By DREW KESSLER
Both the Clarkson University and Washington College softball teams come into the Sea Gull Classic with big expectations for 2017 after both teams put together strong seasons in 2016.
Clarkson finished with a 20-14 overall record last season, 5-7 in conference. 2016 was their best season in program history as their first time ever reaching 20 wins.
This season, Clarkson only loses one player from last year’s roster and are predicted to finish fifth in the Liberty League conference. Rochester leads the way in the Liberty League, predicted to finish first in conference.
Golden Knights return many star players from last year, including junior infielder Raeanna Dunn, who batted .371 average and tallied 23 stolen bases. Also returning is junior outfielder Summer Lancette, who led the team in batting average with a .432, 28 runs batted in (RBI), and 24 stolen bases. Both players received All-Liberty League first team honors last season.
The Clarkson pitching staff is led by two seniors—Katie Pelton and Jamie Bridge. Pelton had a 2.72 earned run average (ERA) and 6-1 record in 67 innings pitched last season. The workhorse for the pitching staff, Bridge, who had a 3.04 ERA and a 10-6 record, led the team in innings pitched with 89 and recorded 95 strikeouts.
The other team featured this weekend are the Washington College Shorewomen. Washington went 22-20 a season ago with an 11-5 Centennial Conference record. The team soared to the top seed for their conference tournament and then advanced to the Centennial Conference Championship game, but fell to Haverford.
The Shorewomen look to get over the hump this year as the program has achieved five 20-plus win seasons and reached three conference championship games since 2011, but they have only won one conference championship in program history.
The two star pitchers return from the 2016 squad: sophomore Maddie Bennett and junior Taylor Harcum. Bennett pitched a strong freshman season with a 2.25 ERA and a 12-3 record. She won both pitcher and rookie of the year for the Centennial Conference. So far in 2017, she has a 3.00 ERA this season in 11.2 innings pitched.
Harcum had a 2.39 ERA and was an innings-eater, third in the conference with 123 innings pitched last season. A strength for the team is the entire pitching staff, starting the season with a team ERA of 3.63 and 18 strikeouts. Harcum has led the pitching staff with a 1.91 ERA in 11 innings pitched.
In the batter’s box, the Shorewomen are hitting with a .282 average, 17 RBIs and two homeruns to start 2017. Bennett leads the way for the team with a .429 average, one homerun and seven RBIs at the plate.
For Clarkson, this will be their first set of games this season. For Washington, they have a record of 2-2, splitting their four games played in Cary, N.C. Despite Salisbury and Washington appearing in the same North Carolina tournament to start their seasons, the two teams did not face each other.
Washington will play Salisbury at noon on Saturday and then face Clarkson at 2 p.m. the same day. The Shorewomen will then return for an early game Sunday morning, facing Clarkson at 10 a.m., and then conclude the tournament by playing the hosts Salisbury at 2 p.m.
Clarkson University will start off the tournament on Saturday at 10 a.m. facing Salisbury just after the opening ceremony of the new softball stadium. Then, the Golden Knights will face Washington at 2 p.m. On Sunday, they will face Washington College at 10 a.m. and then will play their last game of tournament at noon on Sunday against the hosts, Salisbury.
Both teams will be looking for revenge against Salisbury as the Sea Gulls swept both teams last season. Washington lost 7-0 and 3-0, while Clarkson lost both games 8-0 against the Sea Gulls.