Feb. 15, 2006
Lehigh was selected to win the Patriot League softball title again this year, having been crowned League champions the past two seasons. The Mountain Hawks received 50 points and 10 first-place votes in a preseason poll of Patriot League head coaches and sports information directors, who can not vote for their own team. Coming in second place in the poll was Army with 39 points and the remaining two first-place votes. Colgate and Bucknell came in third and fourth with 34 and 29 points, respectively, while Holy Cross and Lafayette tied for fifth place, each with 14 points.
In 2005 Lehigh posted only the second-ever perfect Patriot League season with a 18-0 mark. The only other time a Patriot League team has gone undefeated in conference play was in the inaugural season when Army went 12-0 in 1991. Head coach Fran Troyan's squad set a school and Patriot League record for wins with a 41-10 overall record and ended the year with the sixth-best winning percentage in the nation (.804). The team represented the League in the NCAAs for the second-straight year, facing No. 3 Arizona and Princeton.
Much of the Mountain Hawks' strengths lied in their starting pitchers. The team will rely on senior Kate Arico (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central) and junior Heather Hamasaki (Glendale, Calif./Glendale), as the Mountain Hawks will feel the loss of the Patriot League's all-time wins and strikeouts leader, Emily Ling, who concluded her college career last spring. Behind Ling, Hamasaki (1.90) and Arico (2.13) ranked second and third in the League in earned run average last season. The two combined for 15 wins and five saves. Also in the fold is last year's Newark (N.J.) Star Ledger Softball Player of the Year, freshman pitcher Lisa Sweeney (Lumberton, N.J./Rancocas Valley Regional). Sweeney inked 520 strikeouts her senior year of high school and 1,263 for her career, both state records.
Lehigh brings back the 2005 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, Kate Marvel (Manasquan, N.J./Red Bank Catholic), who hit .466 in League games and topped the charts with a League-high 27 hits and 19 runs scored in those games. Also returning is junior outfielder Whitney Schenbeck (Parker, Colo./Ponderosa), a Second-Team All-Patriot League selection in 2005. Schenbeck sported a .381 batting average in League games and a .458 on-base percentage.
For the last three seasons, Army has come in as the League tournament runner-up, winning their last of four overall titles in 2002. The Black Knights posted a 29-21 overall and 12-6 League record under the direction of long-time head coach Jim Flowers. The Black Knights hit .306 in overall games as the only League team with a batting average over .300 and ranked 16th nationally. Army ended the year first in the country in doubles (1.84/game), seventh in double plays (0.46/game), 12th in stolen bases (1.70/game) and 19th in runs scored (5.30/game).
Junior Veronica Lauzon (Capistrano Beach, Calif./San Clemente) led the Black Knights with a .420 batting average, good enough for 15th in the nation. Lauzon, who is functional in both a designated player and utility role for the Cadets, was named to the NFCA/Louisville Slugger All-Mid-Atlantic first team in 2005. Senior third baseman Darcy Wilson (Tucson, Ariz./Canyon Del Oro) finished seventh in the nation in doubles per game. Her League-leading 17 doubles stands as the second-highest single-season mark in League history and is just one off the record. Junior shortstop Lindsey Gerheim (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton) is the team's top returning run scorer (35) and producer of runs (30).
On the mound for the Black Knights will be sophomore Veronica Barth (Granada Hills, Calif./Chaminade), a First-Team All-Patriot League selection from a year ago. Barth went 9-6 and recorded two saves last year with a 2.83 ERA. She was second on the team with a .378 batting average. Also expected to share the pitching load will be junior Chris Stauffer (Pembroke Pines, Fla./American Heritage) and Kelly Trout (Anaheim, Calif./Loara). Both hurlers racked up winning records a season ago with over 100 innings pitched between the two Cadets.
Colgate qualified for the Patriot League Tournament for a record 15th-straight time last season, having never missed the League's post season tourney. Head coach Vickie Sax led the Raiders to a 19-19 overall and 11-8 League record. Last season the Raiders were second in the League in team ERA (2.78) and will look to continue their pitching success behind the strength of a pair of returning All-Patriot League hurlers.
Senior Kate Howard (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South) and junior Kelsey Nordstrom (Salina, Kan./Salina South) will lead the Raiders from the pitchers circle. Howard was a First-Team All-Patriot League selection a season ago, after racking up the second-most wins in the League (11), including a 7-4 mark in League games. Her 1.17 ERA in League play was the second-lowest in the Patriot League. The right-handed hurler inked 86 strikeouts in 2005. Nordstrom was named Second-Team All-Patriot League last year, owning the second-highest strikeout total in the League (106). In League games, Nordstrom ranked sixth with her 2.62 ERA.
