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Softball Begins Season At Citrus Classic

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Softball Begins Season At Citrus Classic

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ALBANY, N.Y. – As winter progresses through the northeast and the calendar approaches March, the University at Albany softball program is gearing up to kick off their 2013-14 campaign.  The Danes first live competition will take place in Orlando, Florida at the Citrus Classic, hosted at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

“The Citrus Classic is only in its second or third year, but it’s quickly becoming one of the better Division I preseason tournaments,” said head coach Chris Cannata.

UAlbany is slated to play five games over three days in this tournament.  On Friday, the team will play Marshall at 1:15 p.m., and East Carolina at 3:30 p.m.  The East Carolina game will feature a matchup of siblings as UAlbany 3B Lauren Alcorn will face off against her younger sister, Casey, who plays shortstop for ECU.  Saturday features a game at 1:15 p.m. against Northern Illinois, and a game at 3:30 p.m. against North Carolina State.  Finally, the Danes will play one game Sunday, a 12:00 p.m. outing with Lamar.

“The Wide World of Sports is a good facility,” Cannata said.  “We generally try to start play this weekend, because we can only play so many games.  We want to keep the hitters in rhythm, so we try to avoid taking weeks off at a time.  This tournament is good, because it’s competitive and in a warm area.  Disney is right there, but that won’t be a distraction because there simply won’t be any time with five games in three days.  The bigger concern is the tourist crowds, particularly because it’s also a spring break weekend.”

While UAlbany will be seeing its first action on Friday, each of the teams they are scheduled to play have already begun their seasons.  Marshall is 1-4, East Carolina is 5-3, Northern Illinois is 2-3, NC State is 1-5, and Lamar is 0-3.

“The first tournament is always tough,” Cannata said.  “We get a chance to play teams we don’t normally see, which is good, but all of the southern schools have already played.  We’re looking to have a good approach, and we want to be able to compete.”

“We haven’t been on dirt yet,” Cannata continued.  “And we’ve been limited in how we can scrimmage, and how we can do live pitching.  There’s a different between live pitching in the batting cage and live pitching in a game.”

The Danes enter the 2013-14 campaign with five freshmen joining the veteran heavy roster of returners from last season’s 37-15 effort that included a regular season America East title and a runner-up in the America East tournament.  Elizabeth Snow played catcher and first base as a senior at Robert A. Millikan in Long Beach, California, where she batted .578 with 35 RBIs.  Kayla Bailey, who also runs indoor track for UAlbany, batted .507 with 14 stolen bases as a senior outfielder at Landstown in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Samantha Broking, playing first base as a senior at Fairport in New York, hit .437 with 30 RBIs.  Finally, UAlbany welcomes two pitchers in Mackenzie Thompson, who accumulated a record of 17-2 with 180 Ks as a senior at Liberty in Eldersburg, Maryland, and local talent Caitlin Cooper, who spent her senior year at Columbia High School injured.

“We’re counting on our two freshman pitchers this year,” Cannata said.  “They’ll have to learn to deal with having no break in the lineup.  In high school they’d see breaks in the opposing lineups.  Now, the 7, 8, and 9 batters can all hit the ball, and our freshmen will get hit.  They won’t have the same strikeout rate, and will have to learn to trust their defense more.  It’s an adjustment, and their success will be determined on how well they can make that adjustment.”

“The pitchers might actually throw in fewer games at this level,” Cannata continued.  “In summer ball they might have played seven or eight games in a weekend.  That won’t be the case here, but there is a higher physical and emotional intensity they haven’t experienced.  And they’ll be in closer games, so there’s more pressure on each pitch.”

The five freshman are replacing departures of outfielder Annie Johnson, who hit .386 with 3 HRs and 19 RBIs, catcher Lindsey Stout, who hit .257 with 2 HRs and 15 RBIs, catcher Kylie Apostolina, who hit .261 with 1 HR and 10 RBIs, outfielder Courtney Hill, who redshirted in 2013, infielder Bri Chevalier, who scored five runs in 23 appearances, catcher Ashley Mitchell, who scored two runs in eight appearances, and outfielder Taylor Franich, who batted .252 with 9 RBIs and 10 runs scored.

Senior pitcher Brittany MacFawn headlines the stable returning athletes.  She went 27-9 in 2013 with a 1.64 ERA and 283 Ks to 36 walks.  Of the 36 games she started, MacFawn threw 34 complete games, including 12 shutouts, accumulating 256.1 innings pitched, and an opposing batting average of .193.

“Brittany is from Orlando, so for her senior year we wanted to try to play games close to her home,” said Cannata.

Senior first baseman Charlise Castro is also expected to help anchor the team.  Last year, Castro hit .309 with 8 HRs and 32 RBIs.  She also played for Puerto Rico over the summer in the Pan American Classic.  Senior third baseman Lauren Alcorn batted .273 with 4 HRs and 22 RBIs last year.  Finally, senior pitcher/infielder Emily Ostrom backed up MacFawn with a record of 7-6 and a 3.94 ERA. 

Moving to the juniors, outfielder Vicky McFarland hit .257 with 7 HRs and 28 RBIs in 2013.  Infielder Marlin Solano hit .250 with 1 HR and 13 RBIs.  Infielder Jess Tate hit .176 with 1 RBI in 16 appearances.  Finally, shortstop Alexa Toole batted .252 with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs in 2013.

The 2014 roster features four sophomores as well.  Infielder Kate Biasi hit .125 with 7 runs scored in 16 appearances.  Shortstop Maggie Cocks batted .248 with 3 HRs and 37 RBIs.  Infielder/outfielder Kelly Costello hit .223 with 2 HRs and 15 RBIs.  Finally, catcher/infielder Lindsey Haskell did not make an appearance in 2013.

“We are a veteran team,” Cannata said.  “We have different strengths among a lot of people.  I think we’re a strong defensive team.  Our upperclassmen have had a lot of playing time.  And our freshmen will progress at different rates.  It takes time.  We don’t have a projected starting lineup just yet.  I have something in mind, but we’ll ultimately have to see who hits.”

In the past, Coach Cannata has relied on veteran leadership, instead of specific team captains, to guide the team through the season.

“We didn’t have captains last year,” Cannata said.  “I will leave it up to the upperclassmen if they want to change that this year.”

Citrus is the first of three preseason tournaments UAlbany will play this year.  On March 7, UAlbany will begin play in the Towson Classic in Maryland, and the Rebel Spring Games kick off on March 13 in Winter Haven, Florida.  Afterwards, UAlbany opens regular season play at Stony Brook on March 22.  The Danes will host their first home game on March 29.

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