POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – The Marist softball team will begin action in its seventh-ever MAAC Championship tournament on Thursday with a first round matchup versus the second-seeded Fairfield Stags at 12 p.m. on Marist’s own Gartland Field. The Red Foxes, who finished the regular season with a 27-24 record and 10-6 mark in the MAAC, are in the conference tournament for the third straight year, equaling the program’s successful run of 2006 through 2008.
SCOUTING THE FIELD
#1 Siena, 21-25 overall, 12-4 MAAC: Top-seeded Siena ended the season with four straight wins to capture the MAAC regular season title. Leading the way offensively for Siena is sophomore Paige Lloyd (.376/8 HR/34 RBI). Lloyd is joined by a formidable cast, including Alyssa Lancaster (.369/29 RBI), Jessika-Jo Sandrini (.368/30 RBI) and Shannon Jones (.355/4 HR/34 RBI), that compiled a conference-best .301 team batting average and 266 runs scored.
Hitting has been the key to the Saints success as they finished in the bottom-half of the MAAC in most pitching and defensive categories. The top pitcher for Siena has been Jessika-Jo Sandrini, who enters with a 15-7 record and a 3.73 ERA.
Siena has a tendency to engage in high-scoring games, made evident by their +3 run differential despite leading the conference in runs. In addition to hitting for a high average, the Saints thrive on extra-base hits with 78 doubles which accounted for 21% of their total hits. The key to competing against Siena is to limit them offensively. They are 16-1 when scoring 6+ runs compared to just 5-24 when scoring fewer.
#2 Fairfield, 27-19 overall, 12-4 MAAC: The Stags won nine out of their last 10 conference games to secure the number two seed. The Fairfield offense features the MAAC leading-hitter in junior Lauren Liseth (.405/6 HR/35 RBI). Despite the tremendous performance from Liseth, the team finished in the middle of the MAAC with a .270 team batting average. Sisters Kristen (.333/19 RBI/17 SB) and Lauren Filicia (.320/25 RBI/10 SB) round out Fairfield regulars with averages over .300.
The success of Fairfield stems from the top pitching unit in the conference that boasts a 2.60 team ERA. In the circle, the Stags are led by junior Rae Ball and her conference-leading 1.67 ERA. Rae is not an overpowering pitcher as evident by her 58 strikeouts but keeps opponents in check by minimizing walks and extra-base hits. Her classmate, Rebecca Trott serves as a formidable number two hurler as she has a 2.90 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 108.2 innings pitched.
Striking first against Fairfield is a key to victory; the Stags are 21-8 when they open the scoring and just 6-11 when they fail to score first. Team speed is also a major asset to this team as they lead the conference in triples (14) and stolen bases (61).
#3 Marist, 27-24 overall, 10-6 MAAC: The Red Foxes have won 10 out of their final 13 games earn the number three seed. The tournament will be held at Marist’s Gartland Field where the Red Foxes hold an 11-4 record. Marist features a balanced approach with the second-most runs in the MAAC (256) and the second lowest team ERA (3.06). Power fuels the Marist offense as the Red Foxes’ 48 home runs were the most in the MAAC by 14 over Iona’s 34. Alyssa Zahka (.369/8 HR/39 RBI), Danielle Koltz (.365/8 HR/38 RBI), Nicole Cheek (.365/14 HR/49 RBI) and Aly Klemmer (.323/7 HR/ 49 RBI) make up one of the conference’s best and deepest lineups.
Depth has also been a key to Marist’s pitching success as it has the fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth-best hurlers in terms of ERA. Senior Emily Osterhaus, who finished the regular season with a 2.57 ERA and an 11-9 record, highlights the Red Foxes’ staff. Sophomores Janine Lalli (3.20 ERA, seven wins) and Melanie White (3.27 ERA, three wins) and junior Paige Lewis (3.50 ERA, six wins) round out Coach Ausanio’s stable of arms.
The key for Marist is run production. The Red Foxes are 19-2 whens scoring 6+ runs and 21-9 during games in which they homer. Strong pitching hasn’t hurt Marist’s bottom line either this spring, as the team is 19-2 when allowing two-or-less runs. The early innings have been a determining factor for Marist as they are 23-4 when leading after four innings but just 1-18 when trailing after four.
#4 Niagara, 15-28 overall, 9-7 MAAC: The Purple Eagles claimed the fourth seed in the MAAC tournament by winning eight of their last 10 conference contests. After a trying non-conference slate left the team with a 3-17 mark heading into MAAC play, Niagara’s bats began warming up, as well as the explosive arm of number one pitcher Jenn Sansano. In conference games, the Purple Eagles batted .301 as a team and Sansano went 6-3 with a 1.33 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 63 innings pitched.
Offensively, Niagara is led by senior catcher Becky Zill (.346/8 HR/34 RBI) and Amanda Werth (.340/14 RBI), who are 14th and 15th in the MAAC in overall batting average; just considering conference action, Zill is second with a .453 average. Brittany Richberg (.319/14 RBI/10 SB) and Alexis Wayne (.319/22 RBI) round out Purple Eagles with averages above .300. As a team, they hit .271 with 161 runs scored.
In the circle, Sansano is Niagara’s arm to watch as the junior transfer from St. Bonaventure has a won 10 of its 15 games on the season and thrown 141 of its 275 total innings. In 27 appearances, Sansano has a posted a 2.13 ERA with 163 strikeouts and five shutouts.
MARIST VS … 2013 FIELD:
Vs. Siena, May 5 at Marist: The Red Foxes dropped a disappointing pair of games at home on Sunday afternoon to Siena. With regular season title and the top seed in the MAAC tournament at stake, the Saints beat the Red Foxes in a run-ruled shortened Game One contest 15-5 before taking Game Two in eight innings, 6-4.
