CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The two teams that played for the 2012 America East Softball Championship are the preseason favorites to finish the 2013 regular season atop the conference standings as University at Albany and Boston University tied for the right to be called preseason favorite, which was announced Monday morning. The Great Danes and Terriers each received three first-place votes and 32 points in a vote of the league’s head coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own team.
Stony Brook University, which received one first-place tally, followed in third with 29 points, just three points off the pace set by Albany and Boston U. Binghamton University came in fourth (19 points), one point ahead of University of Maine (18). University of Hartford (10) and UMBC (7) finished out the seven-team poll.
The four-team America East Championship will take place May 9-11 at the site of the top seed with the winner of the tournament receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Softball Championship, where America East teams have won six games and advanced to two regional final games since 2007.
Albany (36-14 overall, 13-5 America East) returns nine letterwinners from a team that scored a league-best 261 runs last year, including the league’s Player and Co-Rookie of the Year, as well as a past Pitcher of the Year. Charlise Castro became the league’s first triple crown winner in 2012, batting .413 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI en route to top player honors while Vicky McFarland earned Co-Rookie of the Year honors. Junior hurler Brittany MacFawn earned first-team all-conference honors for the second-straight year in 2012 and will log the majority of Great Danes’ innings in the circle. 19th-year head coach Chris Cannata and her squad begin their pursuit of the program’s fifth America East title Feb. 22 at Florida Gulf Coast’s tournament.
Boston University (41-16, 15-3) returns 12 players from a squad that won the program’s third America East title in four years, won an NCAA tournament game and posted an RPI ranking of 47 in 2012. Strong pitching paced the Terriers last season as they posted a league-best 1.93 team earned-run average. Junior Holli Floetker, a second-team all-leaguer last year who went 19-4 with a conference-leading 1.54 ERA, is back to lead the staff again. First-team All-America East standouts Brittany Clendenny (shortstop), Jayme Mask (outfield) and Emily Roesch (second base) will carry an offense that was third in the league scoring 238 runs. Kathryn Gleason begins her first season on the bench for the Terriers, who open their season Feb. 22 in Orlando.
Stony Brook (36-17-1, 14-3-1) increased its win total from 2011 by 14 last year and returns 10 players to a young squad that will feature 15 underclassmen. The Seawolves hope to be as well balanced as last season when they led the league in hitting (.309), were second in ERA (2.48) and first in fielding percentage (.976). Sophomore hurler Allison Cukrov will carry SBU on the mound as she’s coming off a season in which she led the conference in wins (25), innings pitched (234) and strikeouts (227) en route to earning Pitcher of the Year honors. Second-team all-leaguers Shayla Giosia and Jessica Combs will be key figures in Stony Brook’s lineup. Head coach Meagan Bryant and her team start play Feb. 15 at Jacksonville’s tournament.
Binghamton (22-29, 7-11) hopes to return to the America East Championship after missing out last season. The Bearcats, who were 14-3 at home last year but just 8-26 outside of Vestal, bring back 12 players from their 2012 squad. Former America East Player of the Year Jessica Phillips, who earned second-team all-league honors last year is the stalwart in the Bearcat lineup. Last year, she posted a .494 on-base percentage, which ranked second in the league, and had 25 extra-base hits. Michelle Burrell’s squad, which has averaged 23 wins in her three seasons as head coach, starts play Feb. 15 at Florida International’s tournament.
Maine (17-30-1, 8-9-1) qualified for the America East Championship for the second time in three years last season and return 12 letterwinners from that squad. A pair of second-team All-America East standouts, catcher EmJ Fogel (.331, 14 RBI) and first baseman Hilary Kane (.225, 16 RBI), will carry the Maine lineup while Beth Spoehr and Kylie Sparks are the two returning pitchers on the roster. Lynn Coutts returns for her second season and the Black Bears are the first America East team to kick off their season and do so Feb. 8 at USC Upstate’s tournament.
Hartford (10-43, 4-14) has all but five players back from its 2012 squad and hopes to return to the conference tournament for the first time since 2007 this season. Jordan Haines, America East’s first-team designated player last year, and Peyton Fisher, the second-team utility player, will pace the lineup along with Amber Andrews, who led the team in hitting (.267) and extra-base hits (12). Hartford and third-year head coach Diana Consolmagno start their season on Feb. 22 at Florida International’s tournament.
UMBC (19-31) missed the America East Championship for just the second time in seven years last seasons and has eight players back who will try to get the Retrievers back in the field this year. America East Co-Rookie of the Year and first-team all-league catcher Taylor Hall will have to lead the way, after batting .367, good for fifth in the league as a freshman. Joe French starts his 12th season at UMBC when his Retrievers play in the Jimmy John’s Classic on Feb. 14.
2013 America East Softball Preseason Poll
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Points
1. Albany (3) 32
Boston U. (3)
3. Stony Brook (1) 30
4. Binghamton 19
5. Maine 18
6. Hartford 10
7. UMBC 7