2002 Softball Season Preview
February 4, 2002
An eight-game winning streak and an appearance in the inaugural NESCAC Postseason Championship Tournament highlighted another successful campaign for the Amherst College softball team. With a 19-12 record (6-2 NESCAC), the Jeffs appeared in the postseason for the fifth consecutive season, including berths in the NCAA Tournament in both 1998 and '99.
With only three seniors, the Jeffs relied on some key performances from underclassmen, particularly pitching sensation Lauren Peloquin. She won her first 10 decisions, and the Jeffs won eight straight after returning from their annual spring trip to Ft. Myers, Fla. The junior fireballer would end up accumulating numerous honors, including NESCAC Pitcher of the Year accolades. Peloquin's 0.43 ERA, good for fourth in the nation, gave her a 14-5 season record. In 129.1 innings of work, Peloquin allowed only eight earned runs, while striking out 170 batters. Sophomore hurler Emily Melia also performed well on the mound, carving her own place in the books with a 3.08 ERA in 79.2 innings of work.
Offensively, senior left fielder Meg Nelson earned All-NESCAC honors after finishing seventh in the conference in with a team-high .374 batting average. Meanwhile, first-year Gina Scribner was named NESCAC Co-Rookie of the Year after hitting .324 from the meat of the batting order. Scribner anchored the stringent Jeff infield from first base, complementing sophomore Missy Mordy at third, seniors Shari Sakamoto and Carline Kelly up the middle, and junior catcher Becca Binder behind the plate.
The Jeffs faced the toughest part of their schedule down the stretch, which featured doubleheader conference wins over both Middlebury and Wesleyan, before falling to Tufts and Bowdoin in the double-elimination NESCAC Tournament.
2002: A LOOK AHEAD
The Jeffs, who return nine veterans to the 2002 roster after losing only three members of the Class of 2001 to graduation, will rely mainly on the accumulation of game experience from the returning letterwinners to push through a tough schedule. A promising first-year class, along with key sophomore newcomer Jessica Allen, will bolster the Amherst lineup and provide depth to what is already a talented and experienced group.
Opponents will continue to have a hard time scoring runs against senior co-captain Lauren Peloquin. Over her career, Peloquin has amassed a 54-19 record, and junior Emily Melia has posted a career 10-10 record. First-year Kathryn Honderd will step in and join the potent Jeff pitching mix this year, and will also serve her time at first base. The hurlers will take the signs from senior co-captain catcher Becca Binder, who brings a year of starting experience behind the plate. First-year catcher Kristin Bradley will also look to contribute to the battery.
Head Coach Sue Everden will unveil a reshuffled infield for the 2002 campaign. Mordy will move from third base to shortstop to fill the hole left by 2001 graduate Shari Sakamoto. Allen and Scribner will patrol the line from third base, and Peloquin and Melia will split time between second base and the mound to take over the infield spot left vacant by 2001 graduate Carline Kelly. Scribner will also mark her time at first base.
The Jeff outfield is possibly the deepest part of the Amherst roster. With only one hole to fill--the one left by 2001 graduate left fielder Meg Nelson--Everden has her pick of strong players. Juniors Tamara Baer, Erin Dittus, and Jenna Obelsky each earned their stripes on the grass last year, but sophomore Della Huff came up with a strong case for a starting spot in 2002 via impressive late-season action in 2001. First-years Greta Anderson and Liz Staunton will supplement the outfield, and both have caught Everden's eye during the preseason.
While the 2001 Jeffs focused their offensive power on the power-hitting heart of their lineup, the 2002 squad looks more likely to hit consistently through all nine slots in the order. Extra-base hits are a viable option, given the presence of Scribner, Peloquin, Mordy and Obelsky in the lineup, but in the end, the team will rely on its ability to move runners on the basepaths using consistent base hits and short-game strategy.
Besides their annual spring trip to Florida, the Amherst softball team plays a strong schedule in the NESCAC, while also vying for the Little Three title against Wesleyan and traditional rival Williams. In Ft. Myers, the Jeffs will go up against the Bowdoin College Polar Bears, the team that knocked them out of contention at the 2001 NESCAC Tournament. Amherst will travel to Brandeis University and Clark University the week after break, before entering the meat of their schedule. After hosting Middlebury during their Mar. 30th home-opener, the squad will navigate a thick slate of conference and regional competition, culminating in a Senior Day showdown against Williams on April 27th, before NESCAC Tournament action begins on May 3rd.