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Somerset, NJ – Looking to complete what it started last year, the defending NEC regular season champion Robert Morris women’s softball will look for redemption this spring. The Colonials, who fell in the 2011 NEC tournament semifinals, tallied six first place tallies, followed by Quinnipiac who garnered three first place votes. Reigning NEC tournament champion Sacred Heart finished in third with one first place vote, followed by Bryant in fourth. LIU Brooklyn was tabbed fifth while Central Connecticut landed in sixth. Monmouth, which received one first place vote, was pegged seventh, while Fairleigh Dickinson occupied the eighth spot. Wagner, Mount St. Mary’s and Saint Francis (PA) rounded out the field of eleven.
2012 Northeast Conference
Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Robert Morris (6)
2. Quinnipaic (3)
3. Sacred Heart (1)
5. LIU Brooklyn
6. Central Connecticut State
7. Monmouth (1)
8. Fairleigh Dickinson
10. Mount St. Mary's
11. Saint Francis (PA)
First place votes in parentheses
Robert Morris (26-26, 15-5 NEC) is in hot pursuit of the one thing that eluded it in 2011: NEC tournament title number seven. Under head coach Craig Coleman, a member of the 2011 Coaching Staff of the Year, Robert Morris is poised to capture the tournament title in 2012. The Colonials lineup features a seasoned group of upperclassman who will lead the charge this spring, including first-team All-Conference members Allie Patton (Poland, OH/Poland) and Jaci Timko (Houston, PA/Chartiers Houston). The pair of seniors posted fantastic numbers at the plate in 2011 as Patton sported the league’s fourth best batting average (.382) as a junior, while Timko, a two-time NEC Player of the Week, boasted a .540 slugging percentage. On the mound RMU returns a second team All-League selection in senior Alexa Bryson (Greensburg, PA/Latrobe Area) who logged a 2.73 ERA and was second in the league with 170 strikeouts. Maritza Jimenez (Vineland, NJ/Vineland) will some pop at the plate. The junior proved to be especially dangerous in the box when facing league pitching, as 20 of her 29 RBIs came during conference play.
Boasting the NEC Pitcher, Defensive Player and Rookie of the Year, Quinnipiac (32-26, 13-7) will certainly be a force to be reckoned with on the diamond this spring. Under the leadership of 12th year coach Germaine Fairchild, the Bobcats welcome back senior pitcher Heather Schwartzburg (Mission Viejo, CA/Capistrano Valley), senior catcher/outfielder Ashley Heiberger (Sioux Falls, SD/Lincoln) and sophomore Jordan Paolucci (Lake Mary, FL/Lake Mary) all three of whom were major award winners in 2011. Schwartzburg had a dominant junior season as she posted the league’s best ERA (1.42), a mark that ranked 22nd in the NCAA. The California native also held the conference standard in wins (23), strikeouts (296, a conference record), strikeouts opposing batting average (.179), innings pitched (232.1)and batters struck out looking (85). Behind the plate Heiberger was a sniper as she caught a league-high 17 stealing while only making one error against NEC competition. The South Dakota native’s .990 fielding percentage also earned her the NEC’s Golden Glove award. Paolucci provided power at the plate and paced the team with a .351 batting average, while he 15 homeruns was first in the league. Jacquie Ristow (Seal Beach, CA/Los Alamitos),will also pack a punch at the plate for the Blue & Gold after totaling a team high 57 hits while batting .311.
Although defending NEC Champion Sacred Heart (29-21, 14-6) and veteran head coach Elizabeth Luckie will be without 2011 NEC Player of the year Taylor Froelich and her powerful bat, they return the NEC’s Most Improved Player of 2011, Nicole Sidor (West Vancouver, BC/Sentinel Seconday),and hard hitting second team All-Conference senior Liz Tsipouras (Simi Valley, CA/Royal).Sidor, a threat both at the plate and in the circle, sported a .325 batting average while ranking 11th in the nation in strikeouts per seven innings (10.1). Her 50 strikeouts while looking was third and her 151 strikeouts were fourth in the NEC. Tsipouras is one of the league’s top hitters after she totaled a league leading 39 RBIs in 2011. The senior also ranked third in the conference with her .390 batting average and fourth in slugging percentage (.596). Adding a mix of youth will be sophomore Jade Bowins (Frederick, MD/Gov. Thomas Johnson),who appeared in 50 games as a freshman and posted a .333 average, which ranks second on the team among returners.
Under the tutelage of seasoned head coach Lisa-Ann Wallace, Bryant (25-19, 14-6) will be powered by underclassman in 2012. Returning a trio of second team All-Conference honorees in Aubrey Mable (Aurora, CO/Eaglecrest), Kendall Corder (Carmichael, CA/Del Campo) and Kate Murray (Fitchburg, MA/Fitchburg),the Bulldogs will look to pose a threat to conference competition. Mable had an explosive freshman season at the plate as she paced the league in batting average (.419), slugging percentage (.718), on base percentage (.514) and doubles (14). The Colorado native also led the squad with 30 RBIs and earned NEC Rookie of the Week honors once. Corder, who also picked up a Rookie of the Week nod, hit .300, notched four home runs, while defensively she caught 13 stealing. Murray was also critical to the Bulldogs offense, as she held the second highest squad batting average (.364) and on base percentage (.443).
