CHESTERTOWN, Md. – Last season the Washington College softball team needed to sweep a pair of Centennial Conference doubleheaders on the final weekend of the regular season to reach its seventh conference tournament in eight years and did just that to reach the conference tournament. In 2019, the team seeks to cap off its most successful decade in the history of the program with a less dramatic entrance into the tournament for the eighth time this decade and a second Centennial crown under 11th season head coach Lacey Lister.
Last season Washington reached the conference tournament despite going just 8-8 in Centennial play and finished 17-22 overall. Since the run began in 2011, it was just the second time the squad did not achieve a winning mark in CC play, the other season being 2015 when they missed.
"We are really excited to get on the field and start playing games," says Lister. "We have a great group of young women who have been working really hard and competing every day in practice. They are very aware of our goal to win a conference championship this season and are getting better each day."
The 2019 version of the Shorewomen Nine consists of 18 players: three seniors, four juniors, six sophomores and five freshmen.
For the Shorewomen to make this season less dramatic, the team will have to improve in all facets of the game. In the circle, the team did lead the conference again in strikeouts with 207 and strikeouts per seven innings at 5.17. After finishing second in the Centennial in 2017 in ERA, the team slid back to sixth last spring at 3.32 after pitching to a 2.53 ERA two seasons ago. The team will seek to improve on allowing walks as they allowed a conference-high 116 free passes in 2018. Overall, the pitchers allowed the other team to hit .261 and only .228 in CC games. At the plate, Washington's offense took steps back as they finished last in the conference in batting average at .267 after hitting .305 in 2017 and finished just sixth in runs scored (148) after crossing the plate 184 times as a team in 2017. In the field, the Shorewomen were last in fielding percentage (.944) and committed a conference worst 65 errors. In 2017, WC fielded .950.
Unlike last season, the pitching staff will look different this year due to the graduation of reigning two-time Centennial Conference player of the Year Taylor Harcum '18 and relief extraordinaire Milly Kawabata '18 and for the first time in several years will have a three-pitcher staff compared to four in recent seasons. Back in the fold for 2019 are senior Maddie Bennett (Ellicott City, Md./Mount Hebron) and junior Rachel Butler (York, Pa./Central York). Bennett, who won both pitcher and rookie of the year in 2016, only tossed 46.2 innings last season, going 3-2 with a 3.15 ERA. The senior struck out 42 hitters and allowed 28 walks as she did strike out 6.30 batters per seven innings. She was fourth in the Centennial in batting average against at .231 and in conference-only play was second at .194. The senior hopes to return to her form of her first two years when she went 24-11 with 188 strikeouts and a 2.62. Butler, a second team all-conference pick in 2017, had a 4.13 ERA in 59.1 innings, while going 5-6. She did toss two complete games and a shutout, while striking out 46 and allowing 29 base on balls.
Joining Bennett and Butler in the circle is freshman Cassidy Predale (Howell, N.J./Howell). Lister said all three will be counted on this season to help get the team reach their goals.
Bennett in just 56 at-bats last season hit .304 with nine RBI and three doubles while working out nine walks for an on-base percentage of .409, which was good for second the team. She currently sits just five hits away from 100 as she has 95 career base hits for Washington.
Butler will look to regain her freshman form at the plate as she hit just .250 last spring after hitting .341 in 2017. She did tie for the team lead in home runs with three, good for tied for sixth in the CC, and third on the team in RBI with 18. Her three taters tied her for sixth in the Centennial.
Behind the plate at catcher, Lister has two players competing to fill the void left by 2018 graduate Allyson Meil in senior Kerrigan Buck (Dalton, Pa./Lackawanna Trail) and sophomore Chrissy Segrest (Bensalem, Pa./Bensalem). Buck scored four runs in 21 games last spring, while Segrest hit .364 with seven RBI in 22 games in 2018 as she got into 15 contests.
At first base, the two players vying for time are junior Jenna Gordon (Fairfax, Va./Fairfax) and freshman Rachel DiMarcello (Middletown, Del./St. Georges Tech). Gordon hit .211 with a run scored and three RBI in 19 at-bats last season.
Three players are in the mix at second base with junior Leah Stokes (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), sophomore Caroline Braungard (Lancaster, Pa./Lampeter-Strasburg) and freshman Cristen Quillen (Pocomoke City, Md./Pocomoke) all seeking the starting spot. Stokes hit .258 with 17 runs scored and four RBI in 2018, while Braungard hit .242 last spring and had a team-best 11 sacrifice hits, which tied her for second in the Centennial, to go with nine runs and nine RBI. Braungard had a strong Centennial Conference Tournament last year as she went 3-for-7 with two doubles, two runs scored and four RBI.
