HAMDEN, Conn. – The Quinnipiac softball team was chosen to finish sixth in the Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, as announced by the league office on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. The Bobcats finished second in last year's standings, appeared in their third straight NEC postseason tournament and advanced to the NEC Championship for the second straight season.
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, Saint Francis (Pa.) is eight, Mount St. Mary's ninth, and Wagner and Fairleigh Dickinson rounding out the field.
2013 Northeast Conference Softball Preseason Coaches' Poll
|Rank||Team (First Place Votes)|
|1.||Robert Morris (6)|
|2.||LIU Brooklyn (5)|
|3.||Central Conn. St.|
|8.||St. Francis (Pa.)|
|9.||Mount St. Mary's|
Consistency has been the calling card of the Quinnipiac softball program of late as the Bobcats have reeled off three consecutive seasons with at least 25 wins including back-to-back seasons of at least 30 wins. Head Coach Germaine Fairchild enters her 13th season as the helm of Quinnipiac softball and looks to make it four straight appearances in the NEC Tournament this year.
The team has advanced to the NEC Championship the last two seasons and did so on the backs of their pitching. The Bobcats will have to find a way to replace the program's best pitcher in program history in Heather Schwartzburg who graduated last year with the most career wins (78), innings pitched (833.9), strikeouts (969), earned run average (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 include outfielder Mina Duffy (team-high seven home runs, 30 RBIs) and catcher Ashley Heiberger (19 runners caught stealing, eight stolen bases, .985 fielding percentage). Despite losing four key seniors off last year's NEC runner-up team, the 2013 Bobcats will yet again rely on their seniors as five more will be entering their final season at Quinnipiac as well as a crop of eight freshmen looking to make an immediate impact.
Undoubtedly the strength of the 2013 team will be the infield as the Bobcats return all five starters entering the 2012 season. All-NEC Second Team shortstop senior Alex Alba (Sylmar, Calif.) headlines the crop as she comes in as the only Bobcat to earn a spot on the College Sports Madness 2013 All-NEC Preseason Team (Second Team honors). Alba earned the distinction coming off a breakout 2012 season in which she shined both defensively, leading all NEC shortstops in fielding percentage (.969), and offensively leading the team in home runs (seven), doubles (15), RBI (32) and slugging percentage (.581). The team will rely on her steady play at the shortstop position as well as her bat in the middle of the order.
Alba is joined by seniors Jacquie Ristow (Seal Beach, Calif.) and Bridget Figmic (Stratford, Conn.) who will man the corner infield positions. Ristow will see a majority of her time at first base where she led the infield with a .983 fielding percentage last season. She finished fifth on the team in at-bats (131) and collected 30 hits, 10 runs scored, three doubles, one home run and 14 RBI. Figmic enters her third season as the team's primary third baseman including starting all 50 games in 2012 at the hot corner position. She committed only six errors in 50 games on her way to a .965 fielding percentage to go along with 23 hits on the year.
The fourth piece of the Quinnipiac infield, the only non-senior, is sophomore second baseman Nikki Barba (San Diego, Calif.). Barba appeared in 48 games (all starts) at the second base position, the most of any freshman on the roster, and closed the year with a .285 batting average (37-for-130). Barba showed incredible plate discipline in her first year, 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 and closed the year as the Bobcats' hottest hitter riding a six-game hitting streak into this season with a .444 batting average (8-for-18). Certainly defense and experience will carry this unit as all four starters are returning off solid seasons for the Bobcats and three of which are entering their final campaigns with Quinnipiac.
Several freshmen have the capability of playing the infield as four of the eight first year Bobcats can play all over the field as a utility player to provide much needed depth. Among this group includes Dani Edmands (Northborough, Mass.), Nicole Gubellini (Salem, N.H.), Molly Jarrett (Northport, N.Y.) and Abby Johnson (Chelmsford, Mass.). One more freshman Abbey Smith (Rochester, Mass.) is listed as a third baseman/first baseman and will look to spell Ristow or Figmic at times this season.
