YORK, PA - The 2014 edition of the York College Spartan softball program is one in transition with a change in culture, philosophy and a very young roster. For the members of the 2014 York Softball team, no starting position is guaranteed, particularly in preseason practice.
"We are testing some players in practice to see what the best combinations may be, where the players fit best in our program, where they can best help us succeed and where they are most comfortable," says head coach Jen Petteys. "We are up in the air with several positions, but the competition is healthy and the battles for starting spots are competitive, which is good because healthy competition breeds success."
With nine returning players, and just one senior Alyssa Molino (Montgomery, PA/Montgomery), the Spartans will be looking to a core of young talent to lead the way this season, and production by the incoming freshman class is an expectation that Petteys is eager to explore.
"I am excited to get started and to assess how effective our combinations are on the field," states Petteys.
York heads into the 2014 season knowing just a few things about the infield. Freshman Carleigh Ruleman (Owings, Md./Northern) will be at first base with soft hands and very steady glove while fellow freshman Katie Maloney (Aston, Pa./Sun Valley) will be at shortstop.
"Katie has a very high game IQ and demonstrates sure hands along with good speed and an impressive transition," said Petteys. "I am looking forward to these young ladies making a dynamic impact for us this season."
"We are still evaluating who will earn the remaining starting positions in the infield," states Petteys. Junior Jena Ruby (Hampstead, Md./North Carroll) and freshman Courtney Carbone (Seaford, N.Y./Seaford) are competing for a start at second base and sophomore transfer Natalie Fritz (Fayetteville, PA/Chambersburg) is coming on strong to battle for a start at the hot corner.
"Natalie knows the game well and she makes good decisions. She's hitting the ball well this preseason," says Petteys.
Behind the plate in the backstop position, the Spartans will see a new face this year. Junior Vanessa Mendez (Lititz, Pa./Warwick) and sophomore transfer Lauren Lum (Rancho Santa Margarita, Cailf./Trabuco Hills) are the top two candidates for playing time heading into the season.
The outfield is where Spartans' lone senior, Molino, hopes to leave her mark on the program. Along with Molino, sophomore Kayleen Bell (Herndon, Va./Westfield) hopes to build on her experience from the spring and will work to hold onto the center field position.
"Alyssa and Kayleen have a great work ethic and we are looking for their experience to grow into leadership on the grass for us in season," said the second year Spartan head coach.
Junior Ashley Chenoweth (Fredericksburg, Va./Stafford) has been called upon to transition her focus from behind the plate to the outfield grass this season due to a preseason injury suffered by incoming freshman outfielder Mackenzie Ewell (Hamilton, N.J./Steinert). Others in the mix for outfield play are freshman Morgan Ober (Mount Joy, Pa./Donegal) and freshman Morgan Wiernusz (Lansdale, Pa./North Penn).
York's pitching staff will rely on the leadership of junior Sara Thacker (Ijamsville, Md./Urbana), who made the transition from her primary position at first base to being the top pitcher on staff headed into the 2014 season.
"Sara has really stepped up as a leader and has accepted the transition to the mound with grace, optimism, drive & determination," states Petteys. "I believe that Sara will be a driving force for our success this season. She is mentally tough, throws with good velocity for a lefty pitcher and has a hard-nosed approach that will drive her to do what it takes to get the out. She has worked very hard over the fall and winter and it is showing now in preseason."
Freshman Jennifer Taff (Germantown, Md./Clarksburg) brings a fresh arm to the Spartan mound this year and will contend for time in the circle, bringing decent movement to her pitches. She looks to make her pitching debut a success in the 2014 campaign. Sophomore Morgan Levine (Oakland, N.J./Indian Hills) rounds out the pitching staff and looks to build on her year of experience gained from the 2013 season.
Sophomore Payton Hill (Staunton, Va./Fort Defiance) returns to the 2014 Spartan roster, after earning first-team All-CAC honors in the designated player role. Hill is rebounding from an arm injury and expects to pick up where she left off upon full recovery.
"The ultimate goals for this season are to maximize our strengths and improve on our weaknesses. We look to expand on growth witnessed in the fall non-traditional season as well as improving our win/loss record," says Petteys. "As a coaching staff, we are looking to develop cohesiveness among this very young team and motivate them to have the desire to get 1% better each day."
The 2014 Spartan schedule features 14 Capital Athletic Conference contests, including two games each against conference newcomers Christopher Newport, Penn State Harrisburg and Southern Virginia University.
York opens their season this Saturday, March 1 at Bridgewater College at 1:00 pm, and they are scheduled to make their home debut on Wednesday, March 19 against Washington College. The Spartans open up conference play on Saturday, March 22 at Southern Virginia University.