Four Game Slate for Softball This Weekend as they Begin the 2013 Regular Season at UNCG Spartan Classic on Saturday

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Quinnipiac University Bobcats (0-0, 0-0 NEC)
vs. Marshall Thundering Herd (3-7, 0-0 C-USA)
Saturday, February 23, 2013 – 1:00 p.m.
UNCG Softball Stadium – Greensboro, N.C.

Quinnipiac University Bobcats (0-0, 0-0 NEC)
@ UNCG Spartans (7-1, 0-0 Southern)
Saturday, February 23, 2013 – 3:30 p.m.
UNCG Softball Stadium – Greensboro, N.C.

Quinnipiac University Bobcats (0-0, 0-0 NEC)
vs. Drexel Dragons (1-1, 0-0 Colonial)
Sunday, February 24, 2013 – 10:00 a.m.
UNCG Softball Stadium – Greensboro, N.C.

Quinnipiac University Bobcats (0-0, 0-0 NEC)
@ UNCG Spartans (7-1, 0-0 Southern)
Sunday, February 24, 2013 – 12:30 p.m.
UNCG Softball Stadium – Greensboro, N.C.

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 Greensboro, N.C. The Bobcats will be taking part in the UNC Greensboro Spartan Classic Tournament from host school UNCG. The four-game series will feature a matchup with the challenging Marhsall Thundering Herd Saturday morning followed by a showdown against the host Spartans later that afternoon. The team will face off against the Drexel Dragons on Sunday morning before challenging UNCG again to close out the series on Sunday. 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 Drexel

Drexel will play four games over the weekend, including two on Friday against the host 49ers as they usher in the Miranda Ervin era. Ervin, the Dragons' first-year head coach, assumes control of a Drexel squad which went 22-26 last season, finishing just one game out of the CAA Tournament. The Dragons return senior first baseman Jenn Reading, who led the squad with a .326 batting average last season. Her eight home runs tied teammate Paige Collings for the second-best total in Drexel history, and she set a school record with 27 walks drawn in 2012. Drexel returns six of its nine starters, including Reading. Also back for the Dragons are seniors Amanda Bachmann and Hanna Parrish. Bachmann batted .321 with two home runs, including a two-run shot against Delaware that kept the Dragons' bid for a postseason berth alive. Parrish set a Drexel record last season with eight triples, batting .283. Juniors Maddison Timoteo and Comfort Ahonkhai are also back. Timoteo, along with Reading, earned Second Team All-CAA recognition last season after hitting six home runs and driving in 14. Ahonkhai patrolled center field and batted .310 at the top of the lineup for Drexel, adding six stolen bases. Sophomore Sylvia Llamas, who started 47 of Drexel's 48 games in her freshman year, is also back after batting .210 with a home run and 10 RBIs and holding down second base in the field.

In the circle, the Dragons will return Shelby Taylor, who led the team with a 3.36 earned run average and 12 wins last season. Taylor had eight complete games, including four shutouts and a one-hitter. Senior Shyann Beach and junior Jess O'Hara will also return to the circle for Drexel.

Scouting the Spartans

UNCG earned two preseason All-Conference picks in senior Eileen Horsmon and junior Aisha Figueroa. The Spartans were picked to finish sixth in the conference as Figueroa was a preseason first team selection at Utility. Horsmon, who lead the team with 46 RBI, was a second team honoree at first base. The Spartans will welcome six newcomers to last year's squad that finished 22-34 with a 10-13 record in the Southern Conference. UNCG returns 13 players and second-team All-SoCon member Katelyn Bedwell who finished the 2011 season with 11 home runs. The 2013 season has already kicked off with a band as UNCG enters the weekend with a 7-1 record. The Spartans have already took down George Mason and Eastern Illinois with their one loss coming in eight innings to Belmont, 1-0. Five position players are all hitting at least .333 through the first eight games while Raeanna Hanks comes in with a daunting 0.55 ERA, 5-1 record, three complete games, one shutout and 43 strikeouts in 38.1 innings.

Challenging the Thundering Herd

Marshall will be one of the toughest opponents the Bobcats will play this season as evidenced by their 36-21 record last season that garnered the No. 55 spot in the NCAA Division I Top 100 Rankings. The Thundering Herd have struggled out of the blocks coming in with a 3-7 record this year but their schedule has been one of the most difficult in the country. They've taken on the likes of South Florida, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Tech, Indiana and Miami (Ohio). Ashley Gue enters the tournament as the only player on the team batting over .300 with her 11 hits and eight stolen bases leading the team. The pitching staff is anchored by Andi Williamson who enters the weekend with a 2.36 ERA to go along with 66 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. Look for Marshall's baserunners to have the green light as the team total of 29 stolen bases well outnumbers the 15 they've allowed through 10 games. Also Jazmine Valle bears watching at the dish for the Thundering Herd as five of her eight hits this season are doubles and her .481 slugging percentage is tops on the team.

Rain Rain Go Away

The Bobcats were originally slated for four games last weekend playing at the Lancer Lead-Off Classic from Farmville, Va. Snow and freezing cold temperatures however put an end to their plans as the tournament was cancelled due to inclement weather. The team will now attempt a 55-game regular season with the four games lost over the weekend.

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 EdmandsNicole GubelliniMolly JarrettAbby JohnsonSydney RobeyAbbey SmithCourtney 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