March 5, 2013

2013 Softball Preview

Coast Guard, which has won three straight New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament titles and made four straight trips to the NCAA tournament, must replace All-American pitcher Hayley Feindel, one of the top pitchers in Division III history.

Feindel finished her magnificent career as the NCAA Division III all-time leader in wins (124), strikeouts (1,457), innings pitched (1,029.7), games (160), games started (156), complete games (140) and she is second all-time in Division III with 62 shutouts. She had a career-record of 124-30 with nine no-hitters and a pair of perfect games. She led the Bears to four straight NCAA tournament appearances, three straight NEWMAC regular season (2009, 2010, 2011) and tournament championships (2010, 2011, 2012). Coast Guard had never won a NEWMAC regular season or tournament championship and never appeared in the NCAA tournament before she arrived on campus. The Bears had a four-year record of 139-40-1, the most wins over a four-year period in school history.

"It is impossible to replace Hayley, who is one of the greatest pitchers in Division III history," said Coast Guard head coach Donna Koczajowski. "We do however feel that we can still compete with the top teams in the NEWMAC with the players that we have coming back. We are looking forward to proving that we can be successful with not just pitching, but with our offense and defense."

Coast Guard saw what life without Feindel was like last year when she missed 16 games with a broken finger, and junior Catherine Walker filled in making 16 starts and pitching 99 innings and picked up seven victories.

This season the Bears will count on freshman Kristine Kahl as the new ace of the staff while Walker and freshman Samantha Yuknat will give the pitching staff some needed depth.

"We proved that we can win games without Hayley last year and that is something that we will carry over into this season. It puts more pressure on our hitting and defense, but we look forward to taking on the challenge," said Koczajowski.

Coast Guard was 28-19 last season and 8-8 in conference play earning the sixth and final NEWMAC tournament seed en route to winning the conference tournament and finishing the season ranked 23rd nationally.

The Bears return a solid middle of the order in NFCA first team All-American senior Holli Bastinck and NEWMAC Rookie of the Year Jessie Richardson, who both led the NEWMAC with .452 batting averages last season.

Bastinck hit .452 with 70 hits and was tied for the conference lead with 10 homers while driving in 50 runs and leading the Bears with a .697 slugging percentage. She was named to both the NFCA and the New England Softball Coaches Association (NEISCA) First team All-region teams.

Richardson, the NEWMAC Rookie of the Year and first team All-conference selection, also led the conference with a .452 batting average while scoring a single-season school record 47 runs. She had 10 doubles, three homers and 26 RBI's and led the team with a .521 on base percentage. She led the Bears with a .462 batting average in the four NCAA tournament games to earn a spot on the NCAA tournament All-regional team.

Junior center fielder Kaitlin Ward also returns to bolster the Bears offense after hitting .326 with five homers and 30 RBI's last season.

Senior Stacia Sarwinski, a four-year starter, returns in right field to anchor the Bears outfield while the left field spot will be shared by senior Summer Dupler and sophomore Kelsey Gray.

The Bears infield will have a much different look this season with Walker and sophomore Stephanie Figgins both seeing time at first base.

Sophomore Erin Lisko (.244), who started all 45 games at shortstop last season, will see time at both shortstop and second base this season while junior captain Kelly Grills will also see time at second base while freshman Morgan Kingston is expected to see time at shortstop.

Bastinck will see time at third base, behind the plate and as the designated player this season giving Coach Koczajowski plenty of different lineup options this season. Freshman Hannah Ingerson is also expected to see plenty of time at third base while sophomore Natalie Spadafora will battle for time at the hot corner.

Richardson will see time both behind the plate and as a utility infielder for the Bears in 2013.

"Winning is a learned behavior and we have gotten a taste of that and it's a strong motivator," said Koczajowski. "Our returners have a hunger to win and we have a chip on on our shoulder because we are looking forward to being an underdog and showing we can do it with our bats and our defense."

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