The SUNY Potsdam softball team overcame several setbacks in the 2012 season to tie the school record in wins with a 13-23 finish. This year, the squad looks for a fresh start with a revamped roster and a new sense of energy in search of Potsdam's first winning season and a SUNYAC playoff berth.
“We are shooting for our first winning season that the program has ever had this year,” said Head Coach Shannon Dillabough. “We have a lot of fresh faces and we are looking forward to putting everything together for a playoff appearance.”
In order to achieve this goal, Dillabough has brought in new talent to improve on his previous squad.
“We have revamped the entire team this year,” said the nine-year head coach. “We will have up to six or seven new girls on the field that didn't play last season. This will be a great new fusion of talent with the additions of several transfers and incoming freshman. Position by position, I think we are better offensively and defensively than we have been in the past.”
The team will rely on its leadership to guide the inexperienced group throughout the season. Senior Heather Johnson, also soccer player for the Bears, is the lone captain and a key returner with 102 starts in a Potsdam uniform. Dillabough also noted several other players that bring leadership and experience to his team.
“Heather Johnson is our captain,” said Coach Dillabough. “She has stepped into several different roles for us over her four years. Brittany Thivierge brings experience to the roster after serving as an assistant at Herkimer Community College. Molly McCuin and Amanda Perry bring leadership to our team.”
This leadership will be tested with a tough upcoming 2013 schedule. The Bears will face 14 non-conference opponents throughout the season. Nine of the foes will battle the team during their spring break trip in Florida from March 22-27. Potsdam then returns from the sunshine state to face a challenging SUNYAC slate. On March 29-30, the Bears open up conference play on the road versus The College at Brockport and SUNY Geneseo. Potsdam will remain on the road until April 12 when they return home to host SUNY Cortland.
Coach Dillabough realizes the challenges of the SUNYAC and hopes his team uses the experience in Florida to respond to the top level of competition the conference offers.
“The SUNYAC is one of the best Division III conferences in the nation,” said Dillabough. “You have to come to play everyday. Every game is a dogfight, which that aspect is fun and exciting. It will be interesting to see how our players react and adjust to the tough schedule.”
Position-by-position breakdown of the 2013 Bears.
Junior Ashley Thayer returns as the top pitcher for the Bears this season. Thayer threw Potsdam's only two no hitters in school history, including one last year against Mt. St. Mary's on March 3. She finished the season with a 4.01 era in 20 games. The Winthrop native led the pitching staff in wins (7), innings pitched (118.5), starts (19), strikeouts (88), and held opponents to a .241 batting average.
“We are looking for her (Thayer) to get back to where she was her freshman year,” said Dillabough. “She is now back in form and ready to go.”
Junior Megan Johnson is the other returning pitcher on the Bears staff. Johnson recorded 21 innings pitched in nine games with 15 strikeouts last year.
Two freshmen join the squad for the 2013 campaign. Carina Chirinko and Jordan Sarat will round out the starting pitching staff and will provide relief out of the bullpen.
“Carina and Jordan will provide depth and help us out a lot,” said Dillabough.
The Bears were left without an experienced catcher in 2012. However, in 2013 the coaching staff is looking forward to the new additions and the return of All-SUNYAC catcher Amanda Perry after a season away.
“Last year we lacked catchers,” said Dillabough. “This year we have a lot of depth at the catcher position. We are about four or five deep this year, which will be a source of strength for us. That will give us an opportunity to do some different things and give us some mobility.”
Junior Shannon Pagliaro returns after stepping up big at the catcher position last year. Along with Pagliaro, there are two transfers that will help provide flexibility behind the plate. Thivierge joins the Bears from Herkimer Community College and junior Khalshia White moves from St. Lawrence University to give Potsdam depth at the catcher position. Freshman Katie Marsman, who also plays hockey for Potsdam, will be a solid presence for the Bears as well.
“Brittany joins the team from Herkimer and can catch and play first base for us,” said Dillabough. “Marsman is solid from behind the plate and will help us out offensively and defensively.”
The Potsdam infield has been a very competitive group throughout preseason. Coach Dillabough sights the flexibility of his team as the reason for the positive competition at each position on the diamond.
“It has been a battle so far this season in the infield. We have a lot of options and flexibility this year. It's going to be fun to watch and see how we mix and match things,” said the Bears' head coach.
At first base, Marsman and Thivierge will split time with McCuin adding depth at the position.
Megan Johnson, along with her pitching duties, will split time at second base with freshman Alexis Lerman. Johnson posted a .211 batting average in 19 at bats last season. Senior Sarah Hraniotis will also look to contribute at second.
“Sarah is a senior and will be competing for time at second base and some outfield,” said Dillabough. “She has a great enthusiasm for the game, enjoys working hard, and is a good teammate.”
Heather Johnson will comeback after playing centerfield last year to play shortstop for the Bears in 2013. This will be the senior's fourth position in her four years at Potsdam.
“Heather has stepped up and played wherever we have needed her and has played well.” Dillabough said.
At third, Potsdam will utilize several different players to their advantage. McCuin and White will battle for third base. McCuin hit .253 and started 33 games last season. White tallied a .239 batting average in 46 at bats with two homeruns at St. Lawrence in 2012. Marsman and Pagliaro will provide depth and versatility at the position.
“Shannon Pagliaro has a great glove defensively and we can see her coming in and playing a good role,” said Dillabough.
Freshman Meg Gabri joins Marsman as a newcomer in the infield and will serve as a utility player for shortstop and second base.
Several returnees and newcomers will make up the outfield for the 2013 campaign. Freshman Samantha Cohn will patrol left field for the Bears.
“Sam has a great arm and will limit a lot of doubles to singles and will make plays at the plate,” said Dillabough.
Sophomore Carissa Cornwell returns after playing left field last year and will be in the mix for all the positions in the outfield. The sophomore finished with a .207 batting average in 87 at bats with 35 starts last season. Perry and Thayer will also see time in the outfield.
“Amanda is an excellent defensive center fielder so she will step in and play. Also, Thayer will see some time in the outfield when she isn't pitching,” Dillabough stated.
Sophomore Erin Klettke provides flexibility in the outfield and will serve as a designated player for the Bears.
Coach Dillabough notes the excitement and energy of his players and the staff. He hopes to translate this energy into a record setting season for Potsdam.
“We have a lot of young, excited, and hungry players to go out there and play this year,” said Dillabough. “It will be a fresh start and it is exciting for me because it is a new team. We have a new sense of energy this year.”
The Bears open their season against Lyndon State this Friday, Mar. 1 at the Adirondack Sports Complex Dome in Queensbury, N.Y. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.