A week before your annual spring break pilgrimage to Fort Myers, Fla. for an intense 10 games in five days, you might be apprehensive. You might be scared.
“I’m terribly excited,” said Everden. “When you lose a dominant pitcher like [Lauren Peloquin ’02], it’s a whole new start.”
This year, Everden can look forward to guiding a “young, enthusiastic, hard-working” roster with first-years plugged into key spots. Indeed, Everden expects the team to “win a few games thanks to enthusiasm and hustle alone.”
Along with Everden, co-captains Missy Mordy ’03 and Emily Melia ’03 will lead the Jeffs. “She has a vacuum for a glove,” said Everden of Mordy, who made the transition from third base to shortstop last season and quickly established herself as the Jeffs’ most versatile and best defensive player. Melia, meanwhile, will split time between second base and pitcher, where she put up a solid 2.68 ERA as a junior.
The Jeffs will leave the bulk of the pitching, however, to first-year standout Miya “Joe” Warner ’06. “You’re never going to replace a Lauren Peloquin,” said Everden, “but Miya has all the potential to be a great pitcher.” In a scrimmage against Keene State College of New Hampshire, Warner offered a glimpse of things to come: 12 strikeouts, six innings pitched, and two hits allowed.
“As a team, we’re starting to gel. I’ve worked with both catchers [Kate Raddock ’06 and Kristin Bradley ’05] and I think each helped to get the 12 strikeouts because they’re such good pitch-callers,” Warner said. “That really makes a big difference to me because I’m not a real fastball pitcher-I’m more of a curveball, junkball pitcher.”
Everden envisions Warner pitching the first game of doubleheaders and Melia spelling her in the second, although Warner may even see action in the second game, much as Peloquin did last year. Rounding out the rotation will be Katie Honderd ’05.
Raddock forms the other half of the “exceptional first-year battery,” said Everden, adding, “Raddock has a gun; by season’s end, she’ll be cranking.” The tandem must replace catcher Becca Binder ’02, who received every pitch the last two seasons and hit .294 as a senior, and pitcher Peloquin, who posted a 1.21 career ERA, and was an All-American, NESCAC Player of the Year and NESCAC Pitcher of the Year during her four years with the Jeffs.
The team also lost senior Erin Dittus, a two-year starter in center field and first baseman Gina Scribner ’04, whose absence the offense will feel acutely: the junior batted .406 last season and paced the team in nearly every hitting category. Neither has chosen to play this season. To offset what was admittedly a big loss, Everden’s team will play small ball, relying on improved quickness to manufacture runs.
“Despite losing a few key players from last year, we are still an extremely talented team. We lost a lot of our big, long ball hitters but … our team is going to be a lot quicker this year- not so centrally focused on power hitters, but more concerned with putting the ball in play and making things happen,” said Mordy. “This means that we might not have the power to drive in a lot of runs all at once, but we have the potential to score a lot of runs in general because of our quickness on the bases and because we are going to force the other team to make plays.”
“This season will be about doing the little things well, offensively and defensively. More than in years past, this team realizes that it takes nine players on the field to win games, not one,” said Melia.
Lefty first baseman Laura Trigeiro ’06 will join the veteran trio of Melia, Mordy, and third baseman Jess Allen ’04, a good contact hitter who batted leadoff last year, in the infield. Trigeiro has had a strong preseason offensively, prompting Everden to insert her into the starting lineup. “Laura has been playing well so far,” said Melia, “and hopefully will … contribute right away.”
Competition for spots in the outfield should be stiff. Greta Anderson ’05 figures to start in left. Tamara Baer ’03, the team’s leading hitter in Florida the past two trips, will get the nod in right field after a stellar 2002 campaign that saw her bat .287 and finish second on the team in both hits and RBIs. Center field is a toss-up among Rachel Hoerger ’06, defensive stopper Della Huff ’04 and speedy Elizabeth Staunton ’05. Huff made only one error last season, while Staunton excelled as a rookie pinch hitter and pinch runner, trailing only Mordy in stolen bases.
Baer, for one, is confident about the Jeffs’ outfield prospects. “I think the outfield is going to be really strong this year. We have three returning starters and lots of help from the new players,” she said. “We’ve been doing a lot of work inside on ground balls and pop flies and hopefully we’ll improve even more when we get outside in Florida.”
The Jeffs will count on contributions from the bench, including Kay Tedeschi ’06, a utility player; Honderd, a pitcher who will also share first base; and Sarah Rothbard ’06, a second baseman who is “really coming along,” according to Everden.
In preparation for crucial doubleheaders against NESCAC rivals, Everden’s squad will be experimenting with different lineups over spring break. The coach said she’d consider a .500 trip successful.
Youth or no youth, Mordy and the rest of the Jeffs are poised to make a run at the NCAA tournament. “The first-years we have are all really enthusiastic and have come from talented high school and summer programs which have more than prepared them for college softball,” said Mordy. “Adding these players to the mix of upperclassmen has really changed our team dynamic and added a spark that I’m hopeful will continue through the season.”
Melia agrees. “We have great team chemistry and work together very well … if we continue to work together on the field and get the little things done, we can beat anyone.”