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The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Can pitching lead SJU to tourney?

Everyone knows the old saying, “pitching wins championship,” butthe St. John’s softball team hopes to make that saying become areality.

With most of last year’s nucleus back and a nice addition ofnewcomers, the team expects to improve on their 30-28 record lastspring, as well as trying to get healthy before conferenceplay.

The Red Storm feature six sophomores and five freshmen but theyreturn four of their top five offensive players from last year aswell as their top two pitchers, lone senior Courtney Fitzgerald andjunior Meghan Allman.

The two southpaws, Fitzgerald and Allman, who had a mediocreseason last year because of nagging injuries, are the keys for theJohnnies this year who are trying to build on last year’s 17-5impressive home record and bring that success to the road wherethey struggled, finishing 6-13.

“We have a very strong staff,” St. John’s head coach Melody Copesaid. “Fitzgerald is always outstanding.”

Fitzgerald, although still nursing the rib injury that kept herout towards the end of last year, is the grizzled veteran thatmakes this team tick.

In 2003, she led the team in nearly every pitching categoryincluding wins (18), complete games (25) and strikeouts (145), aswell as leading the Big East in appearance with 39.

“She just does a tremendous job for us, leadership-wise,” Copesaid.

In the games that Fitzgerald sits, Allman is expected to step upand return to her freshman form that saw her earn Big EastAll-Rookie Team honors after pitching 13 shutouts and threeno-hitters.

“She’s looking better and better everyday,” Cope said. “I thinkthat she can not only get back to her 2002 form, but even improveon it.”

Cope will not have to worry about pitching depth, something theteam struggled with last season. Freshmen Brittany Crouch andKimberly Lerch and junior college transfer Katie Watson shouldprovide much needed help behind Allman and Fitzgerald.

“We think they complement our starters very well,” said Cope,who also added that Crouch would step into the starting rotationwith Fitzgerald out.

Offensively, SJU is led by two sophomores that had terrificfreshman seasons.

Starting centerfielder Jo Sherlock went on a tear at the end ofthe season finishing with a .320 average and 56 hits and in theprocess earning herself All-Big East Second Team and Big EastAll-Rookie Team honors.

“We expect big things from her again this year,” Cope said.

Third baseman Megan Oliver, who had arm surgery in theoff-season and is not expected to start right away, also receivedBig East All-Rookie Team honors after leading St. John’s with 32runs scored and finishing second with a .301 average and 52hits.

“We hope [Oliver] can work her way back before Big East play,”Cope said. “Megan is not really a power hitter but she’ll probablybat leadoff for us.”

Junior Allina Sainz, who Cope said “has always been a big runproducer for us,” provides power at first base and the cleanup spotin the lineup.

Sophomore outfielder Jessica Marical will attempt to anchor adefense that will feature two freshmen, Tami Hill and LorenAnguiano, but she should not have a problem as she is arguably thebest defensive player on the squad.

Starting all 58 games, she made only one error and posted .976fielding percentage.

The freshmen will try to replace the solid offensive output ofgraduating senior second basemen Alesha Argeras, and the defensiveability of graduating seniors, outfielder Jessica Cameron andshortstop Jessica Shepherd.

“We have a lot of youth on the team this year,” Cope said.”[But] the team is meshing well on and off the field.”

Junior catcher Jillian Sandoval will begin the season at thirdbase filling in for Oliver while sophomore Carrie Kester andfreshman Christina Tucker split time behind the plate.

Sophomore outfielders Blair Belloni and Leigh Carlson, who willconvert from infielder and catcher respectively, will form aleftfield platoon rounding out an inexperienced Red Stormlineup.

“We’re hoping to get a lot of run support from ChristinaTucker,” the fifth-year coach said. “She has great powerpotential.”

The lineup will need to provide adequate run support for apitching staff that looks extremely solid on paper.

Pitching wins championships, but the Red Storm offense will needto step up big for the team to make the Big East tournament,something they have never done, and possibly go on to bigger andbetter things.

“We feel very confident that we can be one of the four top teamsin the conference,” Cope said of the criteria needed to earn aberth in the tourney.

The Red Storm start the season with the Seahawk Classic inWilmington, North Carolina, the home of the alma mater of theformer catcher Cope, before traveling to Florida for the SeminoleChallenge over spring break where they will face Florida State andLouisiana-Lafayette.

“We’re definitely looking forward to those games,” Cope said.”That will be a good measure of how we will do against the goodteams in the Big East conference.”

The task ahead is not easy for the young team. The Big Eastschedule is extremely tough, as the Johnnies compete in the firstfew weeks of conference play on the road, but the formerUNC-Greensboro coach remains hopeful.

“Our number one goal is making the Big East tournament,” Copesaid. “Hopefully by the time Big East competition rolls aroundwe’ll have everything clicking on our way to making our first BigEast Tournament.”

Pitching may indeed win championships, but it is pitching andhealth that is needed propel the St. John’s softball team intotheir first-ever conference tournament.


Players to Watch

Courtney Fitzgerald
The lone senior on this year’s squad, Fitzgerald is looking tobuild on an impressive campaign from a season ago, when shefinished with an ERA of 1.76 and a record of 18-15. Appearing in 39games, she started 28 and threw 25 complete games. Pitching aleague best 215.1 innings, she struck out 145 and allowed just 151hits.

Mehgan Allman
After one the best single seasons in SJU history in 2002, Allmanappeared in 26 games last season, starting 21. finishing the saesonwith a record of 8-6, an ERA of 2.71 and three complete games, thepitcher still put up big numbers. In 90.1 innings pitched, sheallowed only 87 hits and 35 earned runs, while striking out 65.

Jo Sherlock
As a freshman, Sherlock garnered Big East All- Rookie Team honoursand All-Big East second team honours after hitting .320 and leadingthe Storm with 56 hits. Starting in all 58 games, the San Diegonative’s 7 homeruns were tied for the team lead. She recorded 26runs, 27 RBI, 13 doubles and a team leading.526 sluggingpercentage.

Christina Tucker
A freshman, Tucker is a power-hitting catcher who will be expectedto add some extra pop to the Red Storm attack. The San Diego nativeis also considered an excellent defensive catcher and shouldbolster an already solid St. John’s defense. Cope said Tucker canhelp SJU in run support.

Head Coach

Melody Cope
Cope enters her fifth season as head coach of St. John’s and islooking to qualify for the Big East Tournament for the first time.With a career record of 109-113 at St. John’s, including 30-44 inconference play. Proir to SJU, she had a successful stay at UNC-Greensboro, winning 220 games in six seasons.

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