March 10, 2010

Sandy Gholston's 2010 GLIAC Softball Preview

Sandy Gholston is a special writer for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference andformer recipient of the GLIAC "Media Service Award."

BAY CITY, Mich. – The reputation of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) as one of the nation’s better softball leagues, grows stronger by the season.

If the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Preseason Division II poll is any indication, expect the GLIAC to once again be a player on the regional and national stage led by strong programs at Ashland University, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Saginaw Valley State University and Wayne State University. The coaches of those programs, however, would be the first to tell anyone that all schools have to come ready to play every afternoon if they expect to earn wins in a league loaded with quality coaches, players and teams.

2010 GLIAC  Softball Coaches’
Preseason Poll

Rank 

School (first-place votes)

Points

1.

Wayne State (6)

77

2.

Ashland (2)

71

3.

Saginaw Valley State (2)

68

4.

Ferris State

57

5.

Grand Valley State

52

6.

Tiffin

32

7.

Hillsdale

29

8.

Northwood

28

9.

Findlay

26

10.

Lake Superior State

10

In the preseason NFCA poll, Saginaw Valley State was listed 10th and Wayne State was 20th while Ashland and Ferris State each were listed among “Others Receiving Votes.”

GLIAC teams will battle for supremacy throughout the regular season before they travel to Midland for the annual GLIAC Softball Tournament (May 7-9) at Emerson Park. Saginaw Valley is the two-time defending GLIAC champion.

In the preseason GLIAC Softball Poll, Wayne State was first with 77 points and six first-place votes. Ashland was second with 71 points and two first-place votes, Saginaw Valley was third with 68 points and two first-place votes, Ferris was fourth with 57 points, Grand Valley was fifth with 52, Tiffin University was sixth with 32, Hillsdale College was seventh with 29, Northwood University was eighth with 28, the University of Findlay was ninth with 26 and Lake Superior State University was 10th with 10 points.

Previews are listed below in projected order of finish in the 2010 GLIAC Softball Coaches Poll released by the league office:

 



Wayne State University

Overview: For decades, Wayne State University has enjoyed remarkable consistency as one of the top programs in the GLIAC. A big reason for the success of the Warriors starts with head coach Gary Bryce, who is entering his 29th season as the head coach of the Wayne State program. WSU in 2010, has the look of one of Bryce’s better teams after a solid campaign in 2009. The success that the Warriors hope to accomplish begins in the circle with returning All-American pitcher Casey Hanes, who can be dominating when she is on her game. Last year, Hanes was a second-team All-American (Daktronics) as she started 36 games and claimed a record of 30-9 with a 0.79 earned run average and 283 strikeouts. Hanes was the 2009 GLIAC "Pitcher of the Year." Nicole Abel was an All-GLIAC Honorable Mention pitcher last season. Those two alone make the Warriors tough, but, there is more. At catcher, Wayne State has three players who will battle for top duties behind the plate with redshirt freshman Brittany Omelanchuk, coming off a season shortened by injury, likely leading the way. The rest of the infield will be anchored by third baseman Rebecca Stanley, a sophomore and an All-GLIAC Second Team choice last season, and Becca Ryan, a sophomore who also was an All-GLIAC Second Team pick. In the outfield, Alison Allen leads a strong group coming off a season in which she led the GLIAC with 11 home runs in 2009. She also led WSU with 61 hits and 30 runs batted in. The Warriors advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament for the fourth consecutive season.

Coaching: Gary Bryce is entering his 29th season as head coach of Wayne’s softball program and will be joined on a strong coaching staff by his trusted assistant, Pat Kent.

2009 Record: 40-16 overall, 17-5 GLIAC

Noteworthy: Bryce was a 2008 inductee into the NFCA Hall of Fame.

