will be occupied by one of two rookies, Kathy Dalton or Katie DeBias. Freshmen Allison Grohol, Megan Bucher and Amanda Michaud will battle it out for the starting berth at shortstop, while Evanich and Melisa Bracone are the candidates at third base.
“We do have a high number of freshmen this season,” said Matthews. “But, they are a talented group and with the experience that we do return we feel that we are going to field a very competitive team. We want to get back to the Freedom Conference playoffs and hopefully win a conference title.”