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Softball Kicks Off Season This Weekend at Campus Suites Spartan Classic
Lauren Brummell earned Second-Team All-Conference honors in 2009.
The UMBC softball team has earned a berth in the four-team America East Championship in each of the last four seasons.
But in 2010, the Retrievers have their sights set higher.
“My expectations are not to just make the playoffs this year,” ninth-year head coach Joe French said. “I really think we can win the conference tournament and be in the NCAA’s.”
The Retrievers return all but one starter from a deep squad that posted a 34-21 record, batted .285 and scored a league-best 265 runs a year ago, led by three-time first-team all-conference selection Amanda Fefel.
A career .337 hitter, Fefel enters the season 10 home runs shy of the school record of 40. She batted a career-high .381 in 2009 and led the America East with 44 RBI.
“Fefel is one of the best hitters in the conference,” French said.
Fefel saw the majority of her innings in the field at first base last season, but the senior will slide across the diamond to third this year to replace the departed Krista Kearns.
Junior Malorie Weller split her time between first base and the outfield a year ago, but French would like to keep her strong glove in the infield in 2010. In her first season at UMBC, Weller batted .304 and scored 28 runs while providing some pop at the top of the lineup with 13 doubles, seven homers and 30 RBI.
After a shoulder injury forced her to miss the entire 2008 campaign, junior Lauren O’Malley batted .304 with nine extra-base hits and 20 RBI. She will spell Weller at first base but will likely see the majority of her time as the Retrievers’ designated player.
Junior Lauren Brummell is entrenched at second base after a stellar 2009 campaign that culminated in an all-conference second-team nod. She batted .368 with a team-high 63 hits and a school-record 20 doubles as the Retrievers’ leadoff hitter.
“I expect Brummell and Weller to be our table-setters at the top of the lineup before the big guns come up,” French said.
Senior Jessica Vetock has made 102 starts at shortstop over the last two seasons and has provided steady defense and strong leadership on the field, but she will look to improve at the plate, as she batted just .127 in 71 at-bats last season.
“Vetock is a heady player who is always one step ahead on defense,” French said.
After seeing limited action in her initial campaign, hard-working sophomore Angela Yannone had a great fall and will receive significantly more playing time this season as Fefel’s primary backup at third base.
Freshman Ashley Scroggin, who French describes as a “star in the making,” will also push for time at both corner infield positions, while classmate Shari Beavers, the three-time Cumberland Times-News Player of the Year will play all over the field in a super-utility role.
Senior Amanda Page made 48 starts behind the plate in her first season at UMBC after an outstanding junior college career, but French hopes to be able to rest her a little more this season. Sophomore Becca Bernheimer has a strong arm and was tabbed to the America East all-rookie team last year after batting .269 in limited at-bats, while Yannone could earn some innings here, as well.
Thompson came on strong in conference play last year, batting .422 in 17 games against America East opponents, and finished the season at a career-high .294 overall with 10 extra-base hits. If she picks up where she left off in 2009 and avoids the cold spell she suffered at the beginning of the season, she will slide into the middle of the lineup and provide protection for Fefel and Culotta.
Another streaky hitter, Culotta was the opposite of Thompson, starting off hot in 2009 before cooling off during America East action. She finished with a .260 average, 14 extra-base hits and 31 RBI, which ranked second on the team, and she also walked a team-high 23 times.
“I expect Julia and Emily to pack some punch this year,” French said. “I think it’s their time. I told them they’re not complementary players anymore.”
Pronobis is in great shape, and French believes she could have a breakout year in 2010. After hovering around the
Sophomores Amanda Damiano and Ashley Carver will serve as backups at the corner outfield positions, as will Beavers. The trio, along with Yannone, Scroggin, sophomore Kaela Mason and freshman Heather Brown, will also push O’Malley and Fefel for at-bats at designated player.
An America East All-Rookie selection, Mason made just 12 starts last season but was clutch off the bench, picking up a team-high six pinch hits. She could get some starts at first base or in right field, as well.
Junior Amanda Barker was French’s favorite pinch runner in 2009, as she scored 10 runs off the bench.
Junior Stephanie Weigman returns as the Retrievers’ ace after a record-breaking 2009 campaign, in which she struck out a school-record 293 batters and posted a 22-16 record, becoming the first Retriever to win 20 games in a season. She enters 2010 as UMBC’s career strikeout leader, as well, with an eye-popping 434 punch-outs in just two seasons.
Brown steps in as the No. 2 starter after an outstanding prep career at nearby
“Heather Brown is a workhorse, and she swings a really good bat,” French said. “When she is pitching, I get an extra hitter in my lineup.”
Fefel then becomes the Retrievers’ third pitcher, and she will likely see most of her time as a reliever while receiving a spot start when needed. French said she thrived in the closer’s role this fall and looks forward to reprieving that job in the spring.
The Retrievers face another challenging schedule, which begins this weekend at the USC-Upstate Campus Suites Spartan Classic in
“We’re tested right off the bat,” French said.
The America East is shaping up to once again be a dog fight. The Retrievers will host all three conference tournament teams from a year ago, beginning with regular-season champion Stony Brook March 27-28. In addition, defending tournament champion