Welcome to the A-10: 2014 Mason Softball

A look into the 2014 softball season as Mason enters the A-10 conference (photo courtesy of atlantic10.com).
A look into the 2014 softball season as Mason enters the A-10 conference (photo courtesy of atlantic10.com).

Last week, Mason softball opened the 2014 campaign in South Carolina, taking on Ball State and USC Upstate in tournament play.

The team, coached by Joe Verbanic, faces an entirely new set of conference opponents, as the move to the Atlantic 10 starts new rivalries with the likes of George Washington, St. Joseph’s, and the University of Massachusetts.

Despite being selected to finish seventh in the conference preseason poll, Mason returns 19 of 22 from the 2013 roster.

To prepare you for the next few months of action, here is Fourth Estate’s 2014 outlook for the A-10 in forecasted finish order:

1.      Fordham (36-23; 15-7 A-10 in 2013)

Leading the pack out of the gates this season is Fordham University, who appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2013 before being knocked out by the University of Arkansas in a Regional Elimination Game. The Rams will be led on offensive by the powerful Elise Fortier who broke school records in homeruns (20), runs (61), walks (43) and slugging percentage (.808) last season. Also keep an eye on how A-10 first teamer Kayla Lombardo performers alongside Fortier in the batting order (.408 average, 87 hits). Returning 18-game winner Michele Daubman, tied for sixth most wins in school history in career, struck out 111 batters last season.

Games vs. Mason: Doubleheader 04/05 at Fordham    

       T-2. George Washington (27-23; 13-7 A-10 in 2013)

The Colonials have struggled to start the season, losing their first 10 games to include battles with LSU (twice), Penn State, and 2013 NCAA Tournament participant Kentucky. Their most notable downturn from a season ago has been their failure to be productive in the field, already committing 17 errors. Still, George Washington has the pieces to rebound and settle in once conference play starts in March. Offensively, Jillian Galich (.391 average) and Megan Linn (10 hits) have been the most productive so far. Courtney Martin (14-13, 2.10 ERA in 2013) is the Colonials top pitcher, but her 2014 season is off to an 0-7 start.

 Games vs. Mason: Doubleheader 04/09 at Mason

T-2. St. Joseph’s (37-10-1; 17-5 A-10 in 2013)

Unlike their counterparts in Washington, D.C., the Hawks have posted a winning record through the first week of the season, winning six of eight earmarked by a 12-7 win over the University of Pennsylvania. Offensively, the Hawks will rely heavily on Sarah Yoos (.350 average, 45 hits, .542 slugging percentage), especially with the departure of Dana Parks (25 steals). Expect Liz Mendez, 11-6 in her freshman season, to enter the circle most days.

Games vs. Mason: Doubleheader 03/22 at. St. Joseph’s

4.      University of Massachusetts (18-25; 12-10 A-10 in 2013)

The Minutewomen, who open against DePaul on Feb. 21st, will be playing with heavy hearts this season as longtime head coach Elaine Sortino passed away last October. In 34 seasons at the helm, UMass softball teams won 1,185 games and appeared in the NCAA Tournament 21 times. Taking over duties in the interim is former player and assistant coach Kristi Stefanoni. On the field, the Minutewomen will be led by Quanna Diaz-Patterson (.357 average, 46 hits, nine doubles), Tiffany Meeks (.352 average, nine homeruns, 40 RBIs) and Caroline Raymond (15-14, 3.91 ERA, 95 K).

Games vs. Mason:  Doubleheader 05/03 at UMass

5.      St. Louis (28-23; 13-9 A-10 in 2013)

The Billikens are .500 through four games in 2014, winning one-run contests over Houston Baptist and Jackson State to start the season. Pitcher Brianna Lore started all four games. Lead bat will be Lindsay Friedman, who led the team in OBP (.429), runs (32) and homeruns (eight) in 2013. Where St. Louis frustrated opponents most last season was on the bases, where they swiped a conference-high 80 bags.

Games vs. Mason: Doubleheader 04/27 at Mason

6.      Dayton (22-24; 12-9 A-10 in 2013)

The Flyers traveled west to start their season, participating in the UC Santa Barbara Gaucho Classic. Highlighted by two defeats to nationally ranked Texas A&M, Dayton has yet to get off the schneid (0-5). At the plate, reigning A-10 Rookie of the Week Gabrielle Snyder has led the way, posting team highs in average (.467) and OBP (.529). They will need others to help with run support, though. Last season, the Flyers scored two runs or less 18 times.

Games vs. Mason: 04/25-04/26 at Mason

7.      Mason (14-37; 6-15 CAA in 2013)

The Patriots, 0-2 so far, are 752-809-2 in their history, and despite never winning a CAA title, have reasonably high expectations this season. Offensively, Brooke Blankenship is the leader. The VA native found herself on the First-Team All-CAA list in her first two seasons after leading Mason in all statistical categories. She, along with sophomore Julie Czarnecki, was selected to the College Sports Madness Softball Preseason A-10 Team. The Patriots also return their entire pitching staff from last season.

8.      St. Bonaventure’s (10-42; 4-18 A-10 in 2013)

The Bonnies have yet to win a game this season (0-4) and have been shut out three times already. Last season’s top batters (Emily McDonough and Grace Rooney) are both off to slow starts, with neither batting above .167. Pitching-wise the Bonnies return Julia Pratt and Alexis Sloat, both of whom have prior starting experience. A weakness for St. Bonaventure’s last season was the holes they dug themselves early, giving up 61 runs in the first inning.  

Do not play Mason this season.

9.      La Salle (16-31; 3-19 A-10 in 2013)

The Explorers’ first series of games will be this weekend in the Norfolk State Spartan Clash, taking on Farleigh Dickerson, Yale, Delaware State and Norfolk State. After winning only three conference games a season ago, there is optimism for better results this season with Mary Cate Scott and Alicia Aughton returning (the duo won all 16 games for La Salle last season) and budding star Kendra Heyer in the lineup (.342 average, .421 OBP, eight doubles, .487 slugging percentage). Senior Megan Hodgson, 18 career homeruns, is the crux of success in the field. Last season, she committed a team-high 14 errors.

Games vs. Mason: Doubleheader 04/12 at La Salle

10.  Rhode Island (10-37; 3-18 A-10 in 2013)

The Rams have played three games in 2013, but have yet to cross the play (outscored 26-0). That trend won’t continue through an entire season, especially with Jocelyn Mattison, Danielle Gariglio, Marylynn Muldowns and Deanna Wolf all returning players.

Games vs. Mason: Doubleheader 04/18 at Mason   

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