Pioneer Softball Ready for Playoff Run in 2009

Feb. 17, 2009

Just one game. That was the narrow margin that kept the Sacred Heart softball team from its first NEC postseason appearance in 2008. Last year Sacred Heart kept its playoff hopes alive until the final weekend of conference play but was eventually denied its first Division I postseason experience. The 2009 edition of the Pioneers will look to breakthrough and break into the playoff picture behind key experienced players as well as a slew of sophomores who posted fantastic freshman campaigns.

Betsy Harvey, a senior captain, will look to lead her team at the plate as well as off the field. Harvey has compiled a .248 collegiate batting average along with 21 doubles, three triples, and four homeruns. The starting second baseman has also averaged 14 RBI's and 13 runs scored for her career. Junior Adrian Fitzsimon will also play a key role in the Pioneer lineup after making major contributions in her first two seasons in the red and white. Fitzsimon started all 48 games for the Pioneers in left field and posted a .269 batting average. Fitzsimon tied for second on the team with 18 runs scored and earned a .321 slugging percentage while only striking out 17 times.

Jen Russell, Courtney Lee, and Taylor Froelich highlight a talented cast of sophomores that return for their second season in a Pioneer uniform. Russell will be the ace of the Sacred Heart pitching staff after posting one of the most dominant freshman pitching campaigns in recent memory. The Seymour, CT native earned 14 wins and posted two shutouts en route to a 2.73 season ERA. Russell surrendered just 29 walks in 161.2 innings pitched and struck out 108 batters. Her dominant performance earned her three NEC Pitcher of the Week honors, two Rookie of the Week awards, and a spot on the All-NEC 2nd Team.

Lee led the Pioneers in seven offensive categories as a freshman in 2008. The first baseman hit .299 and slugged .445 including three home runs and 17 RBI and scored 18 runs. But this slugger also has speed swiping four bases and notching one triple in 2008. Froelich will play center field and lead off for the Pioneers in 2009. Froelich finished 2008 with a .980 fielding percentage and drove in 18 runs as well as stealing four bases from the leadoff spot.

The Pioneers will also benefit from the return of Amanda Bradley and Sarah Stack after both missed last season due to injury. Both Bradley and Stack will serve as captains on the 2009 squad. Bradley will likely adopt the designated hitter role as Lee currently occupies first base. However, Bradley has an abundance of power, cranking 11 doubles and two homeruns in a healthy 2006. Stack will be fighting for playing time at third base with Jasmin Vicente, who won the job last year, along with junior Jill Timmer, who may have the strongest arm of the bunch.

Jessica Perez, a senior captain, and Shannon McCoy round out the returning starters for the 2009 Sacred Heart team. The pair will offer Co-Head Coaches Elizabeth Luckie and Pam London consistency in right field and behind the plate, respectively.

Two freshman will look to play key roles in Sacred Heart's hunt for a postseason appearance. Alyssa Garza from Valencia, CA is slated to start at shortstop for the Pioneers. Garza's high school team twice won CIF state championships and four straight Foothill league championships during her tenure. Garza is an exceptional fielder and won Foothill league golden glove honors. Liz Tsipouras will be the Pioneers second starting pitcher as well as contribute with her bat, possibly in the heart of the Sacred Heart order. Tsipouras was named MVP of her high school league her senior year as well as earning team MVP accolades three times.

The Pioneers will travel south three times to compete in tournaments to open up their spring season. Sacred Heart is slated to begin its season in South Carolina to face Troy, James Madison, Eastern Illinois, and Virginia in a tournament hosted by the Gamecocks. A week later Sacred Heart rolls into Chattanooga, TN for five more games at the Frost Classic. The Pioneers are again set to compete in Osceola, FL at the Rebel Games beginning March 8th.

Sacred Heart's opening day at Pioneer Park is set for March 25th against the Huskies of UConn. Northeast Conference play begins just three days later as the Pioneers welcome Nutmeg State rival Quinnipiac to Fairfield. Sacred Heart will play non-conference games with Fairfield as well as double headers with Hartford, Dartmouth, Yale, Stony Brook, Siena, and Seton Hall.

The Pioneers will have to travel to Pittsburgh to take on Saint Francis (PA) and Robert Morris as NEC play heats up. Sacred Heart's regular season NEC schedule will conclude April 25th at Pioneer Park against the Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson. The NEC tournament, which the Pioneers hope to be a part of, will be held May 8-10. With solid pitching and a lineup full of dangerous hitters the Pioneers expect that 2009 will be the year they chase down that elusive Northeast Conference postseason appearance.