Feb. 6, 2006
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland softball program enters its 12th year invigorated with a new coaching staff and a strong caliber team. After finishing the 2005 season 28-21 and a fourth-place finish at the ACC tournament, new head coach Laura Watten is moving purposefully with the 2006 team.
Last season was highlighted by dramatic victories over ranked teams and traditional powerhouses. This season, the Terrapins hope to build on that momentum and improve even more steadily and become one of the top teams in the ACC.
This season's combined rotation of Crystal Crews, Elyse Lucas, Abbey Welch and Meredith Nelles will undoubtedly be a force in the ACC. The rotation balances tried and true winners with some promising new faces.
"We have a lot of potency on the mound," said Watten. "We have strong, capable pitchers and depth. This season we plan to work the rotation to its fullest."
In ten starts, Lucas posted a 5-4 record and a team-best 1.34 ERA, helping the Terps to a second-best ERA in the ACC (1.70 ERA). Augmenting the pitching rotation is senior Crews, who pitched 103.1 innings in 2005, posted a 6-8 record and finished the season with a 1.64 ERA.
The deep pitching staff also includes junior Welch who had a team-high of three saves last year and fanned 55 batters. Welch is focused on the mound and will be a force in the coming season.
One of the most promising prospects in the pitcher's circle is freshman Meredith Nelles, hailing from Brandywine High School in Wilmington, Del. Nelles is a dual weapon for the Terrapins and may also see time as a utility player.
Behind the Plate
The Terrapins have a trio of talent at catcher led by senior Nikki Smith who started 43 games for Maryland last season. Smith had a .997 fielding percentage and hit third-best on the squad with a .276 batting average. "Nikki has proven to be a strong leader for the team on offense and defense," Watten commented. "She's got a lot of experience behind the plate and has a sharp watchful eye during game time."
Senior Rachel Greyson played in 15 games last year and aided as catcher. She hit her first career triple, three RBI and was 2-of-4 at the Red and Black Challenge against Oakland in March.
Offsetting the seniors is sophomore Medley McGuire who saw some action last season. McGuire hopes to increase her playing time in 2006 and will also serve as a utility player for the Terps.
Good things are expected from a number of Terrapins starting with Lindsay Klein at first base. Klein's 2005 contributions were some of the most valuable of her career most notably marked by a stunning.997 fielding percentage. With a .333 batting average and 12 doubles on the year, Klein was the ACC Player of the Week and named to the ACC All-Tournament First Team.
Comparable to Klein's performance last year was secondbase starter Keri Lounge. Lounge is a consistent power-hitter and tied Klein for most RBI (32) in 2005. She was second on the team with four home runs and a .406 slugging percentage. Lounge started all 47 games last season and had the third-highest number of hits (37) and seven triples.
Whitney Reigel will serve as shortstop for the Terrapins in 2006. Reigel has great range as a middle infielder and improved a lot in the fall workouts. She appeared in 33 games for the Terps last season. Jenny Belak, who posted impressive numbers in her first season, will also see some time in the infield for the Terrapins.
New, but proficient, at third base will be Lindsey Ubrun, a freshman starter from Riverside, Calif. Ubrun looked strong in the fall workouts and has great hands. She will be a big role player for the Terrapins on offense and defense.
Maryland has talented support in the infield with freshman Devon Williams serving as a viable replacement. Williams will look to gain some collegiate playing experience on the field this season. "Our infielders are adept and we're working consistently to challenge them to handle multiple game situations," said Watten.
Natalie Grossman, Jenny Belak and Meghan Booth are the three walls of defense in the outfield for the Terrapins. Senior Grossman can cover a lot of ground in center field and had a fielding percentage of .821 last year. She has a strong arm and was one of seven Terrapins to have a home run in 2005.
Jenny Belak's versatility, quick hands and quick feet have her in left field and as a back-up in the infield. She started in 47 of 49 games for the Terps last season, had seven stolen bases and had the fourth highest RBI for the team (12).
Meghan Booth, in right field, continues to improve and showed a lot of promise in the fall workouts. She played in 32 games for Maryland last season. Reserves Abbey Welch, Amanda D'Attilio, Kara Kahler and Erica Strudler offer talented support.
"As we get into the 2006 season, each of these outfielders is a significant player for us," Watten remarked. "We'll rely on them throughout the year to increase their playing time and hone their strengths."
The 2005 schedule promises to be one of the most challenging in recent years with the Terrapins facing three top ten teams including the NCAA champion Michigan, and ranked Arizona and Stanford in invitational tournaments. Maryland will play traditional foes Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia Tech with the bulk of the home games in April.
A total of seven new non-conference opponents are on the schedule this season including Louisville, Texas Tech, Cal Poly, Western Michigan, Cal State/Fullerton and Norfolk State. The Terrapins will be playing teams from 16 different conferences.
"This schedule will increase our playing experience and exposure to top-ranked teams," said coach Watten. "It's important for us to strive to continually improve our level of play and make ourselves a versatile team."
Maryland opens the year at the Georgia Southern tournament in Statesboro, Ga. on February 17th when it plays Louisville, Charleston Southern, Troy and Georgia Southern.
Next for the Terrapins is the Palm Springs Invitational, one of the most prestigious softball tournaments in the country. Maryland will play Texas Tech, Cal Poly and Fullerton capped off by contests against 2005 Pac-10 co-champs Arizona and Stanford.
Florida State hosts the third tournament for the Terps featuring the NCAA champion team Michigan, as well as Western Michigan and FSU. The Terps last played Michigan in 2004 and had a key victory against FSU last year that halted a 15-game losing streak against the Seminoles.
Maryland returns to the East Coast with its final invitational, the Mason-Dixon Classic in Virginia Beach, to play George Mason, James Madison, Norfolk State and Cornell. The Terps did not play George Mason and James Madison last season and are facing Norfolk State and Cornell for the first time in the program's history.
The Terrapins' first regular season game is a doubleheader against James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va. The Terps did not play the Dukes last season after facing them twice in 2003 and 2004.
Atlantic Coast Conference play begins for the Terps with a three-game series against Georgia Tech on March 18th in Atlanta. The 2005 ACC champion Yellow Jackets posted a league-best 51-14 record last year, but lost star pitcher Jessica Sallinger to graduation. The Terps will look to build on their win last year over Georgia Tech which snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Yellow Jackets and evened the overall series, 16-16.
Maryland's first home matchup in the Terrapin Softball Complex is a doubleheader against Morgan State on March 22. The Terps hope to continue their streak of 11 consecutive home opener victories in College Park.
The Terps then travel to face the Tarheels of North Carolina in a three-game series in Raleigh then return to Comcast for doubleheaders against Brown and Mount St. Mary's. Raleigh, N.C., beckons again with the Terps competing against North Carolina State for a three-game series.
The ACC schedule is in full swing in April when the longest stretch of home games are scheduled in the Terrapin Softball Complex. First, on April 5, the Terps play a doubleheader against Delaware State, followed by games against traditional foes Virginia Tech, George Mason and Virginia. The Terrapins play local rival George Washington on April 19 then go north for their final road trip of the season.
The Boston College Eagles host the Terps in a three-game series starting on April 22. After these contests, the Terps travel to Baltimore to face Towson and Delaware at the University of Delaware in doubleheaders.
The final home series is against the Seminoles of Florida State beginning on Saturday, May 6.
This year, the ACC Tournament will be held at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill from May 10-15.
Maryland's softball program has proven to have talent and dedication. A new coaching staff often signifies a renaissance, yet there is much to build upon with the current program. Some key veterans returning will help guide the new faces and embark on one of the most exciting eras for the Terrapins.