FROSTBURG, MD —
The 2003 season will mark a “new beginning” for the Frostburg State University softball program.
A new coaching staff, eight new players, new uniforms and a full year on a new playing field have helped create a renewed sense of excitement as the Bobcats chase their first Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference title since 1998, the league’s inaugural year.
"There’s certainly a buzz surrounding the upcoming season," said first-year head coach Chris Starke. "The players have shown a great deal of dedication since we started back in September, and Coach (Wes) Landrum and I have been very pleased with their development."
The Bobcats, who open the season against Randolph-Macon Friday at 9:00 a.m. in the Ferrum College Invitational in Salem, Va., will look to blend six returning players and eight newcomers into a solid unit that will face a tough 40-game schedule.
With nearly every position up for grabs heading into the year, Starke likes the heated competition he’s seen in the preseason.
"We told everyone from day one that all spots are open," Starke explained. "We’ve seen strong battles at each spot, and that will only make us better."
A wealth of talented players will vie for time in the infield. Juniors Stephanie Zych (Slingerlands, N.Y./Guilderland) and Richelle Foor (Everett, Pa./Everett) should be the anchors of the unit after posting strong seasons a year ago.
Zych, who may see action at both second and shortstop, started all 24 games and hit .333 with 28 hits, eight doubles and 13 RBI. She scored a team-high 26 runs, drew 16 walks and stole three bases.
"Steph has the potential to be one of the top players in the AMCC this year," said Starke. "Her strong combination of speed and power will go a long way for us. Her fielding has improved, and we’ll need her to help solidify our defense."
Foor will see time at first base and designated hitter after earning first-team All-AMCC honors at third base last year. She hit .382 with eight doubles, 24 runs and 18 RBI, and she was a perfect 5-for-5 in steals.
"Richelle had an outstanding season last year despite battling shoulder problems," said Starke. "She’ll be one of the top hitters in the league."
Other players battling for spots in the infield are sophomore Raelee Casazza (Miller Place, N.Y./Miller Place) and freshmen Trish Brown (Manchester, Md./North Carroll), Ashley Martin (Manchester, Md./North Carroll) and Sarah Savoye (Davidsonville, Md./South River).
Casazza took home first-team All-AMCC honors at second base last year after posting 17 hits (including eight doubles), scoring 18 runs and driving in 14. She also won four contests and tossed eight complete games to earn honorable mention All-AMCC honors as a pitcher.
"Raelee is a great overall athlete who will challenge for time at second as well as in the outfield," said Starke. "Her hitting has improved over the fall, and we’ll be looking to take advantage of her speed more."
Brown will challenge at first, second and shortstop, while Martin and Savoye will compete at third. Savoye may also see time at shortstop, with Martin a possibility in the outfield as well.
"Trish crushes the ball with every swing, and she could turn heads this year with her power. She’s also got a strong arm and good quickness.
"Ashley has the strongest arm on the team, and she hits the ball as hard as anyone. She has the ability to dominate this league if she puts her mind to it.
"Sarah is a true gym rat who loves the game. Her fielding is smooth and she has good bat control. She should be a solid player for us."
Junior Shannon McQuillan (Bowie, Md./Archbishop Spalding) and sophomores Jen Vance (Cumberland, Md./Fort Hill) and Kristy Sipes (Cumberland, Md./Fort Hill) bring solid experience to the outfield.
McQuillan started 22 games last year in right field and will look to improve on her .172 batting average.
"Shannon really dedicated herself over the summer and came back in great shape. She’s got a strong arm and has been swinging the bat very well since the fall."
Vance is a likely choice in centerfield when she’s not pitching. She reads the ball well, has a solid arm and brings quickness to the outfield.
"Jen has been very impressive with her focus and work ethic. She’s emerged as one of our top defensive outfielders, and her hitting and pitching have really improved."
Sipes appeared in 14 games last season and hit .259 with two doubles and a triple. She also drove in seven runs and scored six times.
"Kristy is one of our hardest workers and has shown strong improvement in her offense. She’s got a strong arm, and her speed will be very useful to us."
Junior Marsha Moats (Hagerstown, Md./South Hagerstown), a transfer from Hagerstown Community College, and freshmen Megan Burner (Oakland, Md./Southern Garrett), Erin Pierorazio (Sykesville, Md./South Carroll) and Jessica Smith (La Vale, Md./Allegany) will push for time.
"Marsha is another hard-working player with good speed and quickness. She’ll help us right away as a pinch-runner.
"Megan has an unmatched work ethic and shown rapid improvement. She could get some time in right when she’s not catching.
"Erin and Jessica will give us great depth. They all have strong arms and excellent athletic ability."
The biggest area in need of improvement is the Bobcat pitching staff, which struggled to a 6.05 ERA last season. Starke has been encouraged by the development of Vance and Casazza as well as the emergence of freshman lefthander Katie Nelson (Pasadena, Md./Chesapeake).
"Katie has really done well under Coach Landrum’s guidance and will get the ball a lot this season. She locates well, has good command and will be one of the keys to our season."
Vance struggled to a 4-8 record and a 5.53 ERA in her debut season. She still led the team with 12 complete games and tossed 81.0 innings despite battling an arm injury.
"Jen’s has really picked up her focus and is throwing the ball with a lot more confidence. Walks and poor defense hurt her last season, and those will change this year."
Casazza has also shown improvement throughout the preseason and will compete for innings. Pierorazio may also see time in the circle as the season progresses.
A pair of new faces will appear behind the plate as Burner and Martin battle for time. Burner has shown impressive progress, while Martin has the potential to shut down any opponent’s running game with her arm.
"Megan and Ashley bring different strengths to a very difficult position. It’s going to take some time for them to get settled back there, but we feel they’ll both do excellent jobs."
With so many few faces, it will likely take time for the Bobcats to gel. Starke and Landrum have put a strong emphasis on pitching and defense, and the results have been positive throughout the preseason.
"We’ve really emphasized those two areas from our first practice back in September. Last year’s team made 64 errors in 24 games, which averages out to 2.7 errors per contest.
"That means we essentially gave our opponents another inning at the plate every game. There’s no question we have to improve defensively if we expect to be successful."
Despite a young squad, Starke feels the Bobcats have the potential to make some noise quickly. With key losses to many teams in the AMCC, the league race could be more wide open than in recent years.
"La Roche has won the last three titles, and Penn State Altoona was a victory away from the crown last year. Penn State Behrend should be strong again, and Pitt-Bradford beat us out for the final spot in the AMCC Tournament last year.
"My goals are simple — win more than we lose, finish in the top four of the AMCC regular-season standings and advance to the conference tournament. That would be a nice way to start our ‘new beginning.’"
For further information on this release, contact:
Office of Sports Information
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-2303