Softball Opens 2012 Campaign on Saturday with Two-Week Trip to Clermont, Fla.
Thursday, February 23, 2012 - New Castle, DE
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Located in Clermont, Fla.
National Training Center softball complex
After a 2011 season where the Wildcats got out of the gate slowly, Wilmington rebounded nicely to finish the year with a 29-21 record (17-9 CACC). This year, the Wildcats look to finally challenge for their first Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) championship, and improve upon their fourth place finish in the conference standings.
The Wildcats enter the 2012 season filled with optimism, confidence, and a sense that they should be considered a threat in the conference. Head coach Erin Harvey, as well as assistant head coach Eric Zebley, along with assistant coach Melissa Koerner are back for their sixth season working together as a staff. Lauren Rizzo joins the staff for her first season with the ‘Cats, and the group is very eager to begin what promises to be an exciting season. The reason for such a positive outlook is that the program returns ten players from last year, including seven starters, while four new members were added during recruiting in the off-season.
The pitching staff, looks to be the backbone of the team, while the infield is strong and brings a great deal of range and flexibility. In the outfield, the ‘Cats have several players who each bring a different dimension to the game. As a result, Wilmington looks to have a few potential combinations and the lineup will be adjusted to meet certain needs.
Junior pitcher Katie Warrington is the anchor of the talented and deep pitching rotation. Warrington, a captain, was the 2011 CACC Pitcher of the Year, and also earned First Team All-East Region (NCAA), Second Team NFCA All-East Region, and First Team All-CACC honors in her first season with the ‘Cats. The right-hander went 15-9 with a 0.96 ERA and set a single-season record with 230 strikeouts. Also returning to help handle the workload is sophomore Danielle Griffin, who posted a 2.72 ERA last season. With a year of experience under her belt, the coaches are looking for her to make more of an impact this season. The Wildcats added two new pitchers in recruiting to round out the pitching staff. Junior Jill Stafford (Burlington County CC/Gloucester City HS/Gloucester, NJ) went 16-4 with a 1.16 ERA last season with the Barons, and was named the Region 19 Player of the Year. A two-time All-Region 19 and All-Garden State Athletic Conference award winner, she is expected to contribute right away. Also new to the program is freshman hurler Chelsea Botsch (Smyrna HS/Smyrna, DE), who is a multiple All-State and All-Henlopen conference award winner at Smyrna High School. She led the Lady Eagles to the Delaware State Championship game this past season ,and gives Wilmington a great deal of depth in the circle.
Behind the plate, Wilmington has two options to handle the talented pitching staff. Senior Amanda Crockett returns, after handling the majority of the catching duties last season. She was second on the team with four home runs, brings a strong arm (threw out 14 would-be base stealers), and is extremely reliable defensively (.977 fielding percentage). Red-shirt freshman Rachel Painter (St. Elizabeth’s HS/New Castle, DE) joins the squad, and the coaches are eagerly awaiting her presence in the lineup. She had an outstanding beginning to the fall season last year before suffering a season-ending elbow injury just two weeks in. A former All-State selection with the Vikings, she will be a valuable addition to the team this season. Both Crockett and Painter will likely see time at first base when not handling catching duties.
The infield was both solid offensively and defensively last season, and they will be relied upon to contribute heavily on both sides of the ball again this year. Junior Brooke Berger, a captain, returns to the hot corner, and brings a solid glove and consistent bat. She led the conference in sacrifice bunts (24) last season, and was second on the squad in walks (17) and fifth in on-base percentage (.321). Also back is sophomore shortstop Christin Headley, who had an outstanding freshman campaign. She was third on the team in hitting (.304) and RBIs (23), second in runs scored (30), and led the squad in walks (22), stolen bases (12) and on-base percentage (.414). The right side of the infield will be vastly different this year, as the ‘Cats look to replace two starters. Catchers Amanda Crockett and Rachel Painter will see time at first when not behind the plate, while second base will likely be occupied by either senior captain Jessica Hassman or sophomore Kayla Carrow. Hassman is back for her fourth season, after spending the last three years in the outfield. Her leadership and willingness to leave it all out on the field will surely help the Wildcats over the long season. Carrow, a utility player, looks to improve upon a freshman year that saw her finish fifth on the team in hitting. If she can remain healthy, the coaches are expecting a breakout season.
The outfield is loaded with veteran experience, and a pair of seniors look to lead the way. Kinsley Parker is back, after a junior year where she finished fourth on the team in hitting (.296). Kristin Garvin also returns, and brings a solid set of fundamentals and a commanding presence on the defensive side of things. The coaches are counting on Parker and Garvin to be huge offensive contributors, as both possess the ability to hit for average and power. Fellow senior Jessica Hassman could also see time in the outfield, and has a relentless work ethic accompanied with a willingness to do whatever she can to help her team out. Also returning is sophomore Meghan Logullo, who has worked hard in the off-season. The coaches are expecting more from her, and the hopes are she can bring more to the table offensively, while continuing to showcase her superb defensive skills. Junior Shelby Thompson (Delaware Tech-Stanton/Hodgson Vo-Tech/Newark, DE) comes to the program after transferring from nearby Delaware Tech. She garnered All-Region 19 honors in both seasons for the Spirit, and also is a former All-State and All-Blue Hen Conference award winner. She brings a great deal of speed to the Wildcats, and is able to use that quickness to cover a great deal of ground in the outfield.
Overall, the Wildcats believe their offense is more than one-dimensional this year, a fact that they are very proud of. “This team is much more oriented on run-production than our teams have been in the past. We will not rely on only one way to score,” states Coach Harvey. “On paper we are not a very deep team, but we have jelled better together than any other team I’ve had during my tenure. The talent and drive is there, and if we can remain healthy, we are confident great things will come our way this season.”
Over the years, Wilmington has been a competitive program, but the ascension gets more difficult each year as the sport continues to flourish. CACC play has now become a springboard to elite play in the region, as the conference boasts teams consistently ranked in the NCAA Division II polls. Armed with an offense that boasts speed, consistency, and power, coupled with strong pitching, and a defense to match, the Wildcats are out to prove that they are a contender.
(Courtesy of Erin Harvey)