The Marist Softball team, the preseason number two pick in the MAAC, kicks off its 55-game 2013 slate on Saturday, March 2 when they travel to Norfolk, Va. to play four games at Norfolk State's Spartan Classic. Coming off a 2012 season, in which they qualified for their straight MAAC Tournament and won 28 games, fifth year head coach Joe Ausanio has a deep roster with strong veteran leadership to go into competition and hunt for a MAAC Championship with this year.
"Deep, versatile and hard-working are words, I'd use to describe this year's team. There isn't a player on this squad, who can't play multiple positions or fill in multiple roles," says Ausanio. "This will give us options throughout games and series to change up our looks or give players a breather. I'm excited about what this team is capable of with what we have returning and what we've added."
Who's Back ...
Marist's projected started lineup will feature seven returners led by the All-MAAC duo of senior Danielle Koltz (Chenango Bridge, N.Y.) and junior Alyssa Zahka (Lexington, Mass.). Koltz, a four-year starter, was named to the All-MAAC Second Team in 2012 as he finished the season ranked amongst the MAAC's best in five categories: RBIs (39), doubles (11), slugging percentage (.529) and batting average (.314). Her fellow upperclassman, Zahka was a 2012 First Team All-MAAC honoree after she ranked top seven in the MAAC in runs scored (40), doubles (12), batting average (.327) and on-base percentage (.415). Zahka also ranked first on Marist with 55 hits and second with 31 RBIs.
Other returning starters for the Red Foxes, include senior Christina Lausch (Lancaster, Pa.), juniors Aly Klemmer (Hamilton, N.J.) and Haley Birnbaum (Lido Beach, N.Y.) and sophomore Taylor Kuzma (Freehold, N.J.). Each player will be assets to Ausanio with their offense and versatility. In her first three seasons, Lausch has seen time at a variety of positions throughout the infield and outfield. The junior power threats; Klemmer (RF/1B) and Birnbaum (2B/3B) have combined for 25 career home runs. Kuzma (OF/SS) is a threat with her speed as her ability to beat out infield singles and steal bases was on display throughout her freshman year.
Seniors Joelle Zahka (Lexington, Mass.) and Sarah Carmody (Camarillo, Calif.) will be contenders for significant playing time at first base and catcher as the starting positions will be fluid during the early portions of non-conference play. Zahka is a power threat, who saw her first substantial action as a junior last year and made it count with a .450 slugging percentage. Meanwhile, Carmody, who will see time as a catcher, outfielder and designated player, is a 2011 All-MAAC Second Team honoree after hitting .316 as a sophomore.
In the circle, Marist returns its entire pitching staff highlighted by senior captain Emily Osterhaus (Suwanee, Ga.). A preseason All-MAAC honoree, Osterhaus pitched in a team-high 27 games for the Red Foxes in 2012. She led the staff with 11 wins, 11 complete games, two shutouts, three saves, 124 innings pitched and 85 strikeouts. Junior Paige Lewis (Temecula, Calif.) looks to return to her 2011 form, where she won 15 games, after battling through a sophomore slump last season. The second-year duo of Melanie White (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and Janine Lalli (Eastchester, N.Y.) are coming off debuts, in which they combined for three MAAC Rookie of the Week awards.
Freshmen To Watch ...
Ausanio added five talented freshmen to his roster for 2013: Nicole Cheek (Simi Valley, Calif.), Maureen Duddy (San Mateo, Calif.), Alex Hraniotis (Montgomery, N.Y.), Colleen McWilliams (Monrovia, Calif.) and Kyrsten Van Natta (Maplewood, N.J.). All five players will immediately challenge for starting playing time due to outstanding offseasons and overall versatility. Cheek, Duddy and McWilliams are all in line for considerable time as starters in either the outfield or infield. Van Natta is a speedster, who can control any ball up the middle of the infield with her excellent glove work. Hraniotis will compete for playing time behind the plate as a catcher.
Beginning on March 2 and running through May 5 when the Red Foxes conclude their regular season, the team will be focused on qualifying for the MAAC Championship that they will host from May 9 through May 11.
A non-conference slate that Ausanio is excited for as "we will see a lot of new teams, as well as some very good programs. It's a challenging schedule, but I have no doubt the Red Foxes are up for the challenge"will begin with two consecutive weekends of play in Virginia and North Carolina.
After tournaments at Norfolk State and UMBC, the highlight of the team's non-conference schedule will be 10 days of action in the Mountain and Western time zones over Spring Break. Beginning on Friday, March 15 and going through March 17, the team will compete in the San Diego Classic hosted by USD and San Diego State. During the three-day tournament, Marist will play 2012 NCAA Tournament teams San Diego State and Texas Tech, as well as UNLV, San Jose State and Bryant.
Two single mid-week games in Utah, versus Brigham Young on March 19 and Utah Valley on March 20 break up the Red Foxes' tournament action before concluding their trip with five games at the Colorado State Spring Tournament from March 22 to 24. In Fort Collins, Marist will play Ball State twice, Columbia twice and host Colorado State once.
Marist eventually begins conference play on Sunday, April 7 with a clash of MAAC Semifinalists as the Red Foxes open their 2013 home schedule with a twinbill versus Fairfield at Gartland Field.
A home doubleheader versus Siena on May 5 will conclude the regular season.
The 2013 MAAC Tournament will once again be hosted by Marist College. The top four regular season teams will meet in a double elimination championship tournament beginning on Thursday, May 9 and running through Saturday, May 11.