 

Ashland University

Overview: The GLIAC is blessed with a number of programs defined largely by their consistent excellence on the softball diamond. Included among those programs is Ashland. This year, the Eagles again appear poised to be a contender for the GLIAC championship as they open play on the diamond this spring. Success, in softball, is built largely on a strong foundation of good pitching and defense. From a pitching standpoint, Ashland is in solid shape with junior Logan Hursey (All-GLIAC First Team in 2009), who was 15-5 last season with a 1.83 ERA, and 2009 GLIAC "Freshman of the Year" Emlyn Knerem, who was 17-8 last spring with a 1.85 ERA. Knerem was an All-GLIAC First Team pick in addition to being named an all-region competitor for her pitching as well as for her strong hitting (she batted .283 with nine home runs and 27 runs driven in). Ashland also has young talent returning in sophomore third baseman Alyssa Kelley (All-GLIAC First-Team as a freshman in 2009) and junior outfielder Erica Miller. Ashland welcomes back seven starters from 2009 as the team seeks to make a return trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament after again competing for the GLIAC championship.

Coaching: Sheilah Gulas owns a record of 458-220 through 14 seasons at Ashland and is 661-344 overall in 24 seasons as a head coach. Gulas was named the “Michael J. Corbett” GLIAC Coach of the Year for 2009.

2009 Record: 36-14 overall, 22-4 GLIAC

Noteworthy: Ashland is hoping to make consecutive trips to the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 2002 and 2003.

 
Saginaw Valley State University

Overview: The last two seasons have been the platform for a softball renaissance at Saginaw Valley State. That renaissance includes consecutive trips to the NCAA Division II and back-to-back GLIAC softball championships under third-year head coach Everett Roper. Although the Cardinals did lose some quality players to graduation, Roper’s cupboard is far from bare. Saginaw Valley welcomes back two starting pitchers from last season in Kari Bowlby, a senior, and Jade Fulton, a junior. Bowlby was 13-2 last season with a 1.41 earned run average while Fulton was 18-6 with a 1.15 ERA and 233 strikeouts. The Cardinals have added some depth to their pitching staff with newcomers who could see some time in the circle. On the infield, the Cardinals welcome back Jordan Stuart, a four-year contributor who looks solid over at first base and as one of the team’s leaders. Kim Sills and Ashley Coffin are expected to compete for second base. At shortstop, the Cardinals have to fill in a spot handled by Nicole Fick so well. Kailah Happ, a top-notch defender, is expected to be battling for that spot. At third base, Senior Shannon McLaughlin appears to be the leader. Behind the plate, Nicole Bigelow is the likely candidate to start as one half of the battery. On the outfield grass, Angela Kaiser is a familiar name as a returning first-team All-GLIAC performer in 2009. Ashley Jordan and Billi Hoepnner also bring experience to the outfield.

Coaching: Everett Roper is in his third season as the head softball coach at Saginaw Valley State.

2009 Record: 39-11 overall, 18-4 GLIAC

Noteworthy: Saginaw Valley has made NCAA post-season appearances four times (1992, 2000, 2008 and 2009) and last season advanced to and hosted the NCAA Division II Midwest Super Regional.


Ferris State University

Overview: Ferris State graduated a number of key players from a team that advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament for the second consecutive year in 2009. Even with those graduation losses, the expectations remain high for head coach Keri Becker’s Bulldogs as they enter 2010 with a combination of new and experienced hands – all with lofty expectations. The middle of Ferris’ infield is solid thanks to second baseman Amanda Harrington returning off a banner season during which she batted .290 with two home runs, 36 hits and 14 RBI en route to being named All-Midwest Region First-Team. To her right, at shortstop, Ferris welcomes back Lynsay Weaver, a junior, who is looking for a breakout season in 2010. Last season, she had five home runs and drove in 21 runs for Becker’s squad. Ferris will have some more power in its lineup with designated player Rhea Flores returning off a solid season at the plate. In 2008, Flores batted .314 with six home runs, 25 home runs and 43 hits. Rachel Wade brings experience to the outfield for Ferris as well as a good bat. Wade batted .304 last season with one home run, 15 RBI and 45 hits. Flores, a second-team All-GLIAC player in 2009, also will see some time pitching for the Bulldogs. Ferris has high expectations with the return of Kayle Stevenson, a second-team All-GLIAC performer in 2009, in the circle. She was dependable for the Bulldogs. Last spring, Stevenson put together a record of 12-1 with a 0.91 earned run average and 60 strikeouts.

Coaching: Keri Becker is in her 13th season as head coach of the Bulldogs and owns a career record of 383-237-1.