Danielle Koltz (Chenango Bridge, N.Y.) led Marist on Senior Day as the four-year Red Fox went 5-for-7 from the plate with two doubles and two RBIs. Freshman Kyrsten Van Natta (Maplewood, N.J.) performed strongly, as well, with a .714 on-base percentage (5-for-7) and two runs scored.
Vs. Fairfield, April 7 at Marist: After 24 road games to start the 2013 season, Marist earned an important doubleheader sweep of the Preseason MAAC favorite, Fairfield to open the home and conference portions of its schedule. After a dramatic 3-2 10th-inning walk-off win in Game One, the Red Foxes came back in Game Two and rode the arm of senior captain Emily Osterhaus (Suwanee, Ga.) for the second straight contest to take the 3-1 win.
On Sunday afternoon, Osterhaus threw back-to-back complete game wins for 17.0 total innings pitched. The senior hurler allowed three runs, though just one was earned, as well as struck out eight Stags on the day.
Offensively, three home runs accounted for four of Marist’s six runs. In Game One, a Danielle Koltz (Chenango Bridge, N.Y.) long ball put the Red Foxes briefly ahead in the sixth inning. In the second contest, juniors Alyssa Zahka (Lexington, Mass.) and Aly Klemmer (Hamilton, N.J.) contributed a two-run and solo home run, respectively. On the day, the above three players combined to hit .550 (11-20) with five RBIs.
Freshman Kyrsten Van Natta (Maplewood, N.J.) drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning in Game One.
Vs. Niagara, April 14 at Niagara: Wrapping up their trip to Western New York with a pair of game at Niagara University on Sunday, Marist came within four outs of the doubleheader sweep before having to settle for a series split. After a seven-run output in Game One, the Red Foxes’ bats were held down to just three hits and two runs in their Game Two setback. With the 7-5 win and 3-2 loss, Marist moved to 15-17 overall and 4-2 in the MAAC.
Nicole Cheek (Simi Valley, Calif.) and Alyssa Zahka (Lexington, Mass.) spearheaded the Red Foxes’ offense as the freshman registered a home run and three RBIs, while the junior catcher had a team-high four hits.
In the circle, Janine Lalli (Eastchester, N.Y.) and Emily Osterhaus (Suwanee, Ga.) each allowed three earned runs in their starts with Lalli leading the way with five strikeouts over 7.2 innings pitched.
MARIST IN THE NATION: Through Monday, May 6 here is a glance of where Marist sits among the team statistical leaders …
#6 Defensive Double Plays/Game – 0.53
#48 Home Runs/Game – 0.94
#66 Slugging Percentage - .443
#69 Runs/Game – 5.02
#74 Batting Average - .290
#77 Stolen Bases/Game – 1.18
#101 Fielding Percentage - .962
#53 Runs Batted In/Game – 0.98
#51 Total Home Runs - 14
#55 Home Runs/Game – 0.28
#91 Slugging Percentage - .694
#135 Runs/Game – 0.82
#57 Runs/Game – 0.94
#149 ERA – 2.57
MARIST IN THE MAAC: Through Monday, May 6 here's a look of where Marist sits among the team and individual statistical standings in the MAAC...
#3 Batting Average - .289
#1 Slugging Pct. - .442
#3 On-Base Pct. - .367
#2 Runs Scored – 256 (8th-Highest Single Season mark in MAAC history)
#1 Hits – 411 (14th-Highest)
#1 Runs Batted In - 230
#3 Doubles -64
#3 Triples - 5
#1 Home Runs – 48 (3rd-Highest)
#2 Walks - 169
#2 Stolen Bases – 60 (17th-Highest)
#1 Home Runs – 14 (5th-Highest Single Season mark in MAAC history)
#1 RBIs – 49 (6th-Highest)
#1 Total Bases - 117
#1 Hits - 62
#2 Runs Scored - 41
#3 Slugging Percentage - .688
#7 Batting Average - .365
#2 RBIs - 39
#3 Batting Average - .369
#3 Home Runs - 8
#4 Hits - 58
#2 Defensive Runners Caught Stealing - 13
#1 Caught Stealing Percentage - .520 (13-25)
#1 Runs Scored – 47 (6th-Highest Single Season mark in MAAC history)
#2 Hits - 61
#2 Total Bases - 98
#3 Home Runs - 8
#3 Walks - 23
#4 RBIs – 38
#5 Doubles - 11
#7 Batting Average - .365
#7 Slugging Percentage - .587
#9 Home Runs - 7
#19 Batting Average - .323
#4 Stolen Bases - 13
#6 Runs Scored – 36
#1 Fielding Assists – 123
#1 Fielding Double Plays - 15
#3 Walks – 23
#3 Stolen Bases – 15
#2 Shutouts - 3
#4 ERA – 2.57
#5 Wins - 11
#6 ERA – 3.20
#7 ERA – 3.27
#8 ERA – 3.50
CAREER RECORD BOOK WATCH:
In the coming games, three Red Foxes will be approaching career and program milestones.
178 Hits (#5 in Program History): Currently at 172
118 Runs Scored (#2): Currently at 111
117 RBIs (#2): Currently at 116
29 Home Runs (#2): Currently at 27
100 Runs Scored (#5): Currently at 95
19 Home Runs (#6): Currently at 18
22 Home Runs (#5): Currently at 19
SINGLE-SEASON RECORD BOOK WATCH:
Single-Season Home Runs (15 – Amanda Koldjeski, 2001/Chrystine McHugh, 2006): Nicole Cheek with 14
Alyssa Zahka with 58