The York College softball team enters their third season of the Nicki Starry era looking to shoot up the standings in the Capital Athletic Conference as well as the South Region. The Spartans, who finished a game below .500 last year, bring a new attitude to a new season as the Green and White looks to climb to the top of the CAC.
"I like the attitude and drive of this team. They come to practice, work hard and push themselves to meet my expectations," says Starry. "It is a good mix of returners and newcomers. This group brings a new life to the program and they are hungry to show what they can do on the field."
Starry turns to her returning core of Spartans Brittany Therres, Brittany Schlorff, Hannah Hugel, Sarah Harris, Erin O'Leary, Cory Urkuski, Rachel Klein, and Alyssa Molino to provide leadership and solid play.
The Spartan mentor welcomes in Sara Thacker, Carly Farr, Cara Rubinaccio, Katie Wickert, Vanessa Mendez, Ashley Chenoweth, Jena Ruby, and Christina Andrulat as they will each have an opportunity to make an impact to the program their rookie year.
Therres is a big part of the foundation for the Spartans as the senior pitcher begins her final season in the Green and White. With her name all over the Spartans' record books she owns a school record 52 wins while she has thrown a school-record 493 innings. Therres has struck out 258 in her three seasons, as she is a three-time All-CAC selection for the Spartans.
"Brittany is an outstanding pitcher and leader who worked very hard this off season to come in better than I have ever seen her," states Starry. "She is solid player and will be a strong presence on the field. I expect her to toss a majority of our innings this year."
Thacker will be York's rookie pitcher who looks to gain experience and confidence on the mound this year. She has good control and is an outstanding athlete that looks to find substantial playing time this season, even when not on the mound.
"Thacker will be a difference maker both in the circle and at the plate for us this year. I am very excited about her potential," says Starry.
The Spartan infield will have a mix of old and new. Harris moves to first base after spending her first two years behind the plate. Thacker and Therres will back her up, giving York depth at the position.
"Sarah has really stepped up to the challenge of moving in front of the plate. She has made the transition a smooth one," states Starry.
The middle infield features a mix of Schlorff, Farr, Wickert and Ruby. Schlorff is the key to the equation as she can play second and short with equal excellence. She was an All-CAC selection last year as she hit .280 with 12 runs scored, 10 RBI, four doubles, and a home run. Farr is a talented young player that will have a chance to earn innings in the middle of the diamond and make an impact early in the Spartan line up. She is a deceptively quick player that can use her speed at the dish. Wickert is a smooth defender that is continuing to progress as an offensive player.
"I like the versatility we have in the middle infield," states Starry. "I am excited to see who steps up and seizes the opportunity."
Urkuski replaces four-time All-CAC third baseman Kelly Smith at the hot corner. She has settled in nicely and brings a career batting average of .304 to the Spartan lineup. The versatile Mendez will be Urkuski's understudy at third.
"Cory has the ability to hit for a good average and can be a good run producer for us in the lower third of the lineup," states Starry. Behind the dish will be Klein, Mendez, and Chenoweth. Klein is the lone returner as she hit .233 in 25 games last year. She split her time between first base and catcher last year and will move behind the plate full time this year.
"I feel comfortable with our trio behind the plate," says Starry. "They all bring a little something different to our team and I believe they will be an asset both offensively and defensively to the roster."
The outfield is an area of maturity for the Spartans as Hugel and O'Leary both have extensive experience for the Green and White. Hugel had her season cut short due to injury last year but still managed to earn All-CAC accolades as she hit .446 with 14 runs scored in her 18 games. Hugel will patrol centerfield as Starry believes she has improved tremendously as a defensive outfielder. O'Leary moves to right this year as Starry will look to capitalize on her offensive talents. Rubinaccio will start in left field and hit near the top of the lineup. Her athleticism will play well in the Spartans' game. Molino and Andrulat give the Spartans quality depth in the outfield.
"Hannah is back, fully healthy and ready to get on base at the top of the lineup for us," says Starry. "She has the ability to set the table and give our run producers the chance to drive her home. Cara has been a great understudy to Hannah and has the potential to be an other great offensive weapon for us. Erin has been very steady during the preseason and looks to take her game to the next level this season," states Starry.
Starry will look to fill the designated player position with a number of different players.
"The DP will be a place were we can use a number of different players and be highly effective," says the third-year Spartan mentor.
"We have really picked it up in the last three weeks," says Starry. "The girls recognize that we needed to be more prepared heading into the season and they have been very diligent in their preparations. I am ready to get on the field and see what we have."
The Spartans open the 2012 campaign with a trip to the Methodist University Early Bird Tournament in Fayetteville, NC. The Spartans play their first 20 games of the year before playing their first game at home on March 28 against Frostburg State.