Bolstered by solid experience all over the diamond the Blackbirds of LIU Brooklyn (18-35, 8-12) will look to rebound this season as they hunt for their 11th NEC Title under long-time head coach Roy Kortmann. At the plate Emily Kakuska (Fontana, CA/A.B. Miller) will look to build off a .321 batting average in a sophomore season in which she tallied a team-leading 51 hits and five home runs. On the mound Sarah Reynolds (Reading, PA/Temple University) brings a wealth of experience after starting in 29 games in 2011. The Blackbirds also return solid outfielders in Karina Cervantes (Tustin, CA/Mater Dei) and Madison Zymkowitz (West Hills, CA/Chaminade),both of whom only made one error in 2011, recording .985 and .982 fielding percentages, respectively.
After making an appearance in the 2011 NEC Tournament, Central Connecticut (29-22, 11-9) and third year coach Jeff Franquet will set their sights on the league championship game with the help of some big bats. Second team All-Conference member Arielle Bruno (Milville, NJ/Sacred Heat) made plenty of noise at the plate as a freshman, landing second in the league in hits (60) and pacing the CCSU squad in runs scored (39) and total bases (81). She is flanked by junior Kelsey Barlow (Montville, CT/Montville),who led the league in RBIs (39) and was second in home runs (8). The Connecticut native also had a flare for the dramatic as she blasted her eighth home run of the season, a three-run shot, during the NEC Championship Semi-Finals. Senior Rebecca Mussatti (Valley Center, CA/Palomar) was impressive on the base paths for the Blue Devils, successfully stealing in 13 of 15 attempts which ranked her second on the loop.
After just narrowly missing out on last year’s tournament Monmouth (21-12, 10-10) will look to play postseason ball in 2012 under the command of third-year coach Louie Berndt. The Hawks return first team All-Conference member Christine Scherr (Hammonton, NJ/Hammonton) to the outfield, but more importantly to the plate where she hit .333 and scored 22 runs. Senior pitcher and NEC second team All-Conference honoree Lauren Sulick (Canfield, OH/Canfield) also booked several good numbers in 2011. She ranked second in the conference in ERA (2.06), wins (19) and innings pitched (219). Kayla Weiser (Vandergrift, PA/Kiski Area) will be a key two-way contributor for the Hawks after posting a .317 average and .990 fielding percentage.
After a program high 26-win season, Fairleigh Dickinson (26-22, 9-11) andthird year coach Dale Martin will look to build on the Knight’s 2011 success. Earning a spot on the All-Conference first team as a junior, Caitlin Bradac (Garden Grove, CA/Garden Grove) will be a leader for the Knights after she amassed a team high .352 batting average last season with a .467 clip against league competition. Bradac posted 35 RBIs for fifth best on the circuit and 12 doubles which ranked third. Junior Maire Shaughnessy (Culpeper, VA/Highland), who landed a spot on the All-Conference second team as a utility player, was honored not only for her productive at the plate (39 hits, 11 doubles, four triples and two home runs) but also for her success in the circle. The Virginia native went 10-5 on the mound and posted a team best 2.30 ERA.
Sporting a young roster made up predominately of underclassman, Wagner (12-26, 7-11) and veteran Coach Glen Payne will look to gain experience in the 2012 season. The Seahawks will rely on junior pitcher Judy Betz (Ashburn, VA/Broad Run) to show the rookies the ropes after she posted a 2.27 ERA for third best in the league in 2011, while Sophomore Kristen Matteoni (Reno, NV/Galena) will be a factor at the plate after she led the Seahawks in slugging percentage and runs scored.
With one year under her belt Head coach Anna Nagro and Mount St. Mary’s (15-31, 5-15) will look to continue to make strides towards the top as the Mount returns 15-of-23 letter winners. Critical to the success of the Mount will be senior first baseman Liz Christiansen (Etters, PA/Red Land),who missed the 2011 season due to injury. Also returning to the diamond for the Mount will be Chloe Mizianty (Carlsbad, CA/Carlsbad),who posted a .303 average as a junior and knocked in 22 RBI’s. Taylor Beebe (Olympia, WA/Capital) will be back at short stop where she led the team with 29 runs scored.
Saint Francis (PA) (10-38, 2-16) will look to climb the NEC ladder in 2012 under the likes of first year head coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift. Heading the charge for the Flash will be junior Taylor Darneille (Fircrest, WA/Wilson),who was a two-way player for the Red Flash in 2011. The first baseman made a league best eight fielding double plays as a sophomore, while hitting three triples, good for third in the league.
The 2012 Northeast Conference softball tournament will be held on May 11-12 at the home of the high seed. The championship will consist of a four-team, double-elimination tournament comprised of six or seven games over two days. The top four teams based on regular season conference winning percentage qualify for the NEC Tournament. The NEC champion will go on to compete at NCAA Regionals.