Sagehen Softball Looks to Build on Past Success

Pomona-Pitzer softball is a program on the rise. After having increased their win total in every season since 2009, the Sagehens finished 2012 with a program record 22 wins, good for third place in SCIAC. While the 2012 season was record-breaking, the Sagehens have every reason to expect even more from this season. Five of the top hitters from last year’s squad are returning, along with the most consistent starting pitcher, Fiona Riley PO ’15. All but one of these top returning contributors were rookies last year, and expectations will be high as they look to break out in their sophomore seasons.

The Sagehens finished strong last season, winning five of their last six regular season games. Two of their most important victories came against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in an April 20 doubleheader. However, the Sagehens hit a wall in the SCIAC tournament—a wall that this year’s team will face once again. In recent history, University of Redlands and CMS have dominated SCIAC competition, trading places at the top of the standings. The latest national Division III poll has Redlands ranked 20th and CMS 22nd, so on paper, the SCIAC title should be between those two. If the Sagehens want to compete in the SCIAC tournament, they will have to find a way to beat the Bulldogs and the Athenas. NFCA All-Western region outfielder Leah Bleichner PO ’15 is confident that P-P is the team to shake up SCIAC.

“At midseason, we were in second and CMS was in third,” Bleichner said. “I think there is a huge possibility that we come out ahead. Redlands has a quality program and will be difficult to pass. However, we did beat them last year, and I know we are capable of doing it again.”

To break the current trend in SCIAC, the Sagehens are going to have to be solid in all aspects of the game, but Bleichner thinks the key is at the plate, a place where she has the highest confidence in her team.

“Our strength lies in our bats,” Bleichner said. “Every person is capable of crushing the ball over the fence.”

In 2012, the Sagehens had six players hit .300 or better. Bleichner led the way, hitting .394 with two home runs and 25 RBI. Catcher and third baseman Emily Glass PO ’15 batted .386 and boasted a .438 on-base percentage, the highest of any returning Sagehen. Caitlin Hynes PO ’14, Jessica Liu PO ’15, and Ashley Morello PZ ’15 hit .300, .302, and .368, respectively. The only big bats that will be missed from last year’s squad are Bri Marcantoni PO ’12 and Ari Roach PZ ’12.

In the pitching circle, the Sagehens will rely mainly on Riley, who finished out the 2012 season 13-9 with a 3.61 earned run average (ERA). Hynes and Liu were also used as starters in 2012 and can fill in as relievers when needed. Marilyn Creswell PO ’14, who appeared last year in relief work, will also contribute.

Along with the established group from last year, there are five new freshmen who have the potential to make an immediate impact. After starting six freshmen last year, Head Coach Joanne Ferguson is certainly not afraid to throw young players into the mix. Just three years ago, the Sagehens brought only two players into the program, so the influx of solid freshmen is something that Ferguson is excited about.

“The program continues to bring in more talent each year,” Ferguson said. “And as the team continues to be more successful, our program becomes more attractive to prospective student-athletes.”

While sophomores may be at the core of the lineup and the pitching staff, Ferguson believes that the leadership still lies with a senior. Third baseman Kathryn Rabak PO ’13 is the lone senior on the roster, and Ferguson believes she will be vital to the Sagehens’ success this season.

“Kat is going to lead by example every day with her work ethic and her commitment,” Ferguson said. “I anticipate her bat playing a role in our offense as well.”

Rabak, a third baseman out of Grass Valley, Calif., led the team with four home runs last year.

Although there are many similarities to last year, this year’s team is faster and more experienced. While Redlands and CMS will stand in the way, Coach Ferguson has adopted a more day-to-day approach for her team.

“It’s always our goal to move up in the SCIAC standings,” Ferguson said. “We don’t focus on finishing past certain teams. We want to beat every team we compete against.”

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