HIRAM, OHIO — The Hiram College softball team is approaching the start of the 2011 season and will go for a possible third straight winning season and a fifth consecutive trip to the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament.
Hiram will have to pursue both goals without the services of graduated All-American pitcher/outfielder and two-time NCAC Player of the Year Whitney Dropsey. Dropsey ended her career as the most decorated and one of the best players in program history with sole possession or a share of 12 single-season and career records. As a pitcher, she is the single-season record holder in appearances (34), wins (18), innings pitched (182.1), strikeouts (137) and is tied for the single-season save record (one) and fewest walks (13). Whitney owns the career record for wins (40), lowest ERA (2.48), appearances (89), winning percentage (.611) and strikeouts (322). As a hitter, she also owns the career record for stolen bases (43). Dropsey was also a three-time NCAA Division III “Toughest to Strikeout” award winner having struck out only once in her entire career and 514 career at-bats. She is the only player at any level (Div. I, II, or III) to earn the award three times.
This spring, the Terriers return 12 letterwinners and four All-Conference players in senior catcher Jena Ervin (Canfield), junior utility player Kelly Langland (Batavia/ McNicholas), junior outfielder Marlene Smith (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Trinity) and sophomore designated player/first baseman Alee Singer (Akron/Dayton). Hiram will also return three seniors who have been four-year members of the program.
In the infield, all but two starters will return this season from last year, including Langland who led the team in batting average at .414 (46-of-111), triples (six) and runs batted in (28). She was also second on the team in homeruns (three) and runs scored (25). In addition, Langland ended the year second in stolen bases with 10 (10-of-11 overall). Defensively, Langland posted a .967 fielding percentage as the team’s starting first baseman recording 223 putouts and 13 assists as the team’s starting first baseman. Following the season, she was tabbed scond-team All-NCAC and third-team All-Central Region. Joining Langland, will be Ervin and junior third baseman Ashley Pike (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo).
Ervin was tied for fourth on the team in batting average at .286 (30-of-105) and led the team in doubles with 12. She also had a homerun, scored 15 runs and 18 RBI. After the season, Ervin was tabbed honorable mention All-NCAC. Pike has been the team’s starting third baseman since her freshman year and had another solid season last spring. She batted .264 at the plate (32-of-121), including a team-best four homeruns. She was also tied for second in doubles (nine) and was second in RBI (21). Defensively, Pike had a .928 fielding percentage with 42 putouts and 87 assists.
In addition, look for Singer to make an impact. Last season, she played in all 37 games and started 34. Singer finished third on the team in batting average at .379 (39-of-103) and was tied for second in doubles with nine. She also recorded one triple, knocked in 19 runs and scored 11 runs. Following the season, she became just the second Terrier to earn first-team All-NCAC honors as a freshman and was also tabbed first-team All-Region.
“Our infield is anchored by our upplassmen, who have shown great leadership and work ethic,” said Head Coach Kristin Tassey. “We have two All-Region players in our infield and their experience will be key to our success.”
The outfield will boast several returning veterans including Smith and fellow juniors Kristen Cooney (North Lewisburg/Triad) and Erin Kellar (Canal Fulton/Northwest). Smith lead all returning outfielders in batting average at .260 (26-of-100). She was second on the team in triples with three in addition to hitting a homerun, three doubles, scoring 16 runs and driving in eight runs. After the season, she earned second-team All-NCAC accolades. Cooney played in all 37 games last season and started 36 in left field. She recorded a .216 batting average (25-of-116) in 2010 to go along with a homerun, two doubles, 17 runs scored and 11 RBI. She was also amongst the team leaders in stolen bases with five. Kellar’s strenghth last season was on defense starting 22 of the 28 games she played in at the right fielder’s position. She scored five runs and tallied one RBI in two plate appearances last season. On defense, she posted a .952 fielding percentage with 19 putouts and one assist.
Also adding depth this season to the roster will be sophomore Danielle Reddinger (Lorain/Southview) and Kelcie Cuckler (Barberton).
“Our outfield has all the starters returning for us in Cooney, Smith and Keller,” said Tassey. “They have been playing together since they were freshmen and provide us with great stability in the outfield.”
The biggest question mark for Hiram this season will be pitching as the Terriers look to replace the void left by Dropsey who saw the majority of the innings on the mound.
Amongst the returning pitchers, the two with the most experience are seniors Sarah Padilla (Ontario, Calif./Colony) and Alati Gagne (Gorham, N.H./Gorham). Padilla made 19 appearances last year, including four starts, and posted a 5-1 record with a 3.07 earned run average. She had 16 strikeouts and was second in innings pitched with 45 and two-thirds. Gagne served as a the number three pitcher making 10 appearances, including six starts, with a 1-3 record and a 3.26 ERA. She tallied four strikeouts in 34-and-a-third innings. Also look for sophomore Ashley Hinkle (Parma) to compete for playing time. She saw limited action as a freshman pitching a third of an inning in her only appearance.
“We have three first-year pitchers this year who will combine with our two seniors and Ashley Hinkle to form our pitching staff,” said Tassey. ‘We have extreme depth and variety of styles with our six pitchers this year.”
In addition to the returning players, Hiram will also welcome five newcomers to the program, including four freshmen.
Hiram will begin its season with its annual trip to Florida. This year, the Terriers will travel to Fort Myers, Fla. and will play against Bridgewater State (Mass.) College on Sunday, Mar. 6 at 9 a.m. Hiram will then face SUNY-Potsdam (N.Y.) at 11 a.m.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, please contact Hiram College Sports Information Director Jeff Hoedt by phone at (330) 569-5495 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.