YORK, PA - Second-year York College softball coach Nicki Starry enters the 2011 season with high expectations coming off a 2010 season that saw the Spartans win 36 games and narrowly miss out on the NCAA Tournament.
Starry graduated three starters from last year's squad but she welcomes back a pair of all-region players in pitcher Brittany Therres and third baseman Kelly Smith in addition to the CAC Rookie-of-the-Year Hannah Hugel. Starry is excited about the potential of this year's squad.
"I really like the talent we have coming back," states Starry. "Not only do we have a wealth of returning talent but I think the recruiting class will do a great job of filling in and providing us with great depth up and down the roster."
Joining Therres, Smith, and Hugel, as returners are seniors Michelle Barwick, Megan Markland, Karen Carr, and Desiree Halaka while juniors Brittany Schlorff and Meghan Boyer also return to the Spartan squad. Hugel leads a strong sophomore class that includes Sarah Harris, Rachel Klein, Cory Urkuski, and Erin O'Leary.
"These returners have a year of experience with me and know what I expect each and every day," says Starry. "They are a hard working group of kids who also know what it takes for us to have a successful season."
Starry's first recruiting class features talent and depth throughout the eight newcomers. The class includes third baseman Roseann Doherty, outfielder Brooke LaBell, outfielder Brittany Alvarado, shortstop Emma Erbig, outfielder Alyssa Molino, catcher Jill Martin, pitcher Chelsea Bock, and outfielder Nicole O'Donnell.
"I believe this class will add a high level of talent to this year's team," says Starry. "There is great potential in this group but they need to work hard to reach that potential. So far, they have done a great job of doing the things in practice and training that will enable them to reach that potential."
Therres returns to the middle of the diamond as one of the best pitchers in the region. She was a first-team All-Capital Athletic Conference selection in addition to being named to the NFCA All-Atlantic regional squad. Therres established a new school record with 27 wins as she posted an ERA of 1.98. She threw a school-record 201.2 innings as opponents hit just .245 against her. She struck out 96 and walked 43 while she also had 10 shutouts and 17 complete games.
"Brittany was outstanding last year," says Starry. "We asked a great deal of her last year and she responded. I am hoping she will not have to shoulder as much of the load this year, which should keep her fresher for the end of the year. She is a great competitor and gives us a great chance to win every time she is in the circle."
Bock and Urkuski will join Therres on the pitching staff this year. Bock is a lanky left-hander that throws strikes and attacks hitters aggressively. She will be expected to give York a tremendous one-two punch in the circle this year. Urkuski started throwing late last spring and will be used out of the bullpen for a change of pace this year. She threw 1.2 innings last year, allowing one hit during her two outings.
Starry has a trio of inexperienced catchers that the pitchers will be throwing too as she looks to replace the graduated All-CAC performer Julie Norris. Sophomores Harris and Klein will team with Martin to give the Spartan a very young group of catchers. All three have the ability to step up and earn the starting position. Harris hit .308 with two runs scored and three RBI in nine games last year while Klein hit .333 with a run scored and an RBI in her six games during 2010.
"I believe the ability is there behind the plate but I would like to see one of them step up and seize the job," says Starry. "They all have talent and the ability to get the job done. All three of them have worked hard and are continuing to get better as the season draws near."
Smith, Schlorff, and Barwick highlight the returning starters on the infield for the Green and White. All three bring extensive experience to the Spartan line up. Smith is a three-time All-CAC selection and joined Therres on the All-Region team last year. She hit .391 with 29 runs scored, 26 RBI, 16 doubles and a home run in 2010. She is a tremendous defensive third baseman with soft hands and a strong arm. She posted a .529 slugging percentage while she also had six stolen bases. She is also one of the three Spartan captains this spring.
"Kelly is one of the best overall players in the region," states Starry. "She is a great defensive player while she is an explosive offensive player. I anticipate Kelly having a outstanding senior year."
Schlorff came to the Spartans last year and made an immediate impact at second base. She hit .342 with 15 runs scored, nine RBI, seven doubles and a triple. Schlorff also stole four bases and a .952 fielding percentage. She brings the ability to play either of the middle infield positions and can hit anywhere throughout the Spartan lineup.
"Brittany really played well towards the end of last year as she got more comfortable," says Starry. "I expect her to be a leader for us this year both on and off the field. She is a skilled player that has the chance to have a big year for us."
Barwick is a very steady player for the Spartans. She hit .394 in 94 at-bats with 16 runs scored, 15 RBI, eight doubles, a triple and a home run. Barwick is an outstanding first baseman as she made just one error in 271 attempts last year. She also had 10 sacrifice hits throughout the year and struck out just twice with a .426 on-base percentage. She earned first-team All-CAC accolades in 2010 for her first all-conference accolades. Barwick is a Spartan captain this spring.
"Michelle quietly had a great year last year," states Starry. "She is an outstanding defensive player that brings great leadership to the infield and the team. Michelle has continued to become more of an offensive player as she has great plate discipline and patience."
Erbig enters the season as the front-runner to take over at short for the departed four-time All-CAC shortstop Heather Bormann. Erbig has a strong arm and good range while she is also a very smart player. At the plate, Erbig has good power and the ability to put the ball in play while she is also a smart base runner. Erbig hails from Bormann's hometown of Brick, N.J. and displays many of the talents of Bormann.
"Emma is an impact player that should step right into the lineup," states Starry. "She is a steady defensive player and she should also give us a strong bat in our lineup."
Doherty is a hard-nosed player that gives York great depth behind Smith. She has the ability to hit for power while she could also battle for at-bats as the Spartans' designated player. Urkuski and O'Leary are two other Spartans that give York depth on the infield.
Hugel and Markland headline the Spartan outfielders. Hugel hit a team-best .464 in 125 at-bats last year. She had 41 runs scored, 14 RBI and a double. She had a .518 on-base percentage and eight stolen bases during 2010. She is an aggressive hitter who is learning better plate discipline as she looks to draw more walks in 2011.
"Hannah is a talented player who now has a year under her belt," says Starry. "She has a great deal of ability and I expect her to be an even better player this year. Hannah can be one of the best outfielders in the CAC and in the region."
Markland is a very hard working player that will serve as a team captain this year. She hit .276 in 58 at-bats last year as she stole nine bases for York. She also played a nearly flawless right field as she had just one error on the year.
"Megan is a very good leader for us," says Starry. "She is an extremely hard worker that has continued to improve for us."
Starry will have a wealth of candidates to choose from when filling out her lineup in the outfield. She must replace All-CAC centerfielder Sam Lawrence but she is excited about the possibilities that the Spartan outfielders possess. Halaka, Carr, and Boyer are all three returners that could battle for at-bats in the outfield. Newcomers LaBell, Alvarado, Molino, and O'Donnell join them as York has tremendous depth in the outfield.
"There are a number of different combinations that we can put out there this year," says Starry. "I feel very comfortable with being able to put three very good players each and every game. They will get their opportunities to perform and it is up to each one of them to seize that chance when they get it."
Starry believes this team has the potential to snap Salisbury's stranglehold on the Capital Athletic Conference.
"We were close last year but I think each of our players got a taste of what it takes to be a championship caliber team," states the second-year Spartan mentor. "It will take a great deal of hard work but these players are committed to making this a special year."
The Spartans open the season with an eight game trip to the 2011 National Collegiate Sports Invitational in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. on their spring trip. The Spartans then travel to the Salisbury University Invitational before opening their home campaign on March 15 against Susquehanna.