Expect youth to loom large in the outfield positions this season for the Bobcats as they return one of three starters from last year's team in senior center fielder Lauren Salgado (Covina, Calif.). She was the primary center fielder last season, starting 48 games, with 25 hits, 15 runs, one triple, eight RBI, and seven stolen bases. Her speed showed in the field as she finished the season with just three errors manning the middle of the Bobcats' outfield.
Coach Fairchild will have to find a viable replacement for Cabrera and Duffy after the pair had stellar senior campaigns for the Bobcats. Expect to see significant time in right field for sophomore Brittany Cyr (Southington, Conn.) who appeared in 20 games last season for the Bobcats including six starts all form the right field position. She was used primarily as a pinch runner towards the end of the 2012 season as she finished the year with six runs scored and will certainly see more playing time this season.
The left field position will feature a combination of freshmen including Courtney Solt (Boyertown, Pa.). Listed as the starting left fielder entering the 2013 season, Solt was a standout player for the PA Tuff N' Tuffer Gold club team where she batted .550, while collecting 42 runs, 18 RBI, 14 doubles, nine triples and 36 stolen bases in the summer of 2011. Solt will certainly see some time in her first year with the Bobcats as well as Abby Johnson. Listed as an outfielder as well as utility player, Johnson finished an illustrious career at Chelmsford High School where she was named the Female Athlete of the Year in 2012. She was a three-time All-Conference All-Star while also guiding her team to the League Championship.
One of the expected areas of strength for Quinnipiac as redshirt sophomore Jordan Paolucci (Lake Mary, Fla.) returns after sitting out most of last season due to injury. As a freshman in 2011, Paolucci led the team with a stellar all-around skill set including a .351 batting average, 40 runs, 36 RBI, 24 runs, three doubles, .702 slugging percentage, .497 on-base percentage and 10 stolen bases. Paolucci also slugged a Quinnipiac single-season record 15 home runs in 2011 as she led the NEC in the category as well as total bases (106). She was named the 2011 NEC Rookie of the Year as well as being honored with an All-NEC First Time distinction. Paolucci's return adds a significant piece back to the Bobcats' batting order and her defensive ability behind the plate cannot be overlooked as she tallied a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 25 total chances in limited work last season.
Dani Edmands and fellow freshman Noelle Wagner (Orange, Calif.) add depth to the backstop position as the team will run three-deep after having only Heiberger for a majority of last season.
The Bobcats will be hard pressed to make up for the loss of Schwartzburg, the best pitcher in program history and the Bobcats' workhorse the past four seasons. Junior Katie Alfiere (Beacon Falls, Conn.) will most likely step in as the team's number one starter 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 also tossed three complete games. Stood out in several categories amongst pitchers in the NEC as she gave up the fewest hits allowed (68), runs allowed (29), earned runs allowed (24) and home runs allowed (zero) of any pitcher in the conference while her 2.45 ERA was good for 7th. Unlike Schwartzburg, who was a strikeout pitcher, Alfiere very much pitched to contact as evidenced by her 24 strikeouts in 68.2 innings but with a strong defense playing behind her the junior right hander is in line for a breakout 2013 campaign.
Also stepping into major roles on the mound this season will be sophomore Hannah Lindsley (Narragansett, R.I.) and a group of three freshmen including Nicole Gubellini, Molly Jarrett and Sydney Robey (Glenmoore, Pa.). Gubellini was a standout pitcher in her native state, earning New Hampshire's Division I MVP in 2012 after finishing 15-1 with 11 shutouts, two no-hitters, 0.61 ERA, 149 strikeouts in 109 innings and also performed well at the dish batting .493 with 23 RBI. Jarrett comes to the Bobcats' after pitching 117 innings and striking out 154 batters in 2011 and just recently in her senior year she tossed her first career perfect game, throwing seven innings unscathed with 17 strikeouts. Robey comes to Quinnipiac after being named All-Area for three consecutive seasons in Pennsylvania.
The Bobcats begin the 2013 season at the Lancer Lead-Off Classic from Feb. 16-17. Quinnipiac will take on host Longwood as well as LaSalle for two games each. They will also 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.
Quinnipiac looks to improve on their second place finish last season in the NEC starting on March 23-24 with road weekend doubleheaders against Robert Morris and St. Francis (Pa.).
Contact: Maxx McNall; email@example.com