2009 Record: 35-10 overall, 18-4 GLIAC

Noteworthy: Coach Becker is a three-time GLIAC "Coach of the Year" (1997, 2003 and 2008).

 

Grand Valley State University


Overview: In 2009, Grand Valley posted yet another solid season of college softball as the team ended the campaign with a record of 33-18. This season, the Lakers expect to take another step forward to climb the ladder of contention in the GLIAC standings this season. Grand Valley returns some firepower led by senior Breanne Kronberg, who plays catcher and first base, was a first-team Daktronics All-Region First-Team selection and an All-GLIAC Second-Team choice. She was a big part of the Laker offense as she led the team in eight offensive categories and was first in the GLIAC in doubles (17) and RBI (41). She was third in the league in hits (57) and total bases. The list goes on and on for Kronberg, who had a banner season. In the outfield, Tina Briggs will help lead the group on the grass. The senior started 48 games of error-free softball last season in center field. She is a terror on the bases, too, as she stole nine bases. Lauren Rohan, who has learned from some solid pitchers she has worked with in the GVSU program, returns as the experienced member of the GVSU pitching staff. She registered 82 strikeouts in 105 innings and allowed a team-low 40 runs.

Coaching: Doug Woods is in his 20th season in the dugout as head coach of the Lakers.

2009 Record: 33-18 overall, 11-11 GLIAC

Noteworthy: Woods has an all-time record of 705-319-3 overall and 244-128-1 in GLIAC competition.


Tiffin University

Overview: Tiffin is entering its second season of softball in the GLIAC with expectations that are elevated from last spring. A year ago, the Dragons compiled a record of 23-25 overall under head coach Jeff Nickerson, who now is in his second season with what he hopes will be a TU team that features a stronger offensive attack. Among those expected to lead Tiffin, during the upcoming season, are sophomore second baseman Lauren Mazzuca (who batted .327 last spring) and junior catcher Delaney Talmage (batted .307 with a team-best 39 runs driven in), who were all-region and All-GLIAC choices, respectively. There is plenty of help for Mazzuca and Talmage as all-league pick Tiffany Smith is back, as a junior first baseman, after batting .321 with nine homers and 38 RBI. At shortstop, the Dragons welcome the return of sophomore Meagan Baird and, in the outfield, Tiffin is pleased to have back centerfielder Stephanie Bobotas. Pitching is a key to a team’s success in softball. Tiffin has two returners on its pitching staff in sophomore Abbey Cooksey, who was 3-7 with a 6.67 earned run average and another sophomore, Lexie Pinkleman, who was 2-4 last season with a 6.75 ERA. Additionally, Tiffin has some newcomers who could step in and perform for the pitching staff in Kelly Mayer, Amber Young and Erika Davis.

Coaching: Jeff Nickerson is in his second season as head coach of Tiffin. In seven years as a head coach, overall, his record if 190-153.

2009 Record: 23-25 overall, 9-16 GLIAC

Noteworthy: Tiffin has been playing college softball since 1985 and has an all-time record of 623-403-2.




Hillsdale College

Overview: Hillsdale expects to send a competitive team out on the diamond this season to battle amongst some top-notch teams that comprise the GLIAC’s roster. The Chargers, under the guidance of head coach Jamie Meyers, hope to return to the GLIAC Tournament. Hillsdale returns with a talented group that comprises the core of its squad. One of the defining characteristics the Chargers hope people will see in their squad is their ability to swat the long ball and to put some points on the scoreboard this spring. All-GLIAC First Team choice Devon Trimmer is back after a season during which she batted .320 and played in the outfield for the Chargers. Jessica Guerin, coming off a campaign during which she hit six home runs, is back in the lineup. From a pitching standpoint, Hillsdale hopes it will be able to win the arms race with a number of throwers operating from the circle. Laura Homan and Kellie Hirst are back as experienced performers. Freshmen Taylor Schulty and Brittany Hulett add depth to the pitching staff. As for the other part of the battery, Becca Strother and Chelsy Jacobson will be important to the Hillsdale defense.

Coaching: Jamie Meyers is in her third season as the head softball coach at Hillsdale.

2009 Record: 17-27 overall, 7-19 GLIAC

Noteworthy: Hillsdale College has not competed in the GLIAC Softball Tournament since 2006, but hopes to change that this spring.



