May 3, 2013

Softball relishing chance to compete for Centennial title

HAVERFORD, Pa. - The Haverford College softball team surprised the Centennial Conference this season with an impressive campaign that resulted in the Fords claiming the third seed in this weekend's Centennial Conference tournament. Haverford now looks to take full advantage of the wide-open playoff field and put the finishing touches on the year with a conference title.

The young Fords, with just one senior on the roster, were not expected to do much this season in the eyes of the conference as the preseason poll of conference coaches listed Haverford in eighth. Haverford (23-11) went on to author one of the finest seasons in program history, however, with consistent pitching, solid defense and a record-breaking year at the plate. This year's squad set new season records for batting average (.312), slugging percentage (.452), on-base percentage (.378), runs scored (209), runs batted in (165) and home runs (20).

Providing some pop at the top of the order, Elizabeth Newman ranks first on the team and second in the conference in batting average (.440). The junior also leads the squad in hits (51) and runs scored (41).

Once Newman gets on base to get things started, Haverford relies on junior Jen DiCandilo, sophomore Dayle Comerford and freshman Kristin Tatum to put some runs on the scoreboard. DiCandilo, an all-conference honoree the last two seasons, ranks fourth in the conference in batting average (.429) and is tied for third in runs batted in (32). Comerford tops the team in RBIs with 33 while Tatum set a new program record for home runs in a season with seven.

The pieces of the Fords line-up came together to produce a high-powered offense that finished the regular season ranked second in the conference in batting average and runs scored.

Junior Claire Fitzgerald and freshmen Sara Tauriello and Emily Winesett combined to register 212 strikeouts and an impressive 2.42 earned run average. Winesett and Tauriello currently share the program game record with 15 strikeouts. Tauriello ranks second in the conference in ERA at 1.95 while Fitzgerald ranks sixth (2.56).

The hunt for the tournament crown looks to be a good one as each team has at least 23 wins on the season. Haverford accounted for one of top seed Muhlenberg's two conference losses on the season but the host Mules (30-7-1) won't be an easy out. Muhlenberg features the 2012 player of the year at first base in junior Kelly Kline and sophomore Kelsey Jones recently pitched the first perfect game in program history.

The Fords will open tournament play on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. against second seed McDaniel College--the lone squad to sweep Haverford this season. The visiting Green Terror (23-15) edged  the Fords in both games of a twinbill in early April including a 2-1 win in 10 innings. Sophomore Caroline Brehm is McDaniel's biggest weapon as the sophomore hurler tallied 312 strikeouts during the regular season to register her second consecutive 300-strikeout season. Brehm, the conference's pitcher of the year in 2012, ranks fifth nationally with an average of 10.4 strikeouts per seven-inning contest.

Washington College, the tournament runner-up last season, also boasts a talented cast as the fourth-seeded Shorewomen (23-16) rank first in the Centennial in RBIs (198) and runs (236). Senior Kylie Nottingham swings a powerful bat with six home runs on the year.

Coach Jen Ward led Haverford to the conference title in 2006 and she feels the Fords have a chance to come out on top in Allentown, Pa. this weekend. "The tournament is wide open," said Ward. "We have been playing our best ball down the stretch and we are excited about the opportunity in front of us."

Haverford and McDaniel begin Saturday's action at Cedarcreek Field at 10 a.m. Washington and Muhlenberg will follow as the double-elimination tournament continues throughout the day. The second day of championship play will also begin at 10 a.m. as the Fords hope to be the last team standing on Sunday afternoon.