STAC’s 18 wins last season were the most in 15 years
St. Thomas Aquinas College women’s softball head coach Kristen Sullivan has many reasons to be enthusiastic about the 2018 season.
Coming off an 18-win season, the most victories in 15 years, the Lady Spartans return all eight starting position players who have learned how to compete in the challenging East Coast Conference (ECC). Plus, the pitching staff is deep and talented. With all of those ingredients, Sullivan thinks her team is poised to make a run at its first NCAA playoff bid in program history.
“We’ve fielded very young teams in the last two seasons and our players have benefitted from the opportunity to play a lot of innings and to mold as a unit,” said Sullivan, a former star pitcher at STAC who threw seven no-hitters during her college career. “We play in a very competitive conference but I believe the program can continue to move forward this season. I am cautiously optimistic.”
Sullivan took over as head coach after the program had stumbled to a 2-36 record in the 2014 season. The program’s rejuvenation began almost immediately with 11 wins in 2015 and the Lady Spartans have increased their win totals each year while facing better competition. This could be a break-thru season.
Sullivan’s optimism starts with the pitching staff.
“I have high expectations for my pitching staff,” said Sullivan. “The pitchers have significant experience and a solid variety of pitches and styles. All four pitchers have excelled in major travel tournaments across the country. It is a very well rounded staff.”
Leading the staff will be junior Colleen Borum (Mountain Top, Pa.), who was the team’s top winner last year with an 11-10 record. Fellow junior Briana Keaveney (New City, N.Y.) is ready to excel in her third collegiate campaign. Sullivan expects freshmen Paige Toothaker (Ashburnham, Mass.) and Kaitlin Hoffner (New Stanton, Pa.) to also contribute.
“Borum’s strength in the circle is her ability to keep the ball low and induce ground balls,” said Sullivan. “Keaveney will be called upon to fill the role vacated by our lone graduated senior Julie Sosnicki. I have no doubt that Briana has the talent to achieve at a very high level. The freshmen pitchers will keep hitters off balance with a variety of pitches.”
Sullivan believes third baseman Ashley Landolina (Tolland, Ct.), utility player Amanda Schweitzer (Stony Point, N.Y.), catcher Amanda Leone (Milford, Ct.) and shortstop Kelcy McGeehan (Bayville, N.J.) can become premier players in the ECC.
Landolina led the Lady Spartans in batting average (.316), home runs, runs and steals last season and brings a wide range of defensive skills to the hot corner. “Ashley has very quick hands, a solid glove and an excellent arm,” said Sullivan. Schweitzer won second-team All-ECC honors last season after hitting an impressive .315. Her versatility will allow her to play infield and outfield positions.
Leone is an excellent defensive player and brings extra-base power to the STAC lineup. McGeehan moves over from second base where she played last year to take over the all-important shortstop chores.
Offensively, the team has a nice mix of power and speed. Starting second baseman Caitlyn Francouer (East Bridgewater, Mass.), Keaveney, starting centerfielder Missy Sadler (Milton, N.Y.) and outfielder Me-‘Lani Kendle (Moreno Valley, Calif.) are speedsters who can put pressure on opposing defenses.
Kendle, Briana Emanuele (Howard Beach, N.Y.), Alyssa Farr (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Valerie Winalski (East Granby, Ct.), Alyssa Sinski (Elmwood Park, N.J.), Monica Tran (Caledon, Ontario) and Alyssa Chelak (Poughquag, N.Y.) will compete for outfield playing time.
Sullivan has the deepest STAC team in recent memory. Danielle DiModugno (West Nyack, N.Y.) and Morgan Santora (Saddle Brook, N.J.) and will spell Leone behind the plate. First baseman Taylor Sullivan (Suffern, N.Y.), freshman Elisa Oliande (Hacienda Heights, Calif.) and Brittany Malloy (New Windsor, N.Y.) are key infield reserves.
Sullivan has assembled a very challenging schedule that will launch with a 10-game, 9-day road trip to Clermont, Fla. where they will face teams from across the country. Sullivan expects LIU Post and Molloy to be among the strongest ECC teams this year.
“Our schedule is tougher than ever but I am confident that we are ready to compete at a higher level this year,” said Sullivan. “We are a much more seasoned team now and our overall depth of talent will put us in a position to win more games. It will be very exciting to see this group continue to develop.”
Submitted by STAC