Jan. 23, 2002
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The new season brings much to be excited about for the Maryland softball squad. Eight new names dot the Terrapin roster. A new facility is on its way. And with a core of veteran pitchers returning, tremendous depth at every position and new heights reached in terms of team speed, the 2002 Terrapins may be ready for a new level of success.
With newness, however, can come growing pains. No one knows that better than eighth-year Terp head coach Gina LaMandre, who began Maryland's program in 1995. The three-time Mid-Atlantic Coach of the Year is familiar with the challenges that lie ahead, but also can envision the rewards if the Terrapins can overcome them.
"I think we are very talented, but how our freshmen adapt to the college game is going to be important," said LaMandre. "But it's an exciting situation to have this depth and this much versatility. We can mix it up, and our speed gives us the opportunity to create on offense."
Four seniors lead the team from different parts of the softball diamond. Their leadership, by word and example, will be necessary to set the tone for the season and ingratiate the newcomers into the Maryland program. It starts with the pitching staff.
In The Pitcher's Circle
One of the top returning hurlers in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Mid-Atlantic All-Region selection Amanda Bettker anchors what could be Maryland's most complete pitching staff to date. A hard-working, smart and intense competitor, Bettker ranked among league leaders in every pitching category as a junior in 2001. The fireballer's brilliance shone through at last season's ACC Championships, where she posted a 0.58 ERA in a weekend-most 24.0 innings to earn all-tournament honors.
Maryland's chief double-threat, sophomore Monica Cyphert, fits well into the rotation behind her senior counterpart. Reliable and powerful on the mound and at the plate, Cyphert posted nine wins as a freshman power pitcher and also finished second on the team with 11 doubles.
Hard-throwing rookie Jessica Aditays, whose "limitless potential" impressed the coaching staff in the fall season, should figure into the rotation immediately as another right-handed starter. Sophomore Liz Gall rounds out the staff after registering a 1.31 ERA in relief last season and combining with Cyphert for the fifth perfect game in Terrapin history. Both should also see time in the Terp outfield.
"We have always had good pitchers, and we've had good pitching staffs," stated LaMandre. "But this season we have the deepest, strongest pitching staff in program history. If our pitchers live up to their potential, they have the ability to be an anchor for this team."
Radford, the program's career home run leader and a two-time all-region selection, shouldered much of the catching responsibility in 2001 and gunned down nearly half of opposing base stealers. The slugger also engaged in a year-long home run race with classmate Kiesha Pickeral in which both eventually tied Maryland's single-season record, and finished second on the team in runs scored (27) and RBI (31). Radford will also see time at third base and at the designated hitter spot in the lineup.
Leiter, who logged more playing time than any other freshman in 2001, will split time as the Terps' backstop and third baseman. The intelligent, versatile sophomore finished third on the squad in runs scored.
Freshman Lindsay Reed, who possesses a powerful throwing arm, will be a capable reserve after recovering from injury.
Around The Horn
LaMandre looks to stalwart first baseman Pickeral to be an anchor among an army of infielders. Entering her fourth year as a starter, Maryland's top returning batsman provides a familiar face on the right side, and should continue to climb in the Terrapin record books and figure among ACC leaders. Last season as a junior, Pickeral led the Terps in RBI and slugging percentage while racing Radford for the single-season home run mark.
Cyphert and dynamic junior Jillian Callaway should also factor in down the first base line. The energetic Callaway, who batted .361 with runners in scoring position in 2001, can and will play most infield positions.
Sophomore Jen Peel made a full recovery from last season's illness and moves back into her starting spot at second base. The "natural hitter" with great range started off hot as a rookie, and displayed those tendencies again with an excellent fall season.
Former four-year starter Jennifer Potzman gives way to promising newcomer Malissa Moczulski at the shortstop position. Her range, throwing arm and quick bat provide the freshman with ample tools to take over for the long-time incumbent, who finished as Maryland's all-time games and starts leader.
Fellow rookie Nneka Cardoza, who possesses the ability to play shortstop, third base and in outfield, will likely see time on the left side. The strongest Terp according to the coaching staff, Cardoza's versatility and athleticism will result in playing minutes at all three positions, especially at the hot corner.
Radford and Leiter will also play third base when not behind the plate.
One experienced returnee, however, is senior Danielle Carpenter. After making the transition from the pitching staff to left field in 2001, the Terps' pure lefty in the lineup brings a .957 fielding percentage back to the outfield grass.
After missing all of last season due to injury, speedy redshirt-sophomore Samantha Sweeney should play a key role in LaMandre's outfield in 2002. In limited time as a freshman, Sweeney batted .297 and posted a .398 on-base percentage.
Four of the Terrapin freshmen will compete for playing time in the outfield as well. With a tremendous natural swing and the ability to hit for average and for power, Lauren Pollock could see game action immediately. An athlete with astounding speed, Crystal Tweedy has excellent range for the outfield and is a threat to slap-hit and steal bases. Another quick Terp rookie, Laura Angle, should figure into the mix as well, while Mandy Allendorfer will also roam the outfield grass after recovering from a shoulder injury.
The Terrapins, who ranked 24th in last season's final RPI (ratings percentage index), must once again rise to the challenge of an arduous schedule. Maryland squares off against some of the toughest teams in the country, participating in six national tournaments through the first seven weeks of the 2002 season.
Six of Maryland's scheduled opponents were ranked in the final 2001 USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25, including No. 10 Alabama, who the Terrapins face on the first day of the 2002 season. Non-league competitors South Florida (No. 21), Massachusetts (No. 25) and Hofstra (RV) were also listed in the poll, as were ACC rivals Florida State (No. 15) and North Carolina (RV). All of the above, in addition to Coastal Carolina, Penn State, Seton Hall and Texas Tech, were NCAA participants last year.
"The schedule is very competitive," said LaMandre. "The upperclassmen know that they have to adjust quickly and play some tough games before we get to practice much outside. We are a young team, and our younger players have to get into it right away. They will be 'baptized by fire.'"
Follow The Terrapins In 2002
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