It would appear that pitching will be the key issue for Head Coach Kathy Mangano, at least initially, as the 2008 season gets underway. The Pride will be counting upon junior lefthander Samantha Rhodes (Mendon, Mass.), who won a number of key games, especially down the stretch last season. Otherwise, Springfield will be relying heavily upon a pair of freshmen, Sarah Pongratz (Winchester, Mass.) and Katie Anderson (Andover, Mass.).
Three position players who will also be heavily relied upon include senior second baseman Denise Fumicello (Brockton, Mass.), sophomore catcher Michelle Wlosek (Nutley, N.J.), and sophomore DP Danielle Spiro (South Windsor, Conn.). Fumicello has been Springfield's leadoff hitter, stolen-base leader, and all-around spark-plug for the past three year. She was named First Team All-NEWMAC a year ago. Wlosek, SC's leading power hitter, led Springfield in many categories last year, including batting average (.407), games played (39), games started (39), hits (50), home runs (9), RBI's (44), total bases (86), slugging percentage (.699), walks (21), and on-base percentage (.490). She was Named ECAC Division III First Team, a New England Softball Coaches Association Division III First Team All-Star, and All-NEWMAC First Team. Spiro was named All-NEWMAC Second Team.
In this spring's first game on Sunday (Mar. 16) in the Rebel Games in Kissimee, Springfield fell to Washington & Jefferson, 11-3. The Pride took a 1-0 lead after one inning, but Washington & Jefferson scored the next 10 runs en route to the victory. Spiro and sophomore outfielder Bryn Worrilow (North Babylon, N.Y.) each had an RBI for Springfield. Rhodes took the loss.
Later that same day, Springfield lost to Trinity (CT) by a tally of 3-1. Trinity scored all three runs in the first inning. Pongratz hurled 5 1/3 innings of strong relief, giving up only two hits, while striking out three, and walking just one. Spiro knocked in SC's only run in the sixth inning. Sophomore shortstop Jaimie Moran (Manchester, Conn.) went 1-for-2 with a double. Wildness plagued starting pitcher Katie Anderson, who was making the initial start of her career. She gave up four walks and one hit in just 2/3 of an inning.
The next day (Monday, Mar. 17), Springfield rallied to win its first of the season, a 6-5 victory over Rutgers-Camden, the team that won the NCAA Division III national title just two years ago in 2006. Down 5-0 after two innings, Springfield came up with one in the bottom of the third, two in the fourth, and three in the final inning, the last of the seventh. The RBI's were produced by Worrilow (2), junior pinch-hitter Aimee Cassella (Southington, Conn.) (2), Worrilow (1), and freshman first baseman Jessica Hillman (Seymour, Conn.) (1, the game-winner). This time, it was Rhodes who came on strong on the mound, pitching 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. She gave up just one hit, while striking out six, and walking one in picking up the victory.
In game #2 that same day, Rhodes pitched a complete game, but Springfield lost, 3-1, to a very good Western Connecticut State squad. WCSU upped its record to 6-0 after that win. The Colonials scored one in the first and two more in the fifth. Springfield scored once in the top of the seventh on a pinch-hit single by Cassella. Rhodes struck out six and walked three in the outing, giving up nine hits along the way. With that loss, Springfield was 1-3 after its first four contests.
Up next, Springfield will play twice more on Tuesday, twice more on Thursday, and twice more on Friday during its southern swing to Kissimee. Springfield is scheduled to play its first games up north next Wednesday (March 26) -- a doubleheader versus Eastern Connecticut State -- at SC's Potter Field at 2:30 pm.