BOSTON – The Boston Red Sox aren't the only local team warming up the 2016 campaign in Ft. Myers, Florida this month as Suffolk softball landed in the Sunshine State Thursday to compete in the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic through Friday, March 18.
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GENE CUSIC COLLEGIATE CLASSIC
Softball teams from all across the NCAA will travel to Lee County, Florida this week to kick off their regular season in the 2 annual Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic. While over 100 teams will be represented in the tournament, the Rams will face Kenyon, Brockport, Edgewood, Wooster, Wisconsin-Superior, Augusburg, UMass Dartmouth, Castleton, Minnesota Morris and Knox.
SPRING TRAINING TRAVELS
This year's trip marks the 21st consecutive spring voyage in program history. Since 1995, the Rams have faced 112 different opponents, playing in 167 spring training games and coming away victorious in 42 of those contests. This is the 13th time Suffolk will travel to Ft. Myers, Florida to kick off its season with other March destinations including Orange, California and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Sunday, March 13
Sunday, March 13
Monday, March 14
Monday, March 14
Wednesday, March 16
Wednesday, March 16
Thursday, March 17
Thursday, March 17
Friday, March 18
Friday, March 18
Suffolk turned in one of its most impressive softball seasons in history in Jaclyn Davis' third season on the bench. The Rams put together an 11-game win streak to open April and notched a league-best 17-5 Great Northeast Athletic Conference record to earn not only the top-seed headed into the conference tournament, but the regular-season conference crown.
Suffolk's winning ways were halted on the opening day of the tournament as the Rams fell to Johnson & Wales to move to the loser's bracket where Saint Joseph's College eliminated Suffolk, 4-0.
Despite the setback, the Rams continued to strive and were selected to the ECAC Division III New England Softball Championship Tournament for the first time in the Davis era. As the fourth-seed, Suffolk picked up a victory in the first-round over Becker, before falling to Brandeis and Albertus Magnus. The Rams concluded their campaign 25-16 to post back-to-back 20-plus win seasons.
RUN DOWN ON THE RAMS
In 2015, Suffolk played statistically one of the program's best seasons, with a mostly unproven and untested core of youth in the circle and in key spots in the lineup both offensively and defensively.
Although the season ended with a loss, the toughness and grit the team displayed in the GNAC Tournament and the Rams' fourth ECAC Championship appearance provided Suffolk with the foundation needed going into this new year.
Included in the team's 10 returning letterwinners are five total starters from last year's squad, which had provided a lot of spirited competition among the young newcomers, who will look to make an impact early at various spots throughout the order and in the field.
2016 looks to feature Davis' best quality pitchers in her stable in terms of depth and breadth of scope with losing just GNAC All-Sportsmanship Team selection Sarah Chasse. Instead of three on the roster like last season, Davis will have four aces in the deck, three with collegiate experience and one of the top pitching recruits in Massachusetts coming out of high school.
The leading and only returning table setter for the Rams is sophomore Ali Yamakaitis. Yamakaitis racked up 20 appearances and nine starts in her inaugural season, earning six wins, which was tied for 12th in the GNAC conference. The right hander will be joined in the circle by junior Kim Crucioli, who took a year off from the diamond, but is scattered around Suffolk's record books including 10th all-time in wins (14). The first newcomer to Suffolk's circle already has some collegiate experience, but will be looking to extend that in transfer Taylor Holmes, who opened her collegiate career for the Mavericks of Mercy last season. Rounding out the Rams' pitching staff is freshman Jaclyn Flint.
Returning to their duties behind the plate will be GNAC All-Conference sophomores Delaney Sylvester and Devlin Frost, while adding some depth in the addition of Jill Pulek to the roster. Sylvester earned the Rams' share of time at the dish for Suffolk, where as a freshman she started all 40 games she appeared in, hitting .402 with 51 hits, including nine doubles and four home runs with 37 RBI. The Worcester, Massachusetts, native had a .983 fielding percentage, which ranks second all-time in Suffolk's record books, and only committed four errors over the course of the year total. A record-setting year led to a host of awards for Sylvester, who earned second team NFCA All-Region honors.
With Sylvester serving behind-the-plate for the Rams, Frost took her talents to right field. The Tewksbury, Massachusetts, local played in all but three games, producing the team's fourth-best batting average (.347) and third-highest slugging percentage (.540), as well as a .981 fielding percentage. This season, Frost will be a staple in the lineup with her bat and in the field.
At first base, junior Lindsay Pagano has started 84 games at the position, including 40 last year. In 2015, Pagano produced the team's best fielding percentage .984, which lands third in Suffolk's all-time history, and added a spark offensively with a .315 batting average thanks to 35 hits to go along with 11 RBI.
