Katey Ladika

Softball preview: Colonials gear up to battle for conference title

As the Robert Morris Colonials softball team begins to prepare for the 2018 season, they are coming out with winning on their minds and drive in their hearts. With the team being mostly upperclassmen, they are a little less wide-eyed, knowing the college game better.

Head coach Craig Coleman expects a big step up from the women despite the departure of Jordan Gurganus and Stacy Capp. Coach Coleman wants to see the upperclassmen step up as leaders and drive the team forward.

After the season was over, the team devoted their time to work on the finer details that were missing during the season. The pitchers and freshmen had to gain the necessary experience to face their opponents when the season starts back up again.

“Our team has improved great on communication. It was kind of rough here and there during the season. By having good communication we can just work together and understand one another to make those plays and calls as a team,” said junior outfielder Abrielle McCartney.

Pitching is something the Colonials expect to see significant improvement this season.

The Colonials also made some additions off the field. With Jexx Varner and Christine Campbell joining the Colonials coaching staff, they bring years of experience. Campbell being an All-American softball player and Varner coaching Division one softball for the past seven years. These two will bring a different approach to the team and refine the skills that the women have been taught from the other coaches on the staff.

“Jexx brings awful lot of experience, he was actually a volunteer assistant coach here. Since then he has a lot of experience with coaching Division II and Division I in which he was a head coach. He is very knowledgeable in all aspects of the game and he is a tremendous instructor in the softball skills and strategy. Christine just finished her career as a pitcher at Lehigh, she was the patriot league pitcher of the year. She has done a nice job teaching our pitchers somethings both physically and mentally,” said head coach Craig Coleman.

Infielder and Canal Fulton, Ohio, native Kaitlyn Clark is the only freshman on the team this season.

“We expect big things from her, even as a freshman she stays very focused on and off the field. She is very well communicated with us, so I think she is going to adapt very easily here,” said McCartney.

However, Coleman is looking forward to his pitching staff this season. The Colonials will have returning pitchers, juniors Kaitlin Ellzy, Lacee Collins and Laura Coulter, as well as sophomore Madison Riggle.

With the second place projection in the NEC preseason poll, the Colonials expect a big season.

“One of the things about pitching is the more experience you get at the collegiate level the better you are. We think their pitches are much crisper, the ball is moving better, they are hitting their spots better, so we are expecting a lot of improvement from our pitchers,” said Coleman.

In a recent preseason poll, the Colonials were ranked second in the Northeast Conference, voted on by the other coaches in the conference. This indicates that the coaches respect the talent that the Colonials display heading into the regular season.

“You have to have great players, any successful program is built on successful recruiting. You have to recruit kids who really know how to play the game, have the right attitude, and it is really hard to win if you don’t have good players,” said Coleman.

Last season, the team finished 23-33 overall, and in conference they were 10-6. With having a young pitching staff, it caused some problems in keeping games in the Colonials’ favor. The pitching staff of the Colonials last season included three sophomore pitchers and one freshman pitcher. Having inexperienced pitchers proved to play a part of the fourteen-game losing streak during the beginning of the season last year.

RMU will open their season in the Cleveland State Dome Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio. The Colonials will take on Niagara this upcoming Saturday at 10 a.m. before finishing their day against host team Cleveland State. Robert Morris will then take on Canisius and Bowling Green to close out the tournament on Sunday.

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