Jan. 28, 2009
The Sacred Heart softball team was selected to finish sixth in the preseason poll released by the Northeast Conference this afternoon. The Pioneers missed the playoffs by one game last season after compiling a 9-9 NEC record. Sacred Heart will look to capture its first NEC tournament berth in 2009.
Long Island, who earned their 11th league championship last season, was selected as the NEC preseason favorite. Robert Morris and Wagner, who both made the postseason in 2008 were picked second and third. Saint Francis (PA) and Monmouth both finished ahead of the Pioneers in fourth and fifth, respectively. Sacred Heart's in-state rivals Quinnipiac and Central Connecticut finished just behind the Pioneers in seventh and eighth. Mount St. Mary's and Fairleigh Dickinson round out the 2009 poll.
The Pioneers anticipate the return of sophomore hurler Jen Russell (Seymour, CT), who was voted to the all-NEC second team last year. The pitcher threw 161.2 innings, striking out 108 batters (seventh in NEC) - 44 of which were caught looking (third in NEC) - en-route to picking up 14 wins in 2008. Russell ranked eighth in the league in ERA (2.73) and held her opponents to a .265 batting average (ninth in NEC).
Fellow sophomore Courtney Lee (Camarillo, CA) led the conference with 25 walks and paced the Pioneers with a .299 average. She also cleaned up in the infield as she ranked second on the circuit in two categories, including putouts (358) and double plays (10). Catcher Shannon McCoy (Yorba Linda, CA), also in her second year, led the league by gunning down 23 runners attempting to steal last season. As a unit, a patient Pioneers squad at the plate generated 124 walks (second in NEC), while also taking the number-two spot with a 2.73 ERA and keeping opponents to a .258 clip, due in part to allowing a league-low 10 home runs.