After returning from spring break spent in Florida, the Eastern softball team now has a clearer sense of their upcoming season. They know who will be playing where and what changes will be made from last season. They also know that despite a strong 2005 season and losing four key players that Coach Mark Ambler still expects them to improve.
“I would say that I am not setting goals in wins and losses,” Ambler said in an email interview. “I would like to see the girls be a team first and work hard. The winning will come from that. Of course, I always want to improve each year.”
Improving for softball means winning more than 20 games, a school record set by the team last year. Leading the effort will be a strong group of returning players supplemented by an incoming class of seven first years.
Returning players like seniors Jacey Bray (2nd Team All PAC), Suzanne Giuliano and Alison Maier, and sophomores Ashley Lewis (Honorable Mention PAC) and Elise Murante will play a large part in the success of the team. Also returning from last year is junior Stephanie Okeson, who finished number 22 in the nation in doubles per game. Okeson also has the second highest career slugging percentage in team history (.606).
Missing components from last years’ team include Ashley Keyser (First Team Regional All-American) and Valerie Thompson (First Team PAC). Keyser led the team with a .408 batting average, five homeruns, and 29 runs batted in last season. Behind Keyser and Thompson the softball team ended their 2005 season ranked number sixteen in the nation in runs scored per game (6.57).
“Our possible weakness,” Ambler noted, “is can we replace the loss of four key players? I think we can with the new players, but only time will tell. Our strengths lie in a good team atmosphere and a willingness to do their best. I feel just like last year we will be a very good hitting team.”
So the stage is set for a big season. No pressure, just win. For a confident group of talented girls the task should be easy enough.