Quinnipiac Softball Kicks off 2013 Season in Virginia at Lancer Lead-Off Classic Saturday and Sunday

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Quinnipiac University Bobcats (0-0, 0-0 NEC)
vs. LaSalle Explorers (0-0, 0-0 Atlantic-10)
Saturday, February 16, 2013 – 10:30 a.m.
Lancer Field – Farmville, Va.

Quinnipiac University Bobcats (0-0, 0-0 NEC)
@ Longwood Lancers (2-0, 0-0 Big South)
Saturday, February 16, 2013 – 2:30 p.m.
Lancer Field – Farmville, Va.

Quinnipiac University Bobcats (0-0, 0-0 NEC)
@ Longwood Lancers (2-0, 0-0 Big South)
Sunday, February 17, 2013 – 12:00 p.m.
Lancer Field – Farmville, Va.

And So It Begins

Coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history, the Quinnipiac softball team will be playing in their first regular season games of the 2013 season this weekend down in Farmville, Va. The Bobcats will be taking part in the Lancer Lead-Off Classic from host school Longwood. The three-game series will feature a matchup with the LaSalle explorers on Saturday morning followed by back-to-back games against the host Longwood on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. The team was originally scheduled for four games at Farmville but the Bobcats had to cancel their second game against LaSalle scheduled for Sunday due to impending weather. The 2012 Softball team finished with a 32-18 overall record, 13-7 in the Northeast Conference and advanced all the way to the NEC Championship for the second consecutive season.

A Look at LaSalle

The Explorers enter the 2013 season after finishing 2012 with a 9-40 overall record (3-17 Atlantic-10). They did struggle last season but played in the challenging Atlantic-10 and also proved themselves against NEC competition as they swept Monmouth, a team chosen to finish ahead of the Bobcats in the NEC Preseason poll, in a doubleheader last season by the scores of 4-1 and 7-1. The Explorers return their top hitter from last season in utility player Megan Hodgson who posted team-highs in batting average (.266), home runs (six), RBI (18), slugging percentage (.452), walks (16), on-base percentage (.350), hits (33) and runs scored (18). All of this coming for Hodgson in just her sophomore season as she looks to continue to lead the team at the dish. Other contributors on the offensive end include senior Liz Reed (.254, 16 runs, 30 hits, team-high six doubles and two triples) and sophomore Alicia Aughton (.232, 29 hits, six doubles, four home runs, 18 RBI). The top returning pitcher for LaSalle is Aughton who finished 2012 with a 9-20 record, 25 complete games, 196.1 innings, two shutouts, 3.42 ERA and 99 strikeouts.

Scouting the Lancers

The Longwood Lancers finished last season just outside the NCAA Division I Top 100 Softball Rankings at #109 with a 29-26 record including an 18-4 record at home. Longwood will be playing in their first year as a Big South member institution. They were picked to finish fourth in the Big South Preseason Coaches' Poll and this team already seems primed for a run as they thrashed North Carolina Central in their first two games of the 2013 season last weekend. Playing on the road, the Lancers were led by the stellar play of Megan Baltzell who slugged three home runs in two games against North Carolina Central. Baltzell also finished the weekend with four runs, six RBI and three walks to lead the team. She helped drive in six of the team's 10 runs over the weekend. Baltzell will definitely be a key for the Bobcats as she finished last season with amazing all-around numbers including team-highs in every conceivable offensive category starting with batting average (.344), runs (47), hits (55), doubles (14), triples (two), home runs (nine), RBI (35), walks (25), hit-by-pitch (four), stolen bases (14), slugging percentage (.625), and on-base percentage (.445). They also have depth along their pitching arms as Libby Morris threw a complete game four-hitter where she struck out eight and walked only two to lead the way in a 5-2 victory. The second game featured a combined shutout from Brooke Short and Ashley Cornell who tossed four and three innings, respectively. Short started and picked up the victory with three strikeouts while Cornell was dominate in relief, striking out six and walking none in three no-hit innings.

Preseason Selection

The Bobcats were recently selected to finish sixth in the 2013 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, as announced by the league office on Tuesday, Feb. 12. Robert Morris, the 2012 regular season champion, was chosen to win the conference with six first-place votes. Defending tournament champion LIU Brooklyn was picked second with five first-place votes. Next came Central Conn. St. Monmouth, and Bryant followed by the Bobcats. Sacred Heart landed the seventh position, St. Francis (Pa.) is eight, Mount St. Mary's ninth, and Wagner and Fairleigh Dickinson rounded out the field.

Early Honors

Senior shortstop Alex Alba was recently honored by College Sports Madness as a Preseason All-NEC Second Team honoree. The leader in the middle of the infield of the Bobcats' infield and at the plate led the team in several offensive categories last season including home runs (seven), RBI (32) and slugging percentage (.581). She also led all NEC players with 15 doubles and all conference shortstops in fielding percentage (.969). She hopes to translate her success from last season, where she earned a spot on the All-NEC Second Team, into another sensation season in her fourth year with Quinnipiac.

Last Season Recap

The Bobcats finished 2012 with their second straight 32-win campaign and second consecutive trip to the NEC Championship. Despite advancing to the championship round, Quinnipiac couldn't get past LIU Brooklyn who advanced to the NCAA Regional with their 10-5 victory.

