Softball 2013 Season Outlook
The 2013 Wilmington University softball team is coming off a program record 18 win Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference season, but first year head coach Lauren Rizzo wants to see the regular season success the program has had over the past few seasons turn into deep postseason runs.
Rizzo inherits a team that went 26-25 overall, earning the CACC’s fourth seed in the tournament with an 18-8 conference record. The Wildcats return nine letterwinners in 2013, six of which saw significant time as a starter.
Joining Rizzo in the dugout is first year assistant Beth Weaver. After a successful four year career on the diamond at Liberty University, Weaver looks to instill her offensive knowledge into an already experienced lineup.
“Her knowledge of the game and physical abilities are second to none,” Rizzo said of her assistant. “She is a great teacher of the game, focusing on our teams’ hitters, but is a huge help in all aspects. The contributions of Beth this preseason will show up immediately.”
Softball can be dominated 43 feet from home plate and the Wildcats have all four starting pitchers return who recorded the most strikeouts and the second best earned run average in the CACC last year.
Former CACC Pitcher of the Year and 2012 First Team All-CACC senior ace Katie Warrington heads the four armed staff for her senior season while sophomore Chelsea Botsch, senior Jillian Stafford, and junior Danielle Griffin will all see ample time inside the circle this year. Last year, the staff held a 2.25 ERA in 339 innings, striking out a league leading 314 batters (6.48 per seven innings).
The lineup returns five starters from a season ago, including last year’s other two All-CACC performers in centerfielder Shelby Thompson and utility player Stafford. Thompson joined Warrington on the First Team and will again be called upon to set the table for the middle of the order. Stafford, named Honorable Mention last year, will also play first base when she is not called to pitch. Also returning to the starting lineup and cover the left side of the infield are seniors Christin Headley and Brooke Berger, as well as sophomore catcher Rachel Painter.
Senior transfer Skye Boris will look to carry the offensive load in the middle of the lineup while freshmen Brook Ash and Rice Fazio will cover the corner outfield position. Redshirt freshman Cambria Ziemba will step in at second base, filling in for the five letterwinners that were lost from last year’s squad.
Freshmen Ashley Witte will be called upon in pinch hitting situations while junior Meghan Logullo will platoon in left field and come on late as a defensive specialist.
“We return three All-CACC players in Warrington, Thompson, and Stafford, but we are going to need others to step up nicely to succeed,” Rizzo said. “Rachel Painter, along with the timely addition of Delaware State transfer Skye Boris, will handle our talented pitching staff behind the play. I’m also looking for seniors Brooke Berger and Christin Headley to step up tremendously, wanting to finish their career on top. We are going to count on new freshmen starters Brook Ash and Cambria Ziemba heavily to produce this season, as they both bring new dimensions to our team.”
Rizzo, aided by the effort of former head coach Erin Harvey, wrapped up her 2012 recruiting class this summer by bringing in a total of seven freshmen for the future, as Jordyn Huhnke, Emily Nowell, and Samantha Subda will also battle for playing time in their first collegiate season.
The team earned a spot in the CACC Tournament for the sixth time in the past eight years last year, earning the number four seed after recording a program best 18-8 regular season conference record. But the Wildcats’ season came to an abrupt end on the first day of the CACC Tournament, as they dropped their first two decisions. With all the returners back for another season, the Wildcats were picked to finish third in the 2013 CACC Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
“Every year our team expectation is to win a conference championship, but the goal is more heightened this season due to our talent,” Rizzo concluded. “I think the third place rankings is a good place for us because we are definitely one of the top teams in the league. We just have to play like it. This year we need to get over the hump and beat the conference leaders and make a solid run in the tournament. There can be no excuses this season for not being an elite team. We have the talent. We have the work ethic. We have the confidence. We just have to get it done.”