Feb. 28, 2007
KINGSTON, R.I. - The Rhode Island softball team kicks off the 2007 campaign this Friday at the Tar Heel Invitational, in Chapel Hill, N.C., taking on Marshall at 10:00 a.m. and Princeton at 12:15 p.m.
A solid group of veteran returners will join a large and talented freshman class for head coach Deb Smith's second season with the Rams. She guided the team to a 20-27 record in 2006, including a tie for sixth place with an 8-12 record in the Atlantic 10, as Rhody was in contention for one of the four spots in the Atlantic 10 Tournament until the final week of the season. With the 2007 field being expanded to include six teams, Smith has her sites set on taking the Rams to their first post-season appearance since 2002.
"This weekend will give us a good idea what we are capable of, as well as what we need to work on," said Smith. "We are going to have our moments where we are going to look great, and then have other moments where, because we have such a new and different look from last year, and have so many different people in different positions, we are going to look young and make mistakes. At the same time, we have brought in a lot more offensive weapons and given ourselves more depth defensively."
Smith has plenty of experience returning on the left side of the infield. Junior Christine Gentile is back after garnering A-10 Second-Team All-Conference honors last season. She started all 47 games, primarily at third base, while finishing second for the Rams with a .294 batting average and third with 25 RBI. Senior Alyssa Martino started 45 games last season and will anchor the infield at shortstop. She finished the season with a team-best 33 RBI, along with 12 doubles and a .274 batting average.
The right side of the infield will be without second-team All-Conference first baseman Courtney Wall, who graduated after leading the Rams in hitting (.312), runs (29), doubles (15) and homeruns (4), while knocking in 27 runs. Smith will look to freshman Leah DiBussolo, an All-League member of Pennsylvania State Champion Norristown Area High School, to replace the departed captain. Junior Danielle Quimby will be that starter at second base after finishing third for last season's Rams with a .283 batting average, along with 16 RBI.
Smith is confident that freshman Melissa Wilson has all the tools to be the Rams' primary catcher this season. An All-League selection from R.A. Long High School in Washington, she "looks a lot older than a freshman," according to Smith, and combines the ability to handle pitchers with a strong arm and hitting ability. Quimby will also see time behind the plate.
Smith will have several options to put in the outfield. Sophomore Stefani Poedubicky was named to the A-10 All-Rookie team last season after making 46 starts for the Rams in centerfield. Junior leftfielder Shelly Petersen saw action in 24 games last season, including 24 starts, while sophomore right fielder Tara Hiteman started 32 of 38 games she played. Speedy freshman Jackie Kampmeier will also figure in the outfield mix, along with classmates Darci Borden and Shauna Hobbins.
The Rams' look to have a veteran pitching roster this year, as all three members of last season's staff return in 2007. Senior Katie Halcomb finished with a 12-13 record with a 3.37 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 162.0 innings of work. Junior Jill Anderson registered a 5-9 mark in 83.2 innings over 23 appearances, including 15 starts, while sophomore Odalys Torres looks to improve upon a 3-5 record in seven starts, while striking out 20 batters in 55.1 innings. Freshman MaryBeth Ball will also look to log some innings for the Rams, while also seeing time in the outfield.