by: Greg Diener
The 2013 ECC Softball Championship starts on Thursday May 2 at the LIU Post Softball Complex in Brookville, N.Y. at 1:00 PM. The race to see who would get the No. 1 seed between LIU Post and defending ECC Champion, Molloy, was tight all year, but in the end the Pioneers' 25-3 ECC record took the top spot over Molloy by one game.
While Dowling made the championship once again as a No. 3 seed, Mercy had to face Queens in a best of three series in Flushing on the regular season's final day to get the last spot. After dropping the completion of a suspended game to start the day, Mercy swept the scheduled doubleheader and make the tournament with 13-15 conference mark.
Let's take a look and see how the teams measure up.
Overall Record - 44-11
ECC Record - 25-3 (First)
Noteable Wins - Augustana (S.D.), Wayne St. (Mich.), Northwood (Mich.), Southern Conn. St. (2-0), Southern N.H. (1-1), Dowling (3-1), Dominican (N.Y.) (2-0), Molloy (3-1), Adelphi (2-0), Caldwell (2-0)
Players to Watch - Junior Alexis Gonzalez is going to be a tough out for any pitcher in the ECC Championship. Gonzalez batted .318 on the season for the Pioneers with 12 homeruns and 46 RBI. Junior Liz Weber is a double threat; at-bat and in the circle. At the plate, Weber led the Pioneers in batting average at .419, which was ranked tied for first in the ECC with St. Thomas Aquinas' Samantha McDonald. In the circle, Weber was 22-5 (tied for the league high in wins) with 180 strikeouts.
Strengths - What helps the Pioneers is the long ball. In the regular season they had 52 homeruns which was the most by any team in the conference. LIU Post also had great run production, scoring 302 runs in their 55 games.
Weaknesses - If there's one possible problem the Pioneers face, it's allowing runners to get on-base via the free-pass. LIU Post pitchers allowed 138 walks during the season, the second most given up in the conference behind Mercy.
Outlook - Going into the championship having won nine straight games to close out the regular season, the Pioneers look to win an ECC Championship in front of their home fans. LIU Post hopes this will be a strong first step as they hope to make their second trip to the Division II College World Series in three years.
Overall Record - 43-11
ECC Record - 24-4 (Second)
Noteable Wins - Colorado Mesa, Chowan, Mo.-St. Louis, Adelphi (1-1), Barry (1-1), Southern N.H. (2-0), Dowling (3-1), Dominican (N.Y.) (1-1), LIU Post (1-3), Bloomsburg (2-0)
Players to Watch - Senior pitchers Kelley Jansen and Megan Butterworth have to be on their game if the Lions are to bring home a third straight ECC championship. Butterworth was 22-5 on the year for Molloy with 213 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.20. Jansen was 19-6 and led the conference in strikeouts, punching out 277 batters in the circle. Junior Nicolette Sinagra is a key batter in the Lions' lineup. Sinagra posted a .364 average in the regular season on 67 hits, along with three homeruns and 28 RBI.
Strengths - Molloy led the conference in batting average at .320 and tied with LIU Post for the most hits with 473. The duo of Butterworth and Jansen made the Lions far and away the best team when you look at the numbers. The Lions pitching staff had a combined 500 strikeouts and posted the best overall ERA in the conference at 1.51.
Weaknesses - Molloy can sometimes be a very impatient team at the plate, only working 101 walks on the season. That may hurt the Lions should they face LIU Post or Mercy, teams that are prone to give the free base.
Outlook - After narrowly missing out on a trip to the College World Series after falling to Southern Connecticut St. at the East Region Super Regional last year, the Lions look to claw their way to a third consecutive ECC crown. The one question that everyone wants to know heading into the championship is, do they have enough strength to handle LIU Post? The Pioneers beat them three out of four times during the regular season.
Overall Record - 29-15
ECC Record - 17-11 (Third)
Noteable Wins - Wilmington (Del.), Southern Conn. St. (2-0), Lewis, Georgian Court, Dominican (N.Y.) (2-0), Molloy (1-3), LIU Post (1-3), Adelphi (1-1)
Players to Watch - You can't have a conversation about Dowling softball without talking about senior shortstop, Stephanie Tarango. Tarango, who became one of the top-five all-time homerun leaders in Division II, had another spectacular season for Dowling with 17 homeruns and 51 RBI while batting .373. Sophomore Tammy Vermeulan has been one of the surprise stories in the ECC in the 2013 season. Vermeulan, a transfer from LSU, batted .403 (third in the ECC) for the Golden Lions with 62 hits, a homerun and 20 RBI.
Strengths - Dowling displays incredible patience at the plate, working 158 walks as a team in the regular season. That patience helped rank them first in the ECC in on-base percentage at .399. The Golden Lions are also ranked second in the conference in slugging percentage behind LIU Post with an average of .469.
Weaknesses - A year ago Dowling had the benefit of Jessie Stavola in the circle, but the 2013 team's pitching has become the Golden Lions' biggest Achilles Heel. The Golden Lions had only 205 strikeouts as a team during the regular season and have the highest team ERA of any team in the tournament at 3.57. Dowling was also a combined 2-6 against LIU Post and Molloy during the regular season.
Outlook - For the Golden Lions to win the ECC championship, it's going to take timely hitting from players like Tarango and Vermeulan. There's clearly going to be a lot of hurdles for the Golden Lions to overcome in the tournament. Can Dowling answer the call and bring an ECC title back to Brookhaven?
Overall Record - 26-23
ECC Record - 13-15 (Fourth)
Noteable Wins - Wilmington (Del.), Dowling (2-2)
Players to Watch - Junior Mary Sieber has been the top pitcher for the Mavericks. In 2013, Sieber has gone 11-11 in 141 innings pitched with an ERA of 3.08. Junior Kelly Bentson will be the sparkplug in the Mercy order. Bentson led the team in hits with 57, batting .365 with five homeruns and 31 RBI.
Strengths - Mercy was ranked third in the ECC in hits with 420. Mercy also has great speed on the basepaths with 39 stolen bases, the most of all four teams that qualified for the ECC championship. Mercy pitching has also given up the least amount of homeruns out of any team in the conference, allowing 13 dingers.
Weaknesses - Mercy's has allowed the most runs out of all the teams in the tournament with 222. Also, despite the 420 hits for the Mavericks , they have the worst batting average of all four tournament teams at .299. Mercy also does not have a victory against either LIU Post or Molloy this season.
Outlook - For the Mavericks to get far in the tournament, they have to count on solid run production from their lineup along with good pitching from Sieber and Brittany Serrao. After clinching the last spot in the championship on the regular season's final day, Mercy hopes to ride that positive momentum and have a strong showing in the tournament.