March 4, 2010

2010 Season Preview: Bulldogs Optimistic As Opener Approaches

Yale Begins Season Mar. 12 At Stetson Classic

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale softball program has been on the upswing in recent years. The Bulldogs have improved their Ivy League record from the previous season in each of the last three years. If that trend continues in 2010, Yale should be strong contenders for the Ivy’s North Division title. The Bulldogs return 12 letterwinners and seven starters from last year’s team that finished 22-22 overall and 11-9 in league play.

“I have big expectations for this year’s team,” said head coach Barbara Reinalda, who begins her sixth season at the helm. “We have a lot of versatility, so I am hoping for contributions from a number of different players.”

One of the strengths of this year’s team will be in the outfield, where two All-Ivy selections from a year ago return. Senior rightfielder Lauren Huddleston was a first team selection after batting .405, which was second in the league and the fourth best in a season in Yale history. Huddleston was second on the team in hits (45), runs (27) and stolen bases (9) and had 14 multi-hit games.

Centerfielder Ashley Sloan, the team captain, has earned All-Ivy recognition in each of her first three years, including second team honors last year. She enters her senior season needing 42 hits to become Yale's all-time leader. She also is fourth in school history in runs scored with 96, 39 shy of Kathy Ching's Yale record. Last year, she led the team in hits (46), runs (31) and stolen bases (12).

Sophomores Virginia Waldrop, Chelsea Janes and Chelsey Locarno will vie for playing time in left field. All three gained valuable experience in their rookie year. Waldrop started 25 games and had multi-hit games against Fairfield and Columbia. Janes appeared in 19 games and was the recipient of the Andy Van Etten Coaches Award, which is bestowed upon the player who represents the ideals of Yale Softball that go beyond statistics. Locarno, who also plays field hockey at Yale, played in 34 games and scored 11 runs.

Yale’s infield will have a bit of a new look from last year. Senior Allie Canulli returns to third base after missing all of last season with an injury. In 2008, Canulli tied for the team lead in home runs and was third in RBI (16). Junior Katie Yanagisawa started all 44 games at second base and was third in runs (24) and sixth in hits (35) last year, but she had off-season shoulder surgery, which could limit her availability. Senior Holly Gutterud, who returns after taking last season off to study abroad, and freshman Jennifer Ong are candidates to see time at second. Gutterud, also a member of the Yale pitching staff, was an honorable mention All-Ivy selection as a utility player in 2008. She batted .405 in 13 Ivy games. Ong brings impressive credentials from Foothill High School in California where she batted .540 in league games as a senior. Ong and Canulli could also see action in the outfield.

Sophomore Meg Johnson started all 20 Ivy League games at shortstop last year and batted a team-best .349. She led the league with five triples and made only seven errors in 149 chances. For the first time since 2006, first base won’t be occupied by Megan Enyeart ’09, a four-year starter who graduated as Yale’s all-time leader in doubles and was second in school history with 90 RBI. Fortunately for Reinalda, there are a couple of strong candidates to replace Enyeart. Junior Mariclaire Rebman, who played mostly third base last year, will make the move to first. She was one of only three players to start all 44 games last year and was second on the team in RBI (9) in Ivy games. Rebman also will see time in the circle. Freshman Kelsey Warkentine was named to the 2009 Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-America team as a senior at Washburn Rural High School in Kansas. She had a 524 batting average and led the Centennial League with 37 RBI.

Two freshmen will provide the Bulldogs with quality infield depth. Christy Nelson was a four-year starter at Rancho Bernardo High School in California and earned All CIF honors all four years. Liz Tutino was an all-state selection at nearby Hand High School in Connecticut and was a three-time first team all-league selection.

The Bulldogs have a pair of experienced catchers. McKynlee Westman started a career-high 33 games last year and was second on the team with seven sacrifice bunts. She also threw out five runners attempting to steal. Lexi Peacock started 15 games, had five RBI and threw out three runners trying to steal.

Graduation has taken more than 200 innings and 17 victories from last year’s pitching staff. Senior Kayla Kuretich is the most experienced returner with 160 innings and 13 victories under her belt. She was 4-4 with a 3.29 ERA last spring. Gutterud posted a 3-1 record with a 2.97 ERA in 2008. Rebman saw her first action in the circle last year and had a 2.33 ERA in five appearances. The only newcomer to the staff is freshman Jackie Manzer, who was a three-time all-league selection at Thousand Oaks High School in California. She had an 8-0 record and a 0.40 earned run average with 86 strikeouts in 53 innings before suffering an injury in her senior year.

“Our pitchers really complement each other, so we have the ability to throw different style pitchers at our opponents,” Reinalda said.

The Bulldogs begin the season against UConn at the Stetson Classic in DeLand, Fla., on Mar. 12. In all, Yale is scheduled to play 42 games, including seven doubleheaders in the friendly confines of Dewitt Family Field.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity

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