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Junior outfielder Sydney Harbaugh, the 2014 America East Player of the Year, led the Bearcats with a .366 batting average.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Softball preview: Bearcats boast strong outfield, versatile infield
February 6, 2015Tweet
The Binghamton softball team heads into the 2015 season poised to continue its recent run of success. In 2014, the Bearcats advanced to the America East Tournament for the third time in four seasons. They return six position players and a pair of pitchers from that squad.
Among the veterans coming back are three all-conference players and three all-rookie selections. The Bearcats graduated six players from last season’s squad but welcome in seven freshmen.
Sixth-year head coach Michelle Burrell hopes the mixture of experience and youth will serve them well when the season starts Feb. 13 at the Georgia Southern Tournament.
“We are looking forward to the season starting up,” Burrell said. “We are working each day to improve both individually and as a team. We know we are not where we want to be quite yet, but also know with preparation and working together as a team we can get to where we need to be to reach our goals this season.”
Junior Sydney Harbaugh is the top returner. After being named first-team all-conference as a freshman, she was the America East Player of the Year last season. Harbaugh had a team-high batting average of .366 and was 30-for-34 in stolen bases.
Sophomores Gabby Bracchi and Bridget Hunt were both named to the All-Rookie Team in 2014. Bracchi batted .324 and Hunt .329 and were a combined 24-for-32 in stolen bases.
Freshman Jessica Rutherford, who comes from Horseheads, N.Y., is the top newcomer. She was a two-time, all-state honoree at Horseheads High School. Also joining the team as a freshman is Carrie Mannicia, who was a second-team all-state honoree her senior year at Bethlehem Central. She is a versatile player who brings additional speed and will be an asset on the bases.
“I really liked how our outfielders came together this fall,” Burrell said. “We are the fastest we have ever been and I am looking forward to watching how much ground they cover as a group this year. They are significant contributors in our lineup and not only bring a tremendous amount of speed but they hit for power as well.”
Junior Lisa Cadogan has been named first-team all-conference at first base the past two seasons and will take over as the starting catcher. Fellow junior Taylor Chaffee, who was named second-team all-conference last year behind the plate, is recovering from knee surgery and will work to make her way back into the lineup. After leading the team with 11 home runs last year, Chaffee could also see time at a corner position or at the designated player (DP) position.
Junior Griffin McIver, who has shown significant improvements this fall season, is in line to play at first base. Tia Smith, a freshman from William Penn High School in Delaware, is also recovering from an injury, but could be used at first base, in the DP spot or as a pinch hitter.
Freshman Stephanie Bielec, who comes from Niagara Falls, N.Y., is expected to start at second base where she will replace Jessica Bump, a two-time, first team all-conference selection. Bielec has excellent range and instincts and also adds additional speed to the lineup.
Senior Caytlin Friis is a three-year starter at shortstop and her experience and leadership have been invaluable to the squad. Sophomore Crysti Eichner, who was named all-rookie at third base last season, is expected to see time at shortstop as well as the other infield positions when needed. Freshman Kate Richard, who arrives from Lincoln, Del., was a two-time all-state pick at Milford High School and should see significant time at third base.
Freshman Jillian Bovitt, who is from Philadelphia, as well as sophomore Kim Santiago, who appeared in 30 games last year, will both provide additional depth to the infield.
“Our infield will obviously have a different look than last year since we will be moving Lisa behind the plate,” Burrell said. “We are really versatile throughout the infield though and our depth is probably stronger than it ever has been. I believe the key is to get everyone comfortable by the time we start conference play and we’ll have to learn from our mistakes early on this season.”
Sophomore Shelby Donhauser and freshman Sarah Miller are slated to be the starting pitchers. Donhauser appeared in 16 games with four starts in 2014 and steadily improved throughout the season. Miller, meanwhile, arrives from Fort Worth, Texas. She was a two-time all-state selection at Brewer High School.
Junior Cara Martin transferred from Rhode Island in the fall of 2013 and is expected to come in as a relief pitcher for both Donhauser and Miller. Junior Stephanie Arneson also returns for her third season in the circle.
“Our pitchers are all very different from each other and we believe they will complement each other well,” Burrell said. “They will really need to work together as a staff and utilize their own individual strengths and differences in order for us to be successful.”
Following the Georgia Southern Tournament, Binghamton heads to non-conference tournaments at Arizona State (Feb. 27-March 1), Hampton (March 7-8) and North Carolina State (March 13-15).
Other non-conference opponents Binghamton travels to this season include Niagara (April 6), Syracuse (April 8), Colgate (April 22) and Cornell (April 28). This year’s home opener is against Buffalo on March 25.
“We are again playing a competitive non-conference schedule to help us prepare as much as possible for conference play come the end of March,” Burrell said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do early on against some of the best teams in the country.”
America East play begins with a three-game set at Hartford on March 21-22. The Bearcats will also travel to Stony Brook (April 4-5) and UMBC (April 25-26). At the Bearcats Sports Complex Softball Facility, Binghamton plays host to UMass Lowell (March 28-29), Albany (April 18-19) and Maine (May 1-2).
The top four teams in the America East will advance to the America East Tournament May 7-9. The regular-season champion will once again host the double-elimination event.