Ewing, NJ – The season has yet to start for The College of New Jersey softball team, but the Lions are already in a tight mix in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. The conference’s preseason poll was announced with TCNJ falling into the second slot, while Rowan University was picked as the favorite.
The poll was exceptionally tight at the top with four teams receiving at least two first-place votes. Rowan garnered two of those votes and TCNJ landed three. In third place, Kean University received two votes for first place and Montclair State University earned three, despite dropping to fourth.
The Lions appear poised for another strong tournament run as they return a host of all-conference honorees. Two of those players return in the outfield as senior Crystal Lee (Rockaway, NJ/Morris Knolls) was an All-NJAC First Team selection and junior Liz Huttner (Princeton Junction, NJ/West Windsor-Plainsboro South) earned second-team honors. Lee started all 42 games last season in left field, while Huttner was a fixture in centerfield making that same number of starts. The duo also sat atop the leader board at the plate as Huttner paced the Lions with a .358 batting average and Lee was a close second at .350.
Lee is also a factor on the base paths as she led the NJAC last season in both triples (6) and stolen bases (33).
Junior Kelly Hommen (Ridgewood, NJ/Ridgewood), who anchors the infield as the third base, was an All-NJAC First Team honoree last spring. Hommen hits for both average and power as she hit .341 with 16 doubles and 29 runs batted in. Also expected to return to the starting line-up are veterans Ashley Sogluizzo (Middletown, NJ/Middletown South) and Katelyn Congilose (Toms River, NJ/Monsignor Donovan). Sogluizzo made 41 starts at shortstop last season and Congilose solidifies the right side of the infield at first base.
In the pitching circle, head coach Sally Miller has a pair of hurlers she can hand the ball off to. Senior Lauren Fitzsimmons (Bridgewater, NJ/Bridgewater-Raritan) has been a key member of the staff for three season and boasted a team-best 12 wins last season with a solid 1.39 earned-run-average. Sophomore Alex Carisone (Branchburg, NJ/Rutgers Prep) looks to build on her impressive first season in a Lion uniform as she garnered nine wins and earned All-NJAC Second Team honors.
TCNJ’s entire staff will have a very experienced catcher behind the plate as senior Michelle Kent (Sparta, NJ/Pope John XXIII) has started 143 games during her career. She ranks among the best defensive catchers boasting a fielding percentage of .991 last spring, which tied her for 15th among all players in the NJAC.
The team will open the season with its annual spring trip to Florida where the team will play 10 games. TCNJ opens on March 5 facing both Misericordia University and Elizabethtown College. The team’s home opener is set for Saturday, March 24 hosting SUNY Cortland, which is ranked sixth nationally.
Coach Miller enters the season nine wins shy of earning her 450th career win. She embarks on her 17th season at the helm of TCNJ’s program and has recorded at least 20 victories in 15 of her first 16 seasons.