Young softball team set for breakout season

Despite graduating eight seniors last season, the softball team believes its young roster has enough talent to be a contender in the competitive New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). The Lions finished their 2007 campaign with a 16-16 record, going 6-12 in the NJAC.

“We are a really young team with an incredible amount of potential,” sophomore pitcher Ashley Minervini said. “We weren’t ranked that high in preseason NJAC predictions, but we would rather be a surprise contender. Our team is bursting with talent and is improving each day.”

The team was picked to finish sixth in the 10-team conference in a preseason poll of head coaches.

Head coach Sally Miller, returning for her 13th season, said that even though her team is young, they are not inexperienced. First baseman Christina Lizzi and catcher Lauren Musacchia, the team’s only seniors, will offer veteran leadership.

Lizzi enters the season sporting a career .321 batting average while Musacchia was behind the plate for a career-high 23 games in 2007. They will be joined by a group of sophomores who emerged as key contributors last season.

As freshmen in 2007, shortstop Ellen Seavers and outfielder Danielle Hagel earned All-Conference honorable mentions. Seavers started every game for the Lions and finished third in batting with a .300 average. Hagel led the team in batting (.395), on-base percentage (.452) and runs scored (17).

“I learned so much last year and I gained a lot of experience,” Hagel said. “Heading into the season with a year under my belt, I am definitely more confident.”

Sophomore Rachel Greeby will return to third base after a successful rookie season, while freshmen Kathy Sikora and Colleen Cawley will get action at second base.

The Lions will also look for an important contribution from Minervini, who leads a pitching staff otherwise composed of new players.

“Being the only returning pitcher from last season carries a lot of weight, but we have three great freshmen pitchers who I am glad are there to back me up and vice versa,” Minervini said.

According to Miller, freshman pitcher Alex Sietsma will also see time as a starter. Miller believes the 2008 team has a positive attitude that will pay dividends on the field.

“We have a great group of kids that really understand what it takes to win,” she said.

Hagel also believes the Lions have great chemistry.

“I’ve never been on a team that gets along as well as we do,” she said. “I see us doing very well this year, and I couldn’t be any more excited.”

The Lions will open the season with a doubleheader against the University of Rochester on Saturday in Clermont, Fla. The team will play its first NJAC opponent on March 29 in a doubleheader at home against Ramapo College.