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Fourth-Seeded Retrievers Take on No. 1 Albany at America East Softball Championships
ALBANY, N.Y.--The fourth-seeded UMBC softball team (24-27, 12-9 AEC) take on top-seeded and three-time defending champion Albany (32-15, 16-5 AEC) at 1 p.m. Thursday on the first day of the America East Championships. The Retrievers earned a berth in the four-team double-elimination tournament via a sweep at Maine last weekend.
The 2008 America East Softball Championship
Thursday, May 8
Game #1: #1Albany vs. #4 UMBC, 1 p.m.
Game #2: #2 Boston U. vs. #3 Stony Brook, 3:30 p.m.
Friday, May 9
Game #3: Winner Game #1 vs. Winner Game #2, 11 a.m.
Game #4: Loser Game #1 vs. Loser Game #2, 1:30 p.m.
Game #5: Loser Game #3 vs. Winner Game #4, 4 p.m.
Saturday, May 10
Game #6: Winner Game #3 vs. Winner Game #5, 12 p.m.
Game #7 (If Neccessary): Winner Game #6 vs. Loser Game #6, 2:30 p.m.
Retrievers at America East Championships
* UMBC advances to the America East Championshps for the third year in a row. Last season the Retrievers’ earned the second seed with a 13-8 conference record. UMBC defeated No. 3 Hartford twice but lost to No. 4 Albany twice, including in the championship game.
* The Retrievers were picked to finish third in the 2008 preseason poll. UMBC went 12-9 in America East action and enters the four-team double-elimination tournament as the fourth seed. The 12-9 record is the Retrievers’ second-best conference mark in five seasons of America East competition, following 2007’s 13-8 record.
* UMBC faces top-seeded Albany in the first game of the championships. The Retrievers were 1-2 against the Great Danes during the regular season. UMBC went a combined 2-7 against the three teams in the tournament, sweeping losing all three to No. 2 Boston University and dropping two of three to No. 3 Stony Brook.
UMBC VS. ALBANY: Despite winning just one of three games against the Great Danes, the Retrievers batted .298. Albany edged UMBC, 3-2, in game one, and the teams split the doubleheader, with the Retrievers winning 6-1 and the Great Danes winning 9-4. Four Retrievers hit home runs in the series, and sophomore Amanda Fefel drove in five runs. UMBC is 5-13 all-time against Albany.
UMBC VS. BOSTON UNIVERSITY: The Retrievers struggled against the Terriers in the three-game sweep, batting just .237 and allowing 5.0 runs per game. Senior catcher Kali Shirk led the Retrievers in the series with a .500 batting average (5-for-10). UMBC is 3-12 all-time against BU.
UMBC VS. STONY BROOK: The Retrievers batted just .247 against the Seawolves while dropping two of three games. Four Retrievers homered, led by senior second baseman Dana Shepherd, who batted .556 (5-for-9). UMBC is 9-8 all-time against Stony Brook.
HOT STREAK: UMBC enters the America East Championships having won three straight and six of its last nine games. The Retrievers have outscored their opponents, 40-18, during that stretch.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Retrievers went 9-2 on the road in America East action this season, their best road record against league opponents since joining the conference in 2004.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior catcher Kali Shirk was named America East Player of the Week on Monday after batting .556 (10-for-18) and slugging .889 with four runs scored and four RBI in the final week of the regular season. She produced two three-hit games, including the regular-season finale at Maine, when she went 3-for-4 with a homer, three RBI, two runs scored and a walk. Shirk went 6-for-11 with two home runs in the Maine series, leading the Retrievers to a three-game sweep that clinched an America East Tournament berth.
STEPPING UP WHEN IT COUNTS: The Retrievers are batting 42 points better in America East games than in non-conference games (.286 vs. .244) and have scored 1.73 more runs per game against league opponents (4.45 vs. 2.72). Similarly, UMBC pitchers are holding conference batters to a .230 batting average, as opposed to .261 for non-conference foes, and the Retrievers have allowed 0.66 less runs to America East rivals than non-league opponents (2.73 vs. 3.39).
STEPPING UP WHEN IT COUNTS, PART II: Three Retrievers are batting better than .360 against America East opponents, led by senior second baseman Dana Shepherd, who ranks second in the conference with a .406 average. In addition, senior first baseman Ashley Gray (.380) and senior catcher Kali Shirk (.368) rank among the league leaders. In the circle, freshman Stephanie Weigman boasts a 1.82 ERA in America East games and has held league foes to a .211 batting average in 69.1 innings of work.
EXTRA, EXTRA: Senior second baseman Dana Shepherd broke UMBC’s career extra-base hits record last weekend when she hit a triple and a home run in Saturday’s doubleheader at Maine, giving her 80 in four years. The previous record of 79 was held by Lisa Boone (2000-03).
GUNNING ‘EM DOWN: Senior catcher Kali Shirk leads the America East in catching runners trying to steal this season, as she has gunned down 20 attempted base thieves.
450 for French: Head coach Joe French picked up his 450th career victory on April 12 with a 2-1 victory over Stony Brook. French has coached for 15 years at three different schools, winning 95 games in four seasons at Mansfield University, 119 games in four years at SUNY-Geneseo and 226 in seven years at UMBC, and he is the Retrievers’ all-time winningest coach.
BICENTENNIAL: Seniors Dana Shepherd and Kali Shirk are two of just seven Retrievers ever with 200 or more career hits. Shepherd currently ranks fourth all-time with 237, while Shirk is seventh at 213. They are just the second pair of classmates to reach the milestone, joining Carrie Lycett and Amy Wolff (1994-97). Sophomore Amanda Fefel is halfway there, as she recorded her 100th career hit last weekend at Maine.
WEIGMAN’S WHIFFS: Freshman pitcher Stephanie Weigman has struck out 138 batters this season, setting a UMBC rookie record. Her total is the third-best in a single-season in Retriever history, surpassing teammate Ashley Gray’s 135 in 2007.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Senior second baseman Dana Shepherd has hit seven home runs in America East games, including one against every conference opponent except Vermont this season.
BRING OUT THE BROOMS: UMBC swept three conference opponents this season - Hartford, Binghamton and Maine. The Retrievers were the only team to sweep the Black Bears and did it in the final weekend of the season. Pitchers Ashley Gray and Stephanie Weigman held Maine - the league’s best-hitting team - to a .154 average in three games.
INJURY REPORT: Junior utility player Krista Kearns returned last weekend from a broken wrist suffered at Hartford in the first game of America East play, while junior Alison Duff broke her hand sliding into a base at Delaware last week. Sophomore outfielder Lauren O’Malley has missed the entire season while recovering from shoulder surgery.