March 16, 2006

Bears Gear Up For 2006 Season

March 16, 2006

Head Softball Coach Pam McCreesh who is entering her fifth year at Brown is optimistic about her group of experienced veterans and talented underclassmen. With seven freshmen, McCreesh expects each player to step into big roles early as the 2006 season gets under way.

McCreesh will look to her three senior captains, outfielder Sarah Wilson, 2005 All-Ivy selection outfielder Rachel Fleitell, and three-time All-Ivy honoree infielder Jaimie Wirkowski, as well as returning senior shortstop Mary Seid for their leadership.

After 2005 saw the graduation of Marissa Berkes and former 2004 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year Uchenna Omokaro, three freshmen will take over the pitching duties for the Bears. Heather Garrison, Michelle Moses, and Kristen Schindler will all see significant time on the mound this spring, and although young, this hard-working staff has shown considerable improvement since the fall, and should surprise onlookers once given the opportunity. Freshman Kelsey Wilson could also see some time in the circle when not at first base.

Working with the young hurlers will be sophomore catchers Amy Baxter and Linnea Anderson. Baxter had a strong rookie campaign, appearing in all 33 games, tallying 21 hits, 11 walks, and 9 stolen bases. In just her second season, Baxter has asserted herself as a strong leader and McCreesh looks to her to help guide the pitching staff. Anderson has worked hard in the off-season and shown tremendous improvement, and will also see time behind the dish this spring.

With three returning starters from last year's squad, the Bear's infield will be impressive as Wirkowski, Seid, and junior Melissa Ota anchor the defense. McCreesh will look to Wirkowski for her vocal leadership on the dirt. Wirkowski appeared in all 33 games last season, finishing second on the team with 25 hits, and should go out with a bang in her final season. Seid's season was cut short last year due to a shoulder injury and her presence was definitely missed during the second half. The consistency and great instincts that Ota brings to the table should really make an impact on the team's success.

Joining the veteran crew will be freshman Kelsey Wilson, who will see most of her time at first base, but could also be used in the outfield or on the mound. "She is versatile, athletic, and will be able to successfully contribute where needed." says McCreesh. After steady improvement from the fall, freshman Ava Amini will likely see time at second or shortstop.

With returning starters, Fleitell, Wilson, and sophomore Natalie Hewitt patrolling the outfield, the Bears defense will certainly benefit from their veteran experience. Fleitell saw action in 32 games last season, earning an All-Ivy Honorable Mention. Fleitell's .389 on base percentage was best for Brown and her 20 runs scored also ranked her first for the Bears and second in the Ivy League, tallying 11 against Ivy foes.

A two-year starter, Wilson is described by her coach, as "a lead by example player with a never be denied attitude." Wilson finished last season with three RBI on six hits. Sophomore Natalie Hewitt will look to make a big impact in the batting order this year.

Junior Liz Anderson, and freshmen Kaitlyn Laabs and Kari Best will also be vying for time in the outfield. Laabs has proven she can consistently put the bat on the ball, and her offensive abilities may earn her a spot in the starting nine. Best is a great natural athlete, who can play anywhere, and is expected to contribute immediately offensively and defensively.

Brown will embark on a non-conference schedule for all of March and will play more games before opening up the Ivy schedule in April. The Bears are hoping to improve and click on all cylinders when taking on opponents in the Ancient Eight this season, as they try to return to the top of the rankings as they did in 2004.