Offensive power will come from sophomore infielder Whitney Scott (Beaverton, Ore./Beaverton), who was named Patriot League Rookie of the Week on two occasions last season. Scott was second on the team with a .315 batting average and is the top returner in the RBI category, batting in 22 a year ago. Senior outfielder/designated hitter Erin Hanna (Tucson, Ariz./University) will also contribute, coming off a season in which she owned a .272 batting average and recorded 16 RBI and 15 runs.
Bucknell went 16-22 overall and 8-10 in the League under the direction of then first-year head coach Heather Rakosik, and qualified for the Patriot League Tournament for the second year in a row. The Bison defeated top-seeded Lehigh in the second game of the double-elimination round of the League tourney last season, but were eventually knocked out by the Mountain Hawks. The Bison ended the year ranked 11th in the nation in doubles (1.53).
Both exciting for the Bison and the League is the return of Lauren Wible (Dover, Pa./Dover), the 2005 NCAA batting champion and Patriot League Player of the Year. Wible ended the season with a .524 batting average, which ranks 11th all-time in NCAA history. The senior first baseman also ranked second in the country in doubles (0.39) and third in slugging percentage (.903). Wible was last year's Patriot League Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Senior Kris Devore (Washington, Pa./Trinity) will also be looked towards for leadership after recording 16 RBI and 13 runs last season.
With a host of rookie pitchers, sophomore Christie Wiest (Centre Hall, Pa./Penns Valley) will serve as the veteran hurler on the Bison squad. Wiest went 7-8 last season, pitching a team-high 93 innings, with a 3.39 earned run average.
Holy Cross, a team that went 8-30 overall and 3-16 in League play, will be headed up by first-year head coach Peter Maneggia. Maneggia comes to Holy Cross from Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Conn.
The Crusaders lost their two All-Patriot League selections from a year ago to graduation. The year's squad will be led by sophomore outfielder Jayme Elliott (Gardenia, Calif./Mira Costa), who batted .304 last season with 17 runs and 11 RBI. Elliott was ranked fifth in the nation in sacrifice hits (0.39) and was tabbed as the 10th hardest batter to strikeout in the country. Fellow outfielder, senior Megan Lally (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro), will also be a key contributor. Lally owned a .296 batting average a year ago, scoring 16 runs and batting in 17.
Junior Lindsey MacNeil (Plymouth, N.H./Plymouth) will take on much of the pitching duties. MacNeil threw 87.0 innings last season with a 3.94 earned run average. Junior Sheena Strangler (Bremerton, Wash./Central Kitsap) made 15 appearances a year ago and owned a 3.23 ERA.
Lafayette will also be under the direction of a new head coach in Jeanine Gunther. Gunther was most recently at the University of Rochester. There she guided her team to a 27-18 record, posting both a program record for wins and Rochester's first winning record in school history.
Sophomore infielder Kristen Ruckno (Warrington, Pa./Central Bucks East) is a key returner for the Leopards, having led the team in batting average a season ago (.320). Ruckno was one of four Leopards to start in all 45 games and was tied for second in the League with six home runs and in the top-10 with 11 doubles. Also back is junior outfielder Michelle Ellis (Hillsborough, N.J./Immaculata), who was tied for the team lead with Ruckno with 25 runs scored. Ellis ended the year ranked 16th in the nation in walks (0.64).
On the mound for the Leopards will be senior Lauren Belowich (Edison, N.J./J.P. Stevens) and junior Megan Averbuch (Centerport, N.Y./Harborfield). Belowich led the team with a 4.53 ERA and pitched a team-high 111.1 innings. Averbuch totaled 87 strikeouts in 21 appearances.
The 2006 Patriot League softball schedule will get underway the third week in February, with Army and Bucknell at the East Carolina Classic. Patriot League action will begin the first weekend of April with all six teams slated to play.
For more information check out the 2006 Patriot League Softball Web Guide by clicking here.
2006 Patriot League Softball Preseason Poll
|Rank||Team||Points (1st)||2005 Overall Record||2005 League Record|
|1. ||Lehigh||50 (10) ||41-10||18-0|
|2. ||Army||39 (2) ||29-21||12-6|
|5. ||Holy Cross||14||8-30||3-16|