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CAMDEN, N.J. – The last time Michelle Schlichtig appeared on the softball diamond for Rutgers University-Camden, she was pitching the Scarlet Raptors to the 2006 NCAA Division III national championship.
The next time Schlichtig leads the Rutgers-Camden softball team onto the field, she'll do so as the first-year head coach of the Scarlet Raptors. Rutgers-Camden opens its season at the Salisbury University Tournament March 13, facing both Lynchburg College (9 a.m.) and Capital University (11 a.m.).

Junior pitcher Brittany Scott

Schlichtig's first Rutgers-Camden team has been picked to finish seventh in the New Jersey Athletic Conference in the pre-season vote by NJAC coaches, released today. The Scarlet Raptors, however, did receive one first-place vote, the lone team below the favored top four to receive a first-place vote.

Softball photo shoot gallery
NJAC coaches tabbed Rowan University as the pre-season favorite, with the Profs receiving a pair of first-place votes from the 10 coaches. William Paterson received four first-place votes, but finished second in the balloting, followed by Kean University (two first-place votes) and Montclair State University (one). Rounding out the top six teams who are favored to reach the six-team NJAC playoffs are The College of New Jersey and Richard Stockton College.
Following Rutgers-Camden are Ramapo College, tabbed as the dark horse team, Rutgers-Newark and New Jersey City University.

Junior left fielder Devon Welsh

Rutgers-Camden qualified for the NJAC playoffs last season for the first time since winning it in 2007, a year after Schlichtig completed her collegiate eligibility as a two-time NCAA First Team All-American pitcher. The Scarlet Raptors posted an 18-16-1 record last season, including a 1-2 mark in the NJAC playoffs, and were 9-9 in the conference during the regular season. Prior to last season's NJAC berth, the Scarlet Raptors had been in four ECAC playoffs in the six seasons since their 2007 conference title, winning the ECAC Division III Metro crown in 2009.
Schlichtig, whose first coaching staff includes Ray HastingsBrandon Whittington and her father, Mike Schlichtigwill have only 12 players on her maiden Raptor team, but has five strong veterans in seniors Krystine Rice (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) and Devon Welsh (Maple Shade, NJ/Audubon) and the junior trio of Lindsay Day (Mays Landing, NJ/Oakcrest), Katie Larson (Delran, NJ/Delran) and Brittany Scott (Buena, NJ/Buena Regional).
Day, a stellar center fielder, and Scott, the Raptors' mound ace, both earned NJAC Second Team recognition in 2014.
Scott hurled 208.1 of the Raptors' 229.1 innings, posting a 16-14 record and a 1.95 ERA. She walked 49 and struck out 129. She also led the team in batting (.330), runs (27) and home runs (three), while adding 17 RBIs.
Day blossomed into a star in her second year with the Scarlet Raptors, hitting .313 with 22 RBIs, five doubles, two home runs, 13 runs and 22 RBIs. She also walked 18 times and led the club with a .438 on-base percentage.
Rice, the team's anchor at shortstop, hit .294 with 20 runs and 14 RBIs. She also led the club with 89 assists.

Senior shortstop Krystine Rice

Welsh, who started her Raptor career as a second baseman, developed into a fine defensive left fielder, while also hitting .280 with five doubles. She led the team with eight stolen bases in nine attempts.
Despite seeing her batting average drop to .209 from her .280 as a freshman, third baseman Larson provided enough big hits to lead the Scarlet Raptors with 23 RBIs. She also scored 13 runs and played fine defensive ball at the hot corner.
The Scarlet Raptors will include three players from the sophomore academic class, but only one of them, versatile Jalene Garcia (Vineland, NJ/Vineland), has sophomore athletic eligibility. Garcia, an infielder/catcher/outfielder, played at Albright College last season, where she hit .373 with a .405 on-base percentage.
Two other academic sophomores have freshman eligibility, playing their first season of collegiate softball. Pitcher Brittany Striewski (Lindenwold, NJ/Paul VI) will provide plenty of mound support so Scott doesn't have to throw practically the entire season. Second baseman Taylor Nichols (Barrington, NJ/Haddon Heights), meanwhile, is a stellar athlete who transferred from NJAC rival Richard Stockton College, where she played one year of soccer only.

Junior third baseman Katie Larson

The Scarlet Raptors' freshman class includes infielder/outfielder Katie Gurba (Westampton, NJ/Holy Cross), catcher Mackenzie Mason(Carneys Point, NJ/Penns Grove), catcher/pitcher/outfielder Samantha Sandridge (Friendswood, TX/Friendswood) and first baseman Lauren Simmons (Haddon Heights, NJ/Haddon Heights). 
Both Nichols and Simmons played for Michelle Schlichtig when she was the head coach at Haddon Heights High School, where her teams went 105-45 in six seasons (2009-2014), including four Colonial Conference titles (2011-14), two South Jersey championships (2012, 2013) and the 2013 state title.
Gurba, another multi-talented athlete, earned her first collegiate letter during the 2014 fall season as one of two goalies on the Scarlet Raptors' soccer team. She was named the NJAC Women's Soccer Rookie of the Week on Sept. 29. Sandridge, meanwhile, lettered on the Rutgers-Camden women's crew team in the fall.
When the Raptors begin their season at the Salisbury University Tournament, their second-day action includes one game against the host Sea Gulls, who are ranked No. 2 nationally in the pre-season Division III poll by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). The Raptors also play doubleheaders against four NJAC teams ranked in the NFCA's pre-season Top 25: Montclair State (11), Kean (15), Rowan (22) and William Paterson (25). In addition, the schedule includes a doubleheader against Messiah College, which received five votes toward the pre-season poll.
NJAC Pre-Season Softball Coaches' Poll
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
1. Rowan University (2)
2. William Paterson University (4)
3. Kean University (2)
4. Montclair State University (1)
5. The College of New Jersey
6. Richard Stockton College
7. Rutgers University-Camden (1)
8. Ramapo College (dark horse)
9. Rutgers University-Newark
10. New Jersey City University