Dec. 17, 2000
"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
The Boston College softball team has lived by this mantra for the last several years and the results have been obvious. Two BIG EAST tournament titles, two league tournament MVPs, three BIG EAST rookie of the year selections, a BIG EAST coach of the year and two trips the NCAA tournament.
After a rough trip through 2000 with a 20-25 record and a team hit hard by injuries, head coach Jen Finley is ready to return to the success the team has so recently enjoyed in 2001.
With the end of the 2000 season came the graduation of five seniors and a talented crop of players who brought the Boston College softball program to new heights and provided a stable platform of leadership over several seasons. But, with the loss of one class comes the new talent of the Class of 2004. The leadership role has been assumed up by a tremendous sophomore class - led by pitcher Kim Ryan, shortstop Cara Blumfield and outfielder Jennifer Asbury. What the Eagles lost last year should be returned in the form of new leaders and new - and able - faces.
Coaching one of her most talent-laden teams ever, Finley is anxious to get the team on the field in the spring. But first, she must get her charges to translate all the hard work they've done during the fall exhibition season and in off-season conditioning workouts into a well-integrated unit on the field.
"This is probably, by far, my most talented team," Finley says. "We just have to transition all the hard work we've done so far off the field to the diamond and let the results speak for themselves,"
Last season, the Eagles suffered the unexpected loss of All-BIG EAST pitcher Mary Deitz before the season started. As a result, incoming freshman Kimberly Ryan stepped right into the number-one spot in the rotation. Though some might worry about a freshman's quick forced transition to collegiate softball, Ryan responded with vigor. By season's end, she was named co-rookie of the year in the BIG EAST and set a new BIG EAST single-season strike out record with 106, surpassing Deitz's previous mark of 101. She threw four shutouts and posted a 1.47 earned run average. Finley will expect more of the same from her in 2001.
"Kim is going to be our number-one pitcher again this season, our ace. She is one of our leaders on the field and will set the tone for the Eagles this year," she says.
"She has a lot of pressure on her this year, but after responding last year to the situation we put her in, she should do fine and lead this team well."
Junior Brooke Shull will also see some time on the mound this season. Last season, she made 10 appearances, making three starts with a 2-2 record and one save. Also a member of the volleyball team at Boston College, Shull is one of the veteran returnees Finley is looking to rely on for experience.
"Brooke could be a dominating pitcher this year if she's able to make a few adjustment in her delivery," Finley says.
Two promising freshmen should make an immediate impact on the staff. Erin Mackey and Tekae Malandris will both see time on the mound this spring, while seeing time at other positions as well.
Mackey, a native of River Forest, Ill., was a four-time all-league selection from St. Ignatius Prep in Chicago. Malandris was an all-league selection at Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, Calif., playing both the infield and pitching.
"Erin is an extremely hard worker. She is definitely an up-and-comer. Her ability to step into the rotation will alleviate a lot of stress on Kim this year.
"Tekae is a talented pitcher and should end up complementing the pitching staff with her style," Finley says. Malandris will see some time at first base when she is not on the mound.
The Eagles return two experienced catchers in Summer Jarratt and Jennifer Perrotta, both team captains. Jarratt started all 45 games in 2000 and had a perfect fielding percentage with 286 attempts. Jarratt was the catcher who worked exclusively with Ryan in the battery.
"Summer will handle most of the catching duties this year. She is the brains of the organization. Usually, she doesn't get a lot of credit because she's a catcher, but she's the one doing most of the thinking and planning out on the field. She has also gotten really strong and we want to keep her the lineup," Finley says.
Perrotta returns to the team after missing the 2000 season with due to injury. In 1998, she was the BIG EAST's rookie of the year and named to both the All-BIG EAST second team and all-rookie team after leading the Eagles in batting with a .321 average.
"Jen has provided great leadership during the fall season and we are looking for her to continue that in the spring," Finley said.
The Boston College infield will have a new look in 2001. Chris Vicari and Lauren Fischetti, stalwarts in the infield for four years, have graduated and last year's second baseman - Jennifer Asbury - has been moved to the outfield. Sophomore Cara Blumfield remains at short stop and will be counted on to provide strong and vocal leadership to the lineup consisting of mostly new players.
Malandris, when not pitching, will see the majority of time at first base. Sophomore Alison Erbig and freshman Elyse Meredith could also see time at first.
Last season, Erbig saw action in 24 games and made four starts. Her exceptional speed made her one of Finley's key pinch runners in close situations.
At second, another newcomer will see a great deal of time. Jacqui Goodchild, a freshman from West Hill, Calif., will step in and anchor the middle of the infield with her high school teammate Blumfield at short stop. Goodchild was an all-state selection in her senior year and a member of the city championship teams at El Camino High School in 1997 and 1999.
"Jacqui covers a lot of ground because she is so quick. Her range is great. She will work well with Cara to sure up the middle of the infield," Finley says.
