Mix of Veterans and Newcomers Hope To Be Buffalo Softball’s Recipe For Success
The University at Buffalo softball team is hoping that 2013 is the magical year where the mix of veterans returning, paired with some talented newcomers, breeds a MAC Championship season. The Bulls welcome back 11 players from last year, while adding six newcomers, including one junior college transfer to this years team.
The Bulls should have no problem on the offensive end as they welcome back their top six hitters, including two All-MAC selections in sophomore Alexis Curtiss and junior Sammi Gallardo. Curtiss hit .379 in her rookie campaign, the third highest in the Division I era, and the highest total by a player that is not current Hall of Famer Breanne Nasti. Curtiss also became just the third player in school history named to the All-MAC First Team. Playing in 42 games, Curtiss led the Bulls in batting average, hits, doubles, home runs and runs batted in. She was just as dominant behind the plate finishing with a .993 fielding percentage.
Gallardo was just a good offensively before a shoulder injury ended her sophomore season prematurely, but not be before opposing conference coaches took notice and voted her onto the All-MAC Second Team. Gallardo batted .320 in 35 games, driving in 22 runs in the process.
Senior Alyssa Ward comes into her final season off the best year of her career as she batted .318 in 44 games and hit the first cycle in Division I school history last season against Canisius. Ward belted nine double, two triples and three home runs as well.
The Bulls also got productive seasons from juniors Holly Luciano and Tori Pettine and senior Andi Saucier, who all hit over .230 last season. Luciano was Buffalo's top stolen base threat, as she was successful on 10 of 11 attempts.
UB also welcomes back sophomore Karly Nevez and seniors Jessica Griffin and Caitlin Dekker, who all saw action in at least 32 games, including Dekker, who started all 45 games last season. Dekker had three home runs and 17 RBIs in her first season with the Bulls following a junior college career. Nevez has some big hits in her rookies season, including a game-winning inside the park home run against Niagara. She also preserved a victory over Western Michigan, turning a seventh-inning doulble play in the outfield. Sophomore Nora McGuire, who provided depth off the bench last season, also returns for her second season.
The returnees will be challenged both in the field and at the plate by a talented freshman class brought in by head coach Jen Teague. Local standout Ryleigh Fitzgerald, who hails from Lewiston, NY, is expected to challenge for the everyday short stop role during her rookie season. Kenzie Koch, who will provide depth in the middle infield and the outfield comes to Buffalo all the way from Washington, while corner infielder Anissa Pinedo had a solid Fall where she saw time at third base.
Junior college transfer Heather Ryder will give the Bulls tons of depth as she can pitch and play the corner infield spots. She comes from Butler Community College, which made it to the NJCAA World Series last year. Ryder batted .289 for Butler, while also finishing with an 11-3 record in the circle.
Ryder is just one member of a completely revamped pitching staff that features just one returnee from last season in junior Tori Speckman. Speckman went 11-14 last season, recording the win for the Bulls in all but three of the teams victories from last year. She pitched nine complete games, while striking out 111.
Also joining the pitching staff is a pair of freshmen in Nicole Aviles and Dani Cowan. Aviles went 14-5 with a 1.31 ERA during her senior year of high school, while striking out 167 batters and walking just 29 all year.
Cowan also comes to UB with impressive credentials and she pitched for the San Diego Renegades, the same club that Curtiss and Gallardo played for. At the ASA Western Regionals, Cowan pitched her team to a perfect 4-0 record with just a 0.23 ERA.
The schedule is another challenging one for the Bulls that will see them play the first 26 games of the season away from home before hosting Canisius on March 27. During the season-opening road trip the Bulls will see the likes of Texas Tech and Central Florida, who are both earning votes in the preseason national poll.
Once Mid-American Conference play begins the Bulls will host two-game series against Akron, Ohio, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois, but will be on the road 14 times in conference. UB is on the road for the final two weeks of conference play, ending the season at Ball State and Miami as it looks for just its third ever trip to the conference tournament.
It is the hope that the combination of veterans and youth come together to form the most balanced team that UB has seen in its Division I era.