Northwood University

Overview: Northwood had some highs and lows during the 2009 season, but hopes to display a higher degree of consistency this spring – in and out of GLIAC competition. The Timberwolves have four seniors returning to their lineup with pitcher/first baseman Jessica Wojcik, outfielder Ashley Slusser, middle infielder Michelle Boscola and Jamie Swick, who plays both second base and outfield for Northwood. Boscola is the top returning hitter after batting.306 last season with 44 hits, six doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 21 RBI. Slusser batted 268 last season with 33 hits while Swich had 26 hits and drove in six runs. Outfielder Tiffany Melgoza, a junior, was Northwood’s fourth-leading hitter last season as she batted .277 with 33 hits, seven doubles, three home runs and 22 runs driven in. Northwood has to fill the spikes of a pair of All-GLIAC Honorable Mention players from last season in catcher Ashley Belling and first baseman Alyssa Eppler. Rachel Hammer gives Northwood athletic ability and proficiency at shortstop as she helps solidify the top of the Timberwolves’ lineup.

Coaching: Meaggan Pettipiece is in her fourth season as the head coach of Northwood’s softball program.

2009 Record: 17-24 overall, 11-14 GLIAC

Noteworthy: Pettipiece has a whole new staff of assistant coaches as she has added Michelle Ignatowski and Andrea Berchert to her staff.



University of Findlay

Overview: Findlay was hovering around that .500 mark last season and, with a good-sized group of returners, hopes to continue to become more competitive with the teams at the top of the GLIAC. The Oilers are a team of potential, but head coach Ron Ammons hopes that potential becomes reality on the field. Senior Katie Ammons, in center field, is one of the top returners for Findlay after batting a team-best .352 with 43 hits and an on-base percentage of .437. A year ago, Ammons was a second-team All-GLIAC selection. All-GLIAC Second Team choice Brittany Dauterman returns as a versatile all-around player who pitches and plays in the outfield for the orange and black. Dauterman finished the 2009 season with a 3.95 earned run average, 64 strikeouts as she ended with a record of 4-7. At the plate she proved dangerous with six home runs, a .589 slugging percentage and a batting average of .318. Kara Hochevar, a junior shortstop, is coming back off a strong 2009 season during which she batted .399 with 40 hits. Calli Coppus, a first baseman, started all 43 games last season. Jaci Messmer, a junior left fielder, started 41 games last season and batted .283 after transferring in from Cleveland State. She had 10 doubles, two triples and three homers with 17 RBI. Lauren Orban appeared in 22 games last season with 18 starts. She tossed 97.1 innings and posted a record of 7-12 with a 4.46 ERA with 49 strikeouts. A year ago, as a freshman, Alyssa Schultz was 5-4 with 48 strikeouts and 20 walks.

Coaching: Ron Ammons is in his seventh season as the head coach of the Oilers and claims a record of 99-185.

2009 Record: 20-23 overall, 7-19 GLIAC

Noteworthy: Katie Ammons picked up the GLIAC Commissioners Award for her work on the field and in the classroom.



Lake Superior State University

Overview: Last spring, Lake Superior State University had several players make big steps in improvement from the prior season. The Lakers finished 7-42 last season, but did have some bright spots on the field as middle infielder Lacey Knoop, who has the capability to play a number of different positions on the field, saw a dramatic improvement in her batting. As a testament to her work ethic, Knoop improved from .190, as a sophomore, to .303 as a junior with 43 hits. Another middle infielder for Lake State is senior Lorrie Chaperon, who was the team leader in hits last season with 44 while batting .319. Amber Kern returns as a senior first baseman while Nichole Dunford, a former GLIAC "Freshman of the Year," is back in the lineup. Also back as a starter is  Nicole Carstensen, who batted .267 last season after transferring from North Dakota . In the circle, sophomore Jillian Willette is back after compiling a 3-17 record with a 5.21 ERA during her freshman season.

Coaching: Don Myers is entering his 21st season as a head coach for the Lake Superior State University Lakers.

2009 Record: 7-42 overall, 1-25 GLIAC

Noteworthy: In 20 seasons, Don Myers has compiled a career record of 228-638-1 as a softball head coach.

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