Last season, Blumfield was fourth on the team in batting with a .271 average. She was also one of the sturdiest players as she was one of only four to start all 45 games last season. She led the team in runs scored with 28 and brought home another 11 runners with her bat. She knocked out two homeruns, seven doubles and a team-high two triples.
"Cara will be our infield leader. She received a great deal of experience last season and with that experience, we're expecting her to be an example to the newcomers. She has amazing range which will give us a very strong middle infield," Finley says.
At third base, three players will be vying for the starting nod. Finley has two returnees and two newcomers to use at the hot corner position. Finley expects Meredith, a freshman from Basking Ridge, N.J., and sophomore Lisa Fischer to share most of the playing time. Meredith brings very strong fielding to the diamond and a hard-nose playing style to the team. Junior Jennifer Lombardi is also challenging for time.
"Elyse is very strong," Finley says. "She has one of best gloves on the team, and possibly the best glove I've seen in a long time. She will aid in shoring up the left side of the infield and give us a strong defensive presence at both third and first."
Fischer, who is a two-sport athlete, stepped in last year to help out at third base as a freshman. Last season, she saw action in 20 games and made 12 starts. She hit two doubles and added three RBI over the spring.
"Lisa's intensity and drive to win are great attributes that she brings to the team this year," Finley says.
Lombardi took the field in 20 games and made 12 starts on 2000. She hit one double and drove in four runs last season. In 1999, she made playing in 35 games and made 35 starts.
Freshman Amy Swiderski could also see action at third. She was a member of Tucson's Canyon del Oro High School team that was ranked as high as seventh nationally in 1999.
After a move from the infield in the off-season, sophomore Jen Asbury will anchor the unit in the outfield. The team's second leading hitter in 2000 with a .311 mark, the sophomore from Livermore, Calif., had a team-high 42 hits, including three doubles and three homeruns. But Finley is also looking for more from Asbury this season. She wants Asbury to be the leader the Eagles' outfield has been missing in recent years.
"Jen will bring a strong leadership role to the outfield," Finley says. "She's very vocal and will be able to keep the players' minds in the game through seven innings. Her abilities are what the outfield needs this season."
Last season, used primarily as a pinch runner, junior Leah Kamataris saw time in 19 games and made eight starts, including the final game of the season against Villanova in the BIG EAST tournament. In nine at bats, she brought home two runners while maintaining a perfect fielding percentage in the outfield.
"Leah is probably one of our most improved players this year and gives you nothing but heart out on the field. She would go through a brick wall for you if it meant making the out," Finley says.
Freshman Sara Kellner will also play many games in the outfield. She was a Golden Glove recipient and was Sarasota, Fla.'s Livermore High School's best hitter last season with a .466 clip.
"Sara has a very good arm and wonderful speed," Finley says. "She'll be able to cover a lot of ground in the outfield and help make some plays in the infield,"
Junior Jaclyn Woitakowski made three starts last season and appeared in 21 other games. She could also see some time in the outfield this season, as well as Mackey.
Finley will take her team to three tournaments this season before facing a single regularly-scheduled opponent. The Eagles will start the season in the South, participating in tournaments at Florida State (Feb. 16-18) and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette (Feb. 23-25) before heading out to the West Coast for a tournament at San Diego State (Mar. 2-4). They will play the University of San Diego in a single game before taking part in its three-day tournament.
"This year we decided to get more games under our belts before we jump into the BIG EAST schedule. We believed that we needed to get away from the Northeast to do that. The tournaments will help the girls come together as a cohesive team and gel as a solid, well-working unit," Finley says.
Once the team returns home, the Eagles will play eight more non-conference games before opening up their league schedule on Mar. 25 at new BIG EAST conference member, Virginia Tech.
"Due to several factors, including the addition of two new members (Virginia Tech and Syracuse), the BIG EAST will be the most competitive it has ever been this season. It will be very tough to earn a spot in the championships since only four teams will qualify," Finley says.
After facing the Hokies, the Eagles skip into a stretch in the schedule that sees 18 of their next 25 games as conference matchups. The team will face such regional opponents as Fairfield, Massachusetts, Brown, Boston University and Holy Cross. On Apr. 28, Boston College will travel to South Bend to face the reigning BIG EAST champion, Notre Dame. Last season, Boston College split the home doubleheader and served the Irish one of their two league losses in 2000. The Eagles then close the regular season with Massachusetts, Harvard and Princeton.
After getting a lot of time from the younger members of the team due to many injuries in 2000, Finley and the team have gained valuable experience and have seen many different playing situations. Now, with the new season approaching, the team is set to take the field and bring a new look and familiar goal to the diamond.
"We had great fall practices and the whole team is anxious to take the field this spring. We've worked hard to better ourselves and prepare for the season. Our off-season workouts and conditioning will really help with the long season that we are starting earlier than ever this year.
"So many of our young players got a lot of experience and playing time last season and we are looking for them to bring all of that back out on the field in February. That experience so early has set this team up well for 2001. We'll use the senior leadership from our captains, as well as the sophomore class, to provide us with a great direction and demeanor that will set the tone for our season in 2001," Finley says.