Cal U 12th in softball rankings
CALIFORNIA – California University’s softball team usually makes the NCAA Division II Top 25 poll.
This season is no exception.
Coached for the ninth year by Rick Bertagnolli, the Vulcans open the campaign Friday in Florence, S.C., ranked 12th in the country.
The only Pennsylvania team listed ahead of California is PSAC East rival Bloomsburg, which is tied for third with Grand Valley State.
Defending champion St. Mary’s (TX) University is No. 1 followed by Barry (Fla.) University.
California returns most of the starters from last year’s 34-7 team including five PSAC West first teamers (sophomore catcher Abby McMinn, junior third baseman Kimmie Miller, senior outfielder Julie Wallace, junior outfielder Maggie Fricko and senior pitcher Amber Riegel) and Rookie of the Year sophomore outfielder Debbie Tedesco.
Junior Gabrielle Rendon returns at second base.
The Vulcans, however, lose some key starters including Athlete of the Year shortstop Kristin Heslop, pitcher-first baseman Melissa Brooks, pitcher Rose Walsh and designated player Daysha Grimes.
Heslop was the team’s top power hitter with 10 home runs and 36 RBI while the trio of Brooks, Grimes and Walsh combined for an overall 18-2 pitching record.
Riegel (11-3) and Fricko (5-2) are expected to carry the pitching load with Tedesco, sophomore righthander Marcy Gardner and freshman lefty Becky Mezyk the other hurlers.
Battling for Heslop’s shortstop spot are sophomore Ashley Snyder and freshmen Jennifer Doty and Kerri Heckman.
Other newcomers are second baseman Lindsay Konias and outfielder Melissa Korenoski,both of Elizabeth Forward, and outfielders Angie Day, Jennifer Vallecorsy and Dana Kobylka.
California’s biggest test in South Carolina will be No. 6 North Florida Sunday at 2 p.m.
After playing five games in three days in South Carolina, the Vulcans face six games in two days in Columbus, Ga. The opening contest will be against No. 10 Kennesaw State Friday, March 14.
The 14-time PSAC West champ, California will open conference play March 29 at Lock Haven and make its home debut April 2 against Slippery Rock.