Softball Heads to Florida to Open 2011 Season

This weekend, the Pine Manor College softball team will temporarily escape the fridge northeast when the Gators travel to the National Training Center in Clermont, Florida to begin the 2011 season. While the Gators will enjoy warm weather for spring break, they will also be faced with the task of competing in six games over four days, beginning on Sunday, March 13. However, second-year head coach Kristi Lyman welcomes both the warm weather and the start to the Gators’ 2011 campaign.

“We are all excited to get to warmer weather,” said Lyman of the Gators’ trip to Florida. “It’ll be our first real chance to get outdoors and compete against someone other than ourselves. I’m eager to see what we can do. Our games in Florida will be a good test for our young pitchers and our team as a whole.”

The Gators will face perhaps their biggest test of the season during their first game of the season, as Pine Manor will take on Ithaca College— the 12th ranked team in the nation. Lyman will be looking to her retuning players to help lead the team against the tough early season competition and as the Gators continue on into the rest of the regular season. Lyman will also be faced with the unenviable task of filling the hole in the lineup that came with the graduation of Courtney Wallace, Pine Manor’s all-time hits leader (201) and a four-time Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) First-Team selection.

The Gators will lean on junior Kayla Nielsen (at bat, left) (Saco, ME/Thornton Academy) and senior Jess Kennedy (Lakeville, MA/Apponequet) to provide consistent offensive production at the plate, while every member of the team will be called upon to make contributions to the offense this season.

Nielsen returns to the Gators following a sophomore campaign that was shortened due to injury. Last season, in just 20 games, Nielsen hit .317, with 6 home runs and 14 runs batted in for the Gators. As a freshman, Nielsen was named to the GNAC All-Conference Third-Team after hitting .313 and driving in 24 runs for the Gators. This season, her head coach expects that she will continue to contribute, just as she has done in the past.

“We will be looking to Kayla to provide offense, but also to be one of our team leaders in the field, off the field and during practice,” said Lyman.

Senior Jess Kennedy returns as Pine Manor’s leading hitter, after batting .340 during her first season in Chestnut Hill as a transfer from Dean College.

“We are looking to her to jump start our offense,” said Lyman of her lead-off hitter and catalyst who was second on the team with 36 hits and ten doubles last season.

Along with Nielsen and Kennedy (right), Pine Manor’s returning players will each be expected to contribute in a variety of ways this season. Michelle Campbell (Baltimore, MD/Seton Keough) will be called on to provide leadership to the younger players, while also providing depth at multiple positions in the field. Lyman will look to sophomore Flavia Vincente (Roxbury, MA/Jeremiah E. Burke) to use her speed to help fuel the Gator offense on the base paths, while Kaylyn Delgado (Worcester, MA/Bartlett), who drove in ten runs as a freshman in 2010, will be called on to provide the Gators with more consistent power at the plate during her second season in Chestnut Hill.

The Gators will also seek production from several newcomers to the roster. Two members of Pine Manor’s freshman class will be called on to make immediate contributions. Ashley Carusone (Nashua, NH/Nashua North) will provide instant athleticism to the Gator line-up while also providing depth in the infield and what is expected to be another solid bat in the Gator line-up. Classmate Macala Kirylo (Pawtucket, RI/William E. Tolman Senior) will be called upon from day one as a member of the Pine Manor pitching staff but also be asked to provide production at the plate.

Junior Tara Doehler (Lakeville, MA/Apponequet) will return to the team to lead the pitching staff this season after posting a 3.54 era and winning ten games in 17 appearances as a freshman in 2009. While junior Jennifer Gross, another newcomer to the team, (Coral Springs, FL/Coral Glades) will battle for one of the Gators infield positions.

Following Pine Manor’s trip to Florida, the Gators will have a week and a half before they host their GNAC opener on Saturday, March 26. Pine Manor will take on Emmanuel in a doubleheader beginning at 1:00 p.m. at Pine Manor Softball Field.

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