The York College softball team begins 2008 with a new leader as head coach Jennifer Patrick brings a high level of enthusiasm to a young and talented squad.
Patrick begins her first year on the job with a number of returners that should put the Spartans in a position to be successful in 2008. Sophomore standouts Sam Lawrence, Heather Bormann, and Amanda Atieh headline a strong group of starters that provide Patrick a great base on which to build her program.
Joining that trio are returners Andrea Tombesi, Ali Merrifield, Megan Lahner, Nicole Kerfoot, and Afton Brugger. The Spartans supplement those returners with a core of newcomers that are expected to make an impact on the Spartan lineup.
The top of the Spartan lineup will feature the two super sophomores as Lawrence and Bormann will share the top two spots in the lineup. Lawrence led off last year and had one of the best freshman years in school history. She hit .370 with a school-record 31 stolen bases. Lawrence had .425 on-base percentage while she scored a team-high 34 runs. She hit with surprising power as she notched three home runs, nine doubles, and one triple. Lawrence will handle the duties in centerfield as her exceptional range makes the Spartan outfield defense above average.
“Sam is a talented player that really understands what we are trying to do,” says Patrick. “She is a hardworking team player that just wants to win. She is a winner in every sense of the word.”
Bormann is the Spartans’ shortstop and is also one of the
team’s top hitters. Defensively, her soft hands and strong
arm provide strength for the Spartans up the middle. At the plate,
Bormann hit .312 last year with 21 runs scored, 16 RBI, nine
doubles, and one triple. She stole nine bases and
posted an on-base percentage of .350.
“Heather is our leader on the infield,” says Patrick. “She is the backbone of the defense and will play a huge role in our offensive success this year. I expect her to be a year better and provide us with a high on-base percentage and a strong batting average.”
The three spot in the lineup will be freshman Kelly Smith as Patrick expects the newcomer to have a significant impact on the Spartan lineup both at the plate and in the field. Smith will play third base and should be a candidate for top freshman honors in the CAC.
“Kelly is a hitter that can drive the ball to the gaps while she is also strong enough to hit the ball out of the park,” says Patrick. “She showed a great stroke in the fall, and I expect her to continue to get better as the season wears on. Kelly is also a strong defensive player that will settle in nicely at third base.”
Tombesi and freshman Michelle Barwick will combine to hold down the four and five spots in the lineup. Tombesi will play left field and comes back as one of the top run producers for the Spartans. Tombesi hit .395 with 43 RBI, 21 runs scored, seven doubles, one triple, and a team-high seven home runs. She is a player that will have ample opportunity to drive in runs in the heart of the York lineup.
“I expect Andrea to have a big senior year,” says Patrick. “We need positive senior leadership from her, and I fully expect to get that.”
Barwick is a front-runner to be the Spartans’ first baseman as a freshman. Barwick is an aggressive contact hitter that will have the opportunity to be a key cog in the Spartan offense. Defensively, she is learning on the job and becoming a solid defensive player.
“Michelle is an aggressive player that will have the chance to be an important part of what we are doing,” says Patrick. “She is a hard worker that has put herself in the mix through her tireless dedication. I think she will come up big for us this year.”
Atieh will hit in the sixth spot as she is moving over to second base after being an All-CAC player as a third baseman last year. Atieh hit .269 last year with 19 runs scored and 11 RBI. Those numbers should improve as she moves back to the right side of the plate after hitting lefty last spring.
“Amanda has settled in at second base,” says Patrick. “She makes a good pivot at second and really does a nice job teaming with Heather. They make our up-the-middle defense very strong. I expect Amanda to hit the ball well this year and she is a good situational hitter.”
Merrifield, a junior, is another player making a position change as she will be behind the dish this year after last year’s starter Lauren Brenneman transferred at the end of last season. Merrifield, who saw a majority of her time at second base last year, has made the adjustment and has worked well with the pitchers in the fall and early spring practices.
“Ali has worked very hard to adjust to being behind the plate,” says Patrick. “She has done everything asked of her, and I am hopeful she will continue to work hard and improve. I am not worried about her at the plate, her biggest job will be handling the staff and playing great defense.”
