New head coach Kristi Lyman takes over a Pine Manor program that went 16-8 in Great Northeast Athletic Conference play in 2009 and inherits a solid mix of talent, both veteran and young alike.
“Our goal for the team is to be in the top four of the league,” said Lyman. “We’re young, but we have solid pitching.”
Foremost among the returnees is catcher Courtney Wallace. Entering her fourth season as one of the league’s elite batswomen, Wallace is coming off her third consecutive .400 season at the plate and looks to tie a league record with her fourth straight All-GNAC First Team selection.
“I just want to maintain that consistency,” Wallace said. “I just want to maintain that level of play, keep the same goals and stay consistent.”
Wallace was again the catalyst for the Gators offense in 2009. She led the team with a .405 average, hitting .438 in GNAC play, and totaling team-bests of 46 hits, 28 runs, 78 total bases, 113 at-bats and a .432 on-base percentage to compliment a .656 slugging percentage. To no surprise, Lyman looks to the two-time NFCA/Louisville Slugger all-region selection as the straw that stirs the Gators drink.
“She should lead us offensively with her strong hitting,” said Lyman. “With her experience and knowledge behind the plate, she’ll be able to take control with the pitchers. As a head coach, it’s like having another coach on the field. It makes it easier for me to focus on the young talent we have.”
If Wallace wasn’t catching last season, All-GNAC Third-Team utility player Kayla Nielsen was. As a freshman, Nielsen hit .313, good for fourth on the team, also finishing fourth on the club with 40 hits, 23 runs, a .350 on-base percentage and a .450 slugging percentage. Perhaps just as important was the versatility that saw her play shortstop and third base in addition to her time behind the plate.
Equally versatile was Michelle Campbell, who played both corner outfield positions, as well as third base and shortstop as a freshman in 2009. She totaled 28 hits and 12 runs over 115 at-bats, good for a .243 average in her rookie campaign.
While Nielsen, Campbell and departed shortstop and All-GNAC First Teamer Patty Pabon split time on the left side of the infield a year ago, Michelle Myers has been the staple of the right side for three seasons. One of two returnees, along with Nielsen, to start all 41 games in 2009, Myers tallied a career-high 28 hits. The team’s leading slapper, the senior will again be looked to move base runners atop the Gators lineup.
Rounding out the three seniors is pitcher Siobhan Raymond, who returns after sitting out 2009. As a sophomore, she led the team in home runs per at-bat, belting four homers in 44 at-bats over 22 games, only two of them on the mound. As the team’s No. 2 starting pitcher as a freshman in 2007, Raymond earned an 11-6 record in 18 starts, including 10 complete games. She’ll be called upon on not only as a starter on the mound, a power bat in the middle of the order and an infielder on her days off, but to also provide a level of support to her fellow seniors, according to Wallace.
“It’s nice having people who’ve known you from the beginning, so they know how you work. [Michelle Myers, Siobhan and I] know what to say to each other. It’s nice having that support,” Wallace said.
Not only is Raymond welcomed back aboard, but Wallace said the new coach fits right in with her triumvirate of seniors. “Kristi has the same aggressive personality as, Shibby [Raymond], Michelle [Myers] and I,” she said. “We’re happy to see PMC has a really good coach. She genuinely cares.”
Leading the newcomers is freshman Tia Nelson, who will be called upon, along with Raymond, to anchor the Gators staff. An accomplished high school pitcher, the local product played six years of varsity softball at Rockport High, where she was a starting pitcher since eighth grade and threw a perfect game as a junior. Nelson, according to Lyman, is expected to contribute immediately.
“Tia brings a lot of softball experience and knowledge,” Lyman said. “As a freshman, she should be able to step in there and prove to be a top pitcher in the league.”
Fortunately for the freshman, she’ll be throwing to the best, most experienced backstops in the region, making her learning curve all the easier.
“With the experience Courtney has behind the plate and in the field, she’ll be able to make Tia’s transition to the GNAC very smooth and bring her to the next level in a short period of time.”
Added Wallace, the unquestioned leader of this year’s cast, “She’s got a lot of potential. As long as she keeps improving she’ll be ready to be the leader next year, the go-to girl.”
Vying for time to Nelson’s left will be freshman Kaylyn Delgado, a four-year letter winner Worcester’s Bartlett High. First base is her natural position, though Delgado will also see time in the outfield and could provide a middle-of-the-order bat to compliment Wallace and Raymond.
Junior Jess Kennedy looks to take command of the outfield from center. A transfer from Dean College, where she served as captain of the Bulldogs last season, Kennedy, who is also a catcher, looks to set the table at the top of the lineup.
“We have versatile athletes in Jess Kennedy and Kaylyn Delgado, who will add depth and make an immediate impact in the infield and the outfield,” said Lyman, a former standout at the Big East’s Providence College. “Jess has the talent to stop right in and captain the outfield.”
Among the newcomers who will add depth are freshman outfielders Claudine Alizee, Katia Friere, Mahalet Kassa, Francisca Mendes and Flavia Vicente. All could contribute at some point in the season, with Friere and the speedy Vicente perhaps playing a role sooner rather than later.
After a run to the semifinals of the GNAC Tournament a year ago, Lyman looks to keep the Gators among the GNAC’s finest, and her leader is on board.
“In my first year, I’m optimistic we’ll finish in the top four of the league,” said Lyman.
“This whole season is like a new beginning. It’s the start of something new with Kristi,” Wallace said.
The Gators open at the Dot Richardson National Training Center in Clermont, FL on Sunday, March 7, taking on Philadelphia’s Haverford College at 9:30 a.m. and returning to play Hannibal-Legrange at 1:30 p.m. After 10 games in five days in Clermont, Lyman’s club will enjoy the comfort of a 13-day layoff upon returning to Chestnut Hill, playing host to GNAC opponent Lasell College on Wednesday, March 24 at 3 p.m.
Fri, March 5, 2010
by Sports Information