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2001 Season Preview
March 8, 2001

AMHERST, MA - Coming off of a 2000 season that left them with a final record of 22-8-1 and a berth in the ECAC Championship Tournament, the 2001 Amherst College softball team will look to a stringent defense and a revamped offense to lead them back to the postseason.

After posting an 8-1-1 record on their annual spring break trip to Fort Myers, Fla., during which the squad pasted wins over NESCAC rival Hamilton College, Keene State College and Framingham State College, the Jeffs returned north to Hills Field. The homecoming to Amherst brought the squad a four-game win streak, including a win over Little Three foe Wesleyan University. The Jeffs went on to win nine out of their next 12 games, taking doubleheader sweeps from Trinity College, Bowdoin College and Westfield State College in the process. The Jeffs dropped two games to Tufts University in Medford late in the season, and then split a doubleheader with Williams College to end their regular season, denying them an NCAA bid from the NESCAC. The Amherst season ended with a 7-3 loss to Clark University in the ECAC Tournament at Wheaton College.

After losing three dominating hitters to graduation-Liza Feldman '00, Melissa Roja '00 and Darcy Sweeney '00-the Jeffs have some big holes to fill at the plate. The three led the Jeffs' offensive attack, with Sweeney batting an impressive .387 and Feldman and Roja following close behind, posting averages of .344 and .330, respectively. Sweeney also led the Jeffs in RBIs, knocking in 27 runners on the year with a pair of round-trippers. Feldman completed the power-hitting heart of the Jeff lineup, and Roja was an indispensable baserunner, stealing 12 bases on the year without being thrown out.

This year, co-captain Carline Kelly '01, along with Missy Mordy '03, should combine to form a powerful one-two punch at the top of the lineup to replace Roja's finesse at the leadoff spot. The meat of the order will revolve around co-captain Meg Nelson '01, who posted a .286 average, .345 slugging percentage and 15 RBIs as a junior. The rest of the lineup will be solid, featuring a core of veterans, along with surprise first-year Gina Scribner '04, who will be a vital component at the plate. The emphasis will turn away from last year's reliance on extra-base hits from the middle of the lineup. Instead, the 2001 offense will rely more on sacrificing and moving runners around the bases as a result of play execution and consistent basehits.

The Jeffs will also be solid defensively, led by pitchers Lauren Peloquin '02 and Emily Melia '03. Peloquin has been dominant so far in her college career, and this year should prove no different. Last season, Peloquin received NESCAC Player of the Week accolades on three separate occasions, while her anemic 1.21 ERA was accentuated by a 17-5 record, during which she struck out 174 of the 563 batters she faced. Melia also posted impressive numbers in her debut season as a Jeff, racking up a 2.18 ERA and a 5-3 record, en route to 24 strikeouts and an opposing batting average of .231. Melia and Peloquin will form a dominating combination on the mound, bringing the Jeffs a solid core of defensive experience.

Surrounding Melia and Peloquin on the field will be a solid Jeff defense. The other half of the Jeff battery will be composed of catchers Becca Binder '02 and Erica Schmeckpepper '03. Mordy will take the hot spot for the Jeffs, returning to the familiar third-base territory that brought her an .874 fielding percentage during her rookie campaign last season. Shari Sakamoto '01 will move from her post in center field during the 2000 campaign to shortstop. Originally a third baseman, Sakamoto will adjust well to the infield role, and her quick reaction time and ability to field in the hole will solidify the left side of the infield for the Jeffs. On the right side of the infield, Kelly will stay her ground at second base. A veteran second baseman, Kelly will lead the generally young infield with her experience. Scribner will round out the infield squad at first base.

In the outfield, Nelson will set the senior example for the fresh-faced group. Accompanying her will be sophomore Erin Dittus, a first year player on the team. Similarly, Tamara Baer '03, Della Huff '04 and Jenna Obelsky '03 will combine to form a young but strong outfield. The Jeffs are coached by Sue Everden, who is assisted by Jen Shea '98 and Gary VanCauwenberge

The squad will travel south to Fort Myers during spring break, where it will play a third of its season, highlighted by the season-opener against conference-rival Hamilton. The NESCAC Tournament for softball, the winner of which receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, places the 11 member schools within two divisions, East and West. Amherst will compete in the West division, as will Hamilton. The Hamilton game will serve two functions. First, it will begin to solidify the Jeff's record within their division. Secondly, it will serve as an indicator of things to come. After the squad returns it will open it's home slate against Brandeis University on March 27. The Jeffs will play through May 2, facing NESCAC schools Bowdoin, Wesleyan, Trinity, Tufts and Middlebury College on the way. The inaugural NESCAC Postseason Tournament for softball will take place from May 4 through May 6, at a location to be determined based on team standings.