Rider Broncs athletic logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ – With longer days of sunlight and warmer temperatures on the horizon, the Rider University softball team is set to begin its 2017 campaign this weekend with a trip to South Carolina to compete in the Battle at the Beach, hosted by Coastal Carolina.
The three-day, five-game trip highlights an early season non-conference schedule that sees that Broncs face quality opponents.
“We play a good mix of competitive teams, which I’m really excited for to open up our season,” Rider University Head Coach Jaclyn Timko said.
Entering her second season at the helm of the program, she is looking for the team to continue and grow.
“We have a motto this year of Fight,” Timko said. “On the field we’re going to be giving 100 percent effort and attitude, we are fighting every pitch, and every single moment on the field this spring.”
In the circle, Rider returns three pitchers and has two first-year players that will look to make an impact. Senior Delany DeMello (Roseville, CA/Roseville) looks to lead the rotation this spring. Last season, DeMello went 2-3 in 10 appearances with a 4.40 ERA. In over 41 innings of work, she tossed two complete games for the Broncs.
“Our freshman class is very strong,” Timko added. “We added two on the mound with Elyse Cuttic and Emily Oltman. We expect to see a lot of innings from them.”
Other returners looking to add depth are senior Kaitlyn Kallert (Woodland Park, NJ/Passaic Valley) and classmate Megan Ailand (Burlingame, CA/Burlingame). Kallert led the team in wins and strikeouts in 2016, while Ailand tossed a team-high 139.1 innings, made 36 appearances and posted 12 complete games.
Behind the dish, three Broncs will be competing for the starting position. Returners Kiera Swank (Bear, DE/Caravel Academy) and Alexa Feliciano (Thousand Oaks, CA/Oak Park) both performed well last season and will bring their experience and leadership to the position battle this spring. Swank had four extra-base hits as a freshman to go along with six RBIs, while Feliciano registered a .970 fielding percentage and threw out seven of 16 baserunners attempting to steal.
Freshman Shelby Miller (Roseville, CA/Whitney) will also vie for playing time. Miller had a productive fall season for Rider and the Timko is looking for her to make a splash this year.
Around the horn in the infield, the Broncs have depth and numerous players looking to step up in 2017. Sophomore Ellie Oruska (Chadds Ford, PA/Perkiomen Valley) and classmate Gabby Bram (Jackson, NJ/Red Bank Catholic) will both see action at first base and have been hitting the ball well through the fall. At second, junior Monica Clark (Bryn Mawr, PA/Archbishop Carroll) and sophomore Maddy Chain (Gloucester, NJ/Gloucester City) are really strong defensively and will help the team situationally as well.
Senior Amanda Crimarco (Levirrown, NY/Kellenberg) will be the team’s starting shortstop. Crimarco will anchor the infield group and take control with her leadership. Over at third base, both DeMello and junior Meagan Finnerty (Monroe, NY/Monroe Woodbury) will see time.
Speed and senior leadership will set the tone in outfield for Rider as Josettee Spencer (Hillsborough, NJ/Hillsborough) patrols center for the second straight season. Spencer had three outfield assists and a .949 fielding percentage as a junior. Offensively, she had 30 hits and 19 runs scored, while stealing seven bases.
Other contributors this season will be freshman Sabrina Torres (Clifton, NJ/Paramus Catholic), junior Toni Nino (Adelanto, CA/Silverado), sophomore Amanda Jordan (Somerset, NJ/Franklin Township) and sophomore Brianna Parisio (Sayreville, NJ/Sayreville War Memorial).
Rider was picked to finish 10th in the MAAC Preseason Poll with 24 points. The poll, which is voted on by the league’s 11 head coaches, was released in late January. Defending conference champion Marist was tabbed to repeat, earning 119 points thanks to 10 first-place votes.
The young Bronc team features 11 players in either their first or second spring with the squad. Timko believes the youth will help change the tide and mentality of the team. Last year, Rider’s motto was to find the passion and this year the team is focused on battling every pitch in every inning to continue to improve.
The new era of Rider softball is on the horizon in Timko’s eyes with the Broncs laying the new groundwork for Rider softball.