Suffolk will loop upon its returning utility players in Madison Eucalitto and Morgan Parmeter to continue to impact the Rams' line, while Meredith Ball will be a primary outfielder for the blue-and-gold for her final campaign.
SCOUTING THE FLORIDA FIELD
- KENYON – TEAM WEBSITE – STATS
Kenyon arrived in Ft. Myers, Florida last week and has split its first six games of the season, sitting at 3-3 heading into Thursday afternoon play. The Ladies will play four games before meeting the Rams on Sunday.
Lindsey Susolik has led the way for Kenyon in the first six contests batting .478 with 11 hits and eight RBI. She has started in all six games so far and has added six runs scored for the Ladies.
Austen Whibley leads the Kenyon pitching staff with a 2-2 record and a 4.61 ERA in 27.1 innings pitched.
- BROCKPORT – TEAM WEBSITE – STATS
The Golden Eagles of SUNY Brockport will open up their Florida trip with Edgewood College Friday, March 11 and compete in five contests before teeing off against the Rams on Sunday.
Last season the Golden Eagles were electric on the mound, leading the SUNYAC in shutouts, also tying for first in the conference in home runs allowed. This year the staff will be anchored by seniors Korey Kibling and Jaime Berger who finished with nine wins a piece, and earned run averages of 1.65 and 3.07 respectively.
Both pitchers ranked in the top ten in the SUNYAC in opposing batting averages and strikeouts. Berger was second in each category with an opposing batting average of .220 and 123 strikeouts. Kibling fanned 53 batters with an opposing batting average of .266.
- EDGEWOOD – TEAM WEBSITE – STATS
The Edgewood College Eagles opened up their 2016 campaign on February 27 and are 2-2 on the season heading into the Gene Cusic Classic.
Sabrina Maicke leads the Eagles so far with a team-high eight hits and six RBI, while batting .571.
- WOOSTER – TEAM WEBSITE – STATS
The Wooster Fighting Scots will open up the 2016 season on March 14 in Ft. Myers, Florida as they take on Edgewood in the Gene Cusic Classic, before facing Suffolk later that afternoon.
A mix of familiar and new faces will dot the diamond this spring for the Fighting Scots, as Wooster looks to replace numerous veterans, including the top three names on the program's all-time career hits leaderboard.
- WISCONSIN SUPERIOR – TEAM WEBSITE – STATS
The Yellow Jackets of Wisconsin-Superior started off the 2016 season in the Finlandia Dome Tournament where they finished 1-3. They will travel to Gene Cusic Classic and face the Rams on March 16.
Kari Shipman has led the Yellow Jackets offense so far batting .308 with four hits and two RBI, while Sarah Hendrickson is 1-1 on the mound with a 1.24 ERA.
- AUGUSBURG – TEAM WEBSITE – STATS
The Auggies split a pair of games as they opened up the regular season at Edor Nelson Field in Minneapolis last weekend. They will meet the Rams on March 16 as they travel to Ft. Myers, Florida to compete in the Gene Cusic Classic.
In the first two contests, Ashley Anfinson has led Augusburg batting .545 with six hits and two RBI, while Samantha Anderson notched the team's win on the mound.
- UMASS DARTMOUTH – TEAM WEBSITE – STATS
The Corsairs of UMass Darmouth will begin their 2016 season on Friday, March 11 and play 10 games before meeting the Rams on March 17.
The Corsairs finished 8-20 overall in 2015 and will welcome five freshman newcomers to the team this year.
- CASTLETON – TEAM WEBSITE – STATS
The Castleton Spartans will travel to Ft. Myers, Florida on March 17 to open up their 2016 season. They will face the Rams in their second of two games that day.
Castleton's softball team looks to build on the success it found in the 2015 season, as it returns a large part of the core from last year's team that tied for first place in the regular season in the North Atlantic Conference.
- MINNESOTA MORRIS – TEAM WEBSITE – STATS
The Minnesota Morris Cougars opened their season with a pair of losses last weekend in Minneapolis. They will compete against the Rams in Ft. Myers on March 18.
In the opening contests, Autum Mahoney led the Cougars batting .364 with four hits and one run batted in.
- KNOX – TEAM WEBSITE – STATS
The Knox Prairie Fire will open the 2016 in Ft. Myers, Florida and play five games before they face the Rams on March 18.
Knox finished 2-29 last season and will welcome five first-year freshmen to the team in 2016.
Suffolk will return to New England Tuesday, March 24 where it will play a double-header at Curry before hosting Salem State for a two-game series Saturday, March 26 at East Boston Memorial Park.