By DREW KESSLER
The wait is over for Sea Gull fans. The Salisbury softball team will play their first home game of the season this weekend with the Sea Gull classic on their new field. With the energy and excitement for the new field this weekend Salisbury will hope to get back on the winning track. They have started slow out of the gates with a 2-4 record so far this season.
“We are 2-4 this year, but last year we were 3-3 at this same point and did pretty darn good, so we’ll be ok,” SU head coach Margie Knight said.
Coach Knight is correct, and Sea Gull fans hope that it will be the same trend from last year. In 2016 after the first six games Salisbury went on a 14-game win streak to make up for the rough early start.
Salisbury split the four games going 2-2 in their first tournament in Cary, N.C. and lost a double header at No. 19 Virginia Wesleyan on Tuesday.
The Sea Gulls came into the 2017 season predicted to finish first in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) with Christopher Newport following close behind in second place. There are big expectations for SU as they try to defend their 2016 CAC title after defeating Christopher Newport 2-1 in the championship game last year. The program has won 19 CAC championships.
The only difference for the Gulls in 2017 is that the team is much younger with only 10 returning players and nine new players. Coming into this season Coach Knight only has three sure positions in her lineup. Senior center fielder Caitlin Lake, junior right fielder LeAnne Collins and junior first baseman Kristen Yanarella feature as the returning veterans on the team. The rest of the defensive positions seem to be up for grabs.
“Kristen Yanarella has worked really hard in the offseason, and she looks very good at first base. Collins has come back very strong with smoking the ball, and playing great defense. Caitlin is in really good form right now, and being that vocal leader in center field,” Coach Knight said.
One of the young players looking to take control of the starting left field position is freshman Mikayla Meehan. She has had a monster start to her first college season with a batting average of .389 and alongside three RBI.
“She has played very well. Very aggressive off the bat and having great bat speed, with having the best ball exit speed on the team,” Coach Knight said.
The ace pitcher returning to the staff for her sophomore year is Brooke Mizelle. She had a fantastic freshman campaign with a 1.11 ERA and a 18-2 record in 19 starts. She will look to continue her dominant success with Salisbury by adding a couple of new pitches to her arsenal to keep hitters off guard.
Other than Mizelle the rest of the Sea Gull pitching staff includes Rachel Milligan, Shannon Powell, and Annie Pietanza. Milligan is new to the squad, transferring in from Chesapeake College where she played for two years. Milligan has started the season strong with a 3.18 ERA through 11 innings pitched. Powell fits in nicely, not giving up a run through seven innings pitched so far this year. However the staff as a whole will look to settle down after tallying a 5.59 ERA as a team through their six games
This year’s Sea Gull Classic is Salisbury’s twenty-first year that Salisbury hosting the tournament. The tournament also begins a long home stretch for Salisbury as they play 24 of their next 26 games at home. Overall SU plays 26 of their 38 games at home in 2017.
Salisbury will play their first game at the new softball field at 10 am Saturday morning vs Clarkson and then will face Washington College at noon later on. The action continues at the Sea Gull Classic on Sunday when SU will play Clarkson again at noon and then Washington College at 2pm.