Lister projects freshman Megan Robbins (Denton, Md./North Caroline) to be the starting shortstop, but also in the fold to earn time at short are Braungard and Quillen.
At third base, junior Alli Saul (Bridgeton, N.J./Cumberland Regional) is the favorite to start at third base this season as she looks to bounce back from a rough sophomore campaign at the plate where she reached base just six times after a freshman season where she had 35 hits and nine walks. The junior did rank tied for eighth in the CC in sacrifice hits with five and had a team-high 63 assists in the field. Also expected to see time at third when Saul is not in there is DiMarcello.
In the outfield, the team will have to replace two-time all-conference selection Elaina DiPrimio '18 in left field.
There are four competing for the left field spot in sophomores Julia Hallman (Garnet Valley, Pa./Ursuline Academy [Del.]), Amelia Mazza (Exton, Pa./Downingtown East) and Brittany Walker (Jefferson, Md./Brunswick) and freshman Alyssa Vieira (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo). Lister says she will use the early part of the season to see if one of them establishes themselves as the regular starter. Hallman tied for ninth in the CC in stolen bases last year with seven as that tied her for second on the squad, while scoring 10 runs. Mazza got into eight games, scoring and plating a run, while Walker had four runs, two hits and two RBI as a freshman.
Patrolling center field this season is sophomore Grace Moery (Alexandria, Va./West Potomac). Moery finished as the team's leader in runs scored with 22 and was second on the team in walks (11) and sacrifice hits (7). She was tied for fifth in the Centennial in sacrifice hits and tied for ninth in stolen bases with seven.
In right field, Lister projects senior Regan Horan (San Diego, Calif./Point Loma) seeing the majority of the time in the nine position with Mazza providing depth. Horan hit .253 last season with 11 runs scored and 12 RBI in a career-high 37 games. She tallied career-bests in runs, hits (20), doubles (5), home runs (1), RBI and walks (5).
At designated player, Lister sees five players seeing the majority of the time there in Bennett, Butler, DiMarcello, Gordon and Vieira.
Lister will be assisted by 2016 Washington College graduate Clare Hofstedt, who is on the staff for her third season, second-year assistant coach Dave Proffitt and first season assistant coach Taylor Hishon. Also on the coaching staff is student assistant Brian McCloskey, a senior who serving in the role for a third straight season. He just completed his time as a student assistant for Shorewomen Basketball.
In the Centennial Conference Preseason Poll, the Shorewomen were picked fourth by the conference's head coaches with 42 vote-points. Gettysburg was selected first with 63 vote-points and seven first place votes. Haverford was picked second with 53 vote-points and one first place vote, while McDaniel was tabbed third at 50 vote-points and got the other first place vote. Five through nine were Franklin & Marshall (29 vote-points), Swarthmore (28), Dickinson (24), Muhlenberg (20) and Ursinus (15). Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team.
Washington will open its season on February 27 when they travel to Delmarva Rival Wesley for a 2:00 p.m. first pitch. A full schedule breakdown appears below.
Schedule Breakdown – All Games Are Doubleheaders Except for Games in Florida and Salisbury
Total Games: 40 (12 home, 16 away, 12 neutral)
Season and Away Opener: February 27 at Wesley (2:00 p.m.)
Home Opener: March 6 versus #11 Randolph-Macon (2:00 p.m.)
Centennial Home Opener: April 6 vs. Dickinson (1:00 p.m.)
Centennial Away Opener: March 30 at Franklin & Marshall (1:00 p.m.)
Centennial Home Opponents: Dickinson, Muhlenberg (4/13), Ursinus (4/20), Swarthmore (4/23)
Centennial Away Opponents: Franklin & Marshall, Haverford (4/3), McDaniel (4/9), Gettysburg (4/27)
Non-Conference Home Opponents: Randolph-Macon, Stockton (3/21)
Non-Conference Road Opponents: Wesley, Salisbury (3/2 and 3/3 – one game), Catholic (3/28), Immaculata (4/17)
Non-Conference Neutral Opponents: Clarkson (3/2 and 3/3 – one game)
Florida Opponents: Carroll and Bridgewater St. (3/9), Marietta and William Paterson (3/10), Eastern Connecticut and Beloit (3/12), Massachusetts Boston and Salve Regina (3/14), Ramapo and Keene St. (3/15)
2018 NCAA Tournament Opponents: Gettysburg, Immaculata, Massachusetts Boston, Ramapo, Randolph-Macon, Salisbury