2012 Award Winners

The team held their annual banquet back in Oct. where the Bobcat honored four players with end-of-the-season awards. Pitcher Heather Schwartzburg, as previously announced at the Quinnipiac Department-wide Awards Ceremony in May, was named Most Valuable Player. Outfielder Christy Cabrera was named Offensive Player of the Year, shortstop Alex Alba was named Defensive Player of the Year and Ashley Heiberger received the Spirit of the Bobcat Award.

You Will be Missed

The Bobcats graduated a core of four seniors last season that were all significant contributors not only in 2012 but throughout their four years at Quinnipiac. The Bobcats said goodbye to their best pitcher in program history, Heather Schwartzburg. She graduated with the most career wins (78), innings pitched (833.9), lowest ERA (1.51) and shutouts (20) of any pitcher ever at Quinnipiac. Also among the graduates was outfielder Christy Cabrera, the Bobcats' leadoff hitter, who finished first on the team in batting average (.342), on-base percentage (.412), hits (54), walks (19) and runs scored (32). Two other major departures including outfielder Mina Duffy (team-high seven home runs, 30 RBIs) and catcher Ashley Heiberger (19 runners caught stealing, eight stolen bases, .985 fielding percentage).

It's Good to Have You Back

Coming off a 2011 NEC Rookie of the Year and All-NEC First Year season, catcher Jordan Paolucci missed most of 2012 due to injury. Paolucci ended up redshirting last season and returns fully healthy in 2013 as the starting catcher. As a freshman in 2011, Paolucci led the team with a stellar all-around campaign including a .351 batting average, 40 runs, three doubles, .702 slugging percentage, .497 on-base percentage and 10 stolen bases. She led the team in all six of those categories while also slugging a Quinnipiac single-season record 15 home runs in 2011 as she led the NEC in that category as well as total bases (106).

Core Four

One of the biggest strengths for the Bobcats entering 2013 is their infield as they return all four starters from last season. Three of the four returnees are seniors including shortstop Alex Alba, third baseman Bridget Figmic and first baseman Jacquie Ristow. Alba led the team in several offensive categories and shined defensively as well. Figmic enters her third season as the team's primary third baseman as she started all 50 games in 2012 at the hot corner and committed only six errors on her way to a .965 fielding percentage to go along with 23 hits. Ristow will see a majority of her time at first base where she led the infield with a .983 fielding percentage and also collected 30 hits, 10 runs scored, three doubles, one home run and 14 RBI. The final returning piece is sophomore second baseman Nikki Barba who closed the year with a .285 batting average (37-for-130). As a freshman, Barba showed incredible plate disciplines, drawing the second-most walks (15) on the team, as well as 17 runs, six stolen bases and 14 RBI. Much like the rest of the infield, Barba shined defensively with a .957 fielding percentage.

Hot Streak

Nikki Barba was the Bobcats' hottest hitter at the end of last season, closing the year on a six-game hitting streak heading into 2013. During the stretch Barba compiled a .444 batting average (8-for-18).

Youth in the Outfield

Expect youth to loom large in the outfield positions this season for the Bobcats as they return one of three starters from last season. Senior center fielder Lauren Salgado returns after compiling 25 hits, 15 runs, one triple, eight RBI and seven stolen bases. Her speed is unmatched on the 2013 roster while the Bobcats will have to fill the other two outfield spots.

On the Mound

The Bobcats will be hard pressed to replace their best pitcher in program history but they are lucky enough to have on their hands another one of the top hurlers in the NEC last season. Junior Katie Alfiere will most likely step in as the team's ace after she put together a solid 7-3 record and 2.45 ERA in 68.2 innings last season. She finished second on the team in ERA, wins and tossed three complete games. She stood out in several categories amongst pitchers in the NEC as she gave up the fewest hits (68), runs allowed (29), earned runs allowed (24), and home runs allowed (zero) of any pitcher in the conference. Her 2.45 ERA was good for 7th in the NEC and unlike Schwartzburg, who was a strikeout pitcher, Alfiere very much pitches to contact as evidenced by her 24 strikeouts in 68.2 innings but with all four infield starters returning as stellar defensive players she is primed for a breakout season.

A Slew of Newcomers

The 2013 Bobcats will include a significant amount of freshman as eight will be entering their rookie campaigns with Quinnipiac. The freshmen include Dani Edmands, Nicole Gubellini, Molly Jarrett, Abby Johnson, Sydney Robey, Abbey Smith, Courtney Solt and Noelle Wager. Three of the first-years are pitchers in Gubellini, Jarrett and Robey while four are also listed as utility players. Two catchers in Edmands and Wagner now allow the Bobcats to go three-deep at the position after Ashely Heiberger played in nearly 50 games as the team's starting catcher last season.

Schedule Overview

The Bobcats begin the 2013 season at the Lancer Lead-Off Classic from Feb. 16-17. They will next travel to the UNC Greensboro Spartan Classic for five games between Feb. 22-24 and then begin a 15-game set as part of the USF Under Armour series in Tampa, Fla. and Clearwater, Fla. The series will span from March 1 through 17 with a home doubleheader against Hartford in between on March 6. In between the Under Armous series is a headlining matchup against 2012 NCAA College World Series Finalist South Florida on Tuesday, March 12 at 5:00 p.m.

Contact: Maxx McNall; maxx.mcnall@quinnipiac.edu