CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Boston University, the two-time defending America East softball champion, is the unanimous choice of the league’s coaches to win its third straight conference title in 2011, as announced Monday. The Terriers received all six possible first-place votes (coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team) and a total of 36 points.
The next four teams in the poll were separated by just four points with University at Albany picked second with 25 points and Stony Brook University third with 23 points. Binghamton University was fourth with 22 points and received the remaining first-place tally, while University of Maine was tabbed fifth (21 points), UMBC was sixth (13) and University of Hartford (7) rounded out the seven-team poll.
The top four teams in the conference will advance to the America East Championship, held at the top seed on May 12-14, with the winner of the tournament receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Softball Championship, where America East teams have won five games and advanced to two regional finals since 2007.
Boston University (35-22 overall in 2010, 14-3 America East), which led America East hitting .293 as a team and scoring 5.7 runs per game en route to winning its second straight conference title last season, returns five starters from last year’s squad, including senior centerfielder April Setterlund (Torrance, Calif./South Torrance), who is coming off an All-America season. The reigning America East Player of the Year, Setterlund ranked fifth nationally in hitting (.482) and on-base percentage (.579), eighth in slugging percentage (.861) and ninth in runs scored (63). She also had 12 home runs, 19 doubles, 51 RBIs and was 23-of-24 in stolen base attempts. Sophomore Whitney Tuthill (Middletown, Conn./Suffield Academy), an America East All-Rookie choice a year ago, will take over as the ace of the pitching staff after the graduation of America East Pitcher of the Year Cassidi Hardy. Tuthill went 12-5 and compiled a 2.62 earned run average in 26 appearances on the mound last year and also batted .307 with nine homers and 27 RBIs at the plate. Shawn Rychcik’s team, which has won three NCAA games in the last two years, begins its season on Feb. 25 with four games at Louisville’s Red & Black Tournament.
Albany (20-23, 9-8), winners of three of the last six league titles, bring back 12 players with collegiate experience, including a pair of all-conference performers in seniors Gina Mason (Sacramento, Calif./El Camino) and Jessica Bergin (New Windsor, N.Y./Newburgh Free Academy). Mason ranked seventh among league leaders batting .342 and also had eight home runs and 30 RBIs last year to earn first-team honors at first base. Bergin, one of the three first-team outfielders, batted .294 with 18 stolen bases. Sophomore Allie Weiser (Wildwood Crest, N.J./Wildwood Catholic) is the Great Danes’ top hurler after going 5-5 with a 3.12 ERA in 19 appearances and earning all-rookie honors last year. Head coach Chris Cannata, who has 469 career wins, leads her squad to the Florida Gulf Coast tournament on Feb. 25 for the start of the season.
Stony Brook (32-21-1, 10-7) returns just seven letterwinners from a squad that reached the America East championship game for the second time in three years last season. The Seawolves got there behind the best pitching staff in the league, which was led by departures Alyssa Struzenberg and Casey Jacobs, and recorded a league-best 2.47 ERA. Senior Colleen Matthes (Severn, Md./Institute of Notre Dame), who went 5-5 with a 3.45 ERA, will be asked to pick up the slack along with sophomore Taylor Chain (Gloucester, N.J./Gloucester) and freshman Alexandra Clark (Warsaw, Va./Rappahannock), an all-state right-hander from Virginia. Sophomore Shannon O’Shea (Lake Worth, Fla./Park Vista), who batted .313 last season, will anchor a lineup that returns just three starters. Megan Bryant’s team, which committed just 40 errors in 54 games last season to lead the league, begins its 2011 campaign Feb. 26 at the Longwood Spring Classic.
Binghamton (24-19, 8-10) is coming off its best season at the Division I level and is poised to make its first-ever America East Championship appearance. The Bearcats won 24 games last season behind a lineup that scored 4.9 runs per game and hit .273, which both ranked second in the conference. Michelle Burrell’s team returns 11 letterwinners, including seven starters and four all-conference performers. Senior catcher Deannie Plemon (Irvine, Calif./Woodbridge) earned first-team all-league honors last season after batting .376 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs. Binghamton also had a trio of second-team honorees in junior pitcher Kristen Emerling (Germantown, Tenn./Houston), junior outfielder Meghan Tucker (Kirkwood, N.Y./Windsor) and sophomore outfielder Jessica Phillips (Syracuse, N.Y./Cicero-North Syracuse), also the reigning Rookie of the Year. The Bearcats open their season March 4 at Stetson’s tournament.
Maine (23-28, 11-7) hopes to build off a season in which it finished second in the America East standings, its best showing since 2006. The Black Bears bring back six starters from their lineup and a pair of tested pitchers, including junior Ashley Kelley (Hermon, Maine/Hermon). She earned second-team all-conference honors after winning 10 games and recording a 2.91 ERA. Senior third baseman Terren Hall (Bucksports, Maine/Bucksport) will anchor the lineup. The first-team all-conference performer is coming off a season in which she batted .370, belted 13 homers and drove in a league-best 53 runs. Deb Smith’s squad is the first America East team in action, kicking off their season Feb. 18 at Louisiana Lafayette’s tournament.
UMBC (25-24, 6-12) hopes to return to the America East Championship after missing the tournament for the first time in five seasons a year ago. The Retrievers will lean on senior pitcher Stephanie Weigman (Elkridge, Md./Archbishop Spalding), who had a 2.94 ERA and struck out 202 batters in 166.2 innings pitched. Seniors Lauren O’Malley (Pasadena, Md./Archbishop Spalding), a second-team all-leaguer, and Lauren Brummell (Hanover, Va./Hanover) highlight a lineup that ranked second in America East with 41 homers last year. Head coach Joe French, the league’s active leader with 516 career wins, and his Retrievers host Towson in their season opener on Feb. 22.
Hartford (16-24, 3-14) hopes to return to the conference tournament after a three-year absence. First-year head coach Diana Consolmagno inherits a young team that will have 10 freshmen and sophomores on its 2011 roster. One of them, sophomore Nicole Springer (New Britain, Conn./Kingswood Oxford) earned first-team all-conference honors at designated player last year after batting .325, belting 19 extra-base hits and driving in 34 runs. Hartford begins its 2011 campaign in the Northeast for the first time since 1992 with a doubleheader at Manhattan on March 6.
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schedules and more, come back to www.AmericaEast.com.
2011 Softball Preseason Poll
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Points
1. Boston University (6) 36
2. Albany 25
3. Stony Brook 23
4. Binghamton (1) 22
5. Maine 21
6. UMBC 13
7. Hartford 7