Softball 2005 Season Outlook
Feb. 11, 2005
It's a new beginning for the George Washington University Softball program, now in its third year, as first-year head coach JoAnne Ferguson leads the Colonials and their freshmen-laden lineup in 2005. To say GW is a young team is an understatement as 13 of the 15 players on the Colonials' roster are freshmen, including seven newcomers. After playing just seven games last year as a result of not having enough healthy players to complete the remainder of the 2004 schedule, GW will rely on the strong leadership and experience of its nine returnees, most importantly sophomore co-captain Elana Meyers, as well as its "All-Heart" motto to establish itself as a surprise team in the Atlantic 10 this season.
GW boasts solid defenders across the diamond, led by Meyers at shortstop. The group is young and thus very new at playing next to one another, but they have shown the ability to work hard and understand the things it takes to win. Each will have to draw from their strong summer ball experience and bring with them a lot of competitiveness and game sense in order for the Colonials to enjoy success. Meyers is the anchor at short and the veteran leader on the squad, while as many as eight players will challenge for the remaining three positions.
Caroline Howe and Melanie Lewis will compete for the starting job at first. Both will be counted on for their defense and smart decisions in the clutch. At second, Cat Belanger, Lisa Cohen and sophomore Janelle Parker will battle it out. Belanger's quickness will be an asset for the Colonials not only in the field, but also as a slap hitter at the plate, while Parker and Cohen each add experience. Lindsay Graham, who Ferguson describes as a terrific competitor, will see time at third base when she is not in the circle. Lewis, who led GW with a .308 average (4-for-13) in its seven games last year, and Cohen will also compete for time at third.
Freshman Jackie Yaniga displayed tremendous command in center field during the fall campaign, and, as one of the best athletes on the team, her strong arm and ability to cover a lot of ground will make everyone's job easier when she plays. Offensively, she has power at the plate and will be one of the Colonials' top threats to swipe bases. Left and right field will be a battle between freshmen Katy Harrigan, Chrysanthi Halkiotis, Katie Miller and Parker. Harrigan started all seven games in the outfield for GW last season, including three at right. Halkiotis boasts a strong arm and a keen eye at the plate, while Miller could see some time in right or left when she's not pitching. Parker, meanwhile, is one of the most versatile players on the team and will be utilized for her speed and base-running abilities.
Freshman co-captain Colleen Kegler will be the Colonials' starter behind the plate. Kegler has earned the trust of the coaching staff to call her own game and will be in complete control of the infield. She is a strong receiver and has a quick throwing release which will challenge baserunners all season. Offensively, Kegler is continuing to improve and will fight for a position in the lineup. Classmate Jennifer George will serve as the back-up. George showed tremendous improvement during the fall and has the ability to call a good game. She is a contact hitter at the plate and as her game develops more offensively, her playing time should increase.
Pitching Staff:Although GW is extremely young, the Colonials' pitching staff is filled with talent and game experience. Freshman Gabby Culp is the veteran on the staff as she started six of seven games last season, compiling a 1-4 record with a 3.42 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 43.0 innings. She has the velocity to throw it by opposing hitters, as evidenced by striking out nine or more batters three times in 2004, and Ferguson considers her a `gamer' who can get the job done on any occasion. Culp also is a huge offensive threat for the Colonials with a ton of power and ability to hit the long ball.
Freshman Jen Hrycyna also will be counted on to start for GW. Hrycyna sustained a back injury last year which prevented her from appearing in any games, but when she is healthy she is the type of pitcher who is in complete command of her pitches and the team behind her. Freshman Katie Miller also will see significant time in the circle this season. Miller will be a vital asset on the staff as she can be used as a starter or in a relief role. She has shown the ability to remain calm and collected with runners in scoring position, and wants the ball when the game is on the line. Graham and Cohen will both provide pitching depth, depending on the starting lineup in the infield. Cohen started just one game last year for the Colonials, while Graham's competitiveness will serve her well.
The Colonials have a challenging schedule this spring and will face several early tests, including ACC member NC State, at the season-opening UNC Tar Heel Triangle Classic Feb. 11-13 in Chapel Hill, NC. GW returns home following the Triangle Classic to host its own tournament, the GW Colonial Challenge, as it welcomes Colgate, Army, Manhattan and Mount St. Mary's on Feb. 26-27. With the exception of the Rebel Spring Games in Florida, which will see GW play 10 games in five days, the month of March will keep the Colonials at home.
The Colonials host Rhode Island on March 26 in their first Atlantic 10 games of the season. Perhaps the most challenging stretch of the season for this young team will come in April as seven of their 10 doubleheaders are on the road. When GW returns home for its final doubleheader of the regular season against George Mason on May 5, the goal remains to be ready for the A-10 Championship the following weekend.
"We look forward to making our mark in the Atlantic 10 Conference this spring," head coach JoAnne Ferguson said. "We have a unique opportunity this year and I look forward to contending for the A-10 Championship. We are a young team equipped with young athletes who are committed to our program and our purpose. I am confident that this team will turn some heads this spring and gain some attention in the A-10. Our goal is to make it to the Atlantic 10 Tournament and I believe we can get there."