The eighth spot in the lineup will likely be filled by a cast of designated players. Freshman Kristen Gray, Brugger, and Lahner will battle for at-bats during the course of the season. Each player brings a different element to the Spartan offense. Gray is the lone lefty of the three and has the ability to drive the ball to the gaps. Brugger hit .301 last year with 21 runs scored and nine RBI in 103 at-bats. Lahner hit .290 with nine runs scored and eight RBI in 69 at-bats in 2007.
“I am entering the season with an open mind about who will hit in the eight spot,” says Patrick. “I really want one of these kids to step up and grab the position but until that happens we will use multiple people until one of them produces and earns a spot in the lineup.”
The bottom of the order will be filled by the right fielder. Sophomore Lindsay Wood and freshman Karen Carr will vie for the starting spot. Both Wood and Carr are athletic players that are also very solid outfielders. Wood started off last season red hot before suffering an injury that hampered her for the remainder of the year. Wood hit .344 in 61 at-bats last season. She scored ten runs and drove in 11 others as she looks to reestablish herself in the Spartan lineup. Carr has a great arm in right but is still adjusting to the collegiate game. Either player will be a second lead-off hitter at the bottom of the green and white lineup.
“Karen and Lindsay are both good players that will have a chance to contribute this year,” says Patrick. “I am hopeful that one of them will step up and establish themselves as the starter.”
The Spartans should be strong in the middle of the diamond as the pitching staff should be deep and talented. Lahner and Kerfoot will be joined by a familiar face as senior Megan Mickles comes back after missing her junior campaign. Also joining the Spartan pitching staff is freshman Monica Weaver.
Lahner and Mickles are the Spartans’ top two starters, providing Patrick with a solid one-two punch in the circle. Lahner finished last year with 11 wins and an ERA of 3.72 in 26 appearances. Lahner tossed 131.2 innings last year as she struck out 80 and walked just 20.
“Megan has tremendous potential and has the ability to be a dominating pitcher,” states Patrick. “She is a big, strong player that is learning to mix her pitches and become more of a pitcher and less of a thrower.”
Mickles returns to the green and white looking to regain the form that saw her earn All-CAC honors as a freshman and sophomore. Mickles has 26 career wins in two years and owns an ERA of 1.68. She is already the career strikeout leader at 316 in 291 innings of work.
“Megan has looked good so far,” says Patrick. “She has the potential to make a significant impact for us and help us reach our goals. Megan does a great job of mixing her pitches, we just need her to be efficient and let her defense do the work for her.”
Kerfoot will swing between starting and coming out of the bullpen. She had five wins in 16 appearances last year including 15 starts. Weaver will likely come out of the bullpen in her first year in the green and white.
“Nicole is very versatile and that will help our staff,” says Patrick. “Monica is a hard worker that will have the ability to come out of the pen in the spring.”
The Spartans are very fortunate to have some depth on the squad this year. Sophomore Jessica Balch will back up Merrifield behind the plate while Brugger, Gray, and Kerfoot will compete as the backup first baseman.
The outfield will be flush with quality reserves. Freshmen Megan Markland and Chelsie DiPaola provide Patrick with a pair of backups that can also provide speed on the base paths in pinch running situations. Freshman Desiree Halaka, who spent the fall with the women’s soccer team, gives Patrick a bat off the bench that can provide some pop.
“I like our depth,” says Patrick. “I think we are in good shape with our bench.”
Patrick has some high hopes for this edition of the Spartans.
“I like the make up of this team,” says the first-year Spartan mentor. “They have worked hard and have done everything I asked of them. Their dedication to having a good year is something that has impressed me from the start.”
Patrick has some definitive ideas of how the green and white are going to play.
“Offensively, we want to score every inning. We need to be able to score with two outs because two out hits will win you games. We need to have good at-bats with runners in scoring position.”
On the defensive side, Patrick’s philosophy is a simple one.
“We need to play catch well,” says Patrick. “We need to eliminate the big inning by playing solid, fundamental defense.”
“I am excited to get started playing games,” says Patrick. “This team has the potential to have a very good season.”
Sam Lawrence photo courtesy of Eric Linsley