February 22, 2002
Softball looks to defend crown
Co-captains junior second baseman Erin Nittinger and senior third baseman Shelly Zimmerman, and juniors outfielder Teresa Ely and catcher Ali Ackerman, will lead this year's squad.
Zimmerman, the only senior on the team, finished last season with a .381 batting average and 37 hits, both good for second on the team. The third baseman also led the team with six doubles, three triples, three home runs, 18 RBI and 58 total bases. Those numbers earned Zimmerman a selection to the 2001 Commonwealth Conference All-Star team.
"I really hope I can continue that success at the plate," Zimmerman said. "I am also working hard to extend my range at third base so I can do more defensively."
Ely, who was also selected as a second-team conference All-Star, led the team with a .388 average, 38 hits and an on-base percentage of .423. The fleet-footed outfielder also led the team with five stolen bases in five attempts and is predicted to be the team's leadoff hitter on opening day.
Nittinger led the Crusaders with 21 runs and 16 walks and was second on the team with a .982 fielding percentage from the second base position.
"We really need to pull together as a team to balance the fact that our pitching staff is so young," Nittinger said. "The older players, including myself, need to really help the young girls get adjusted."
Ackerman looks to continue her solid play from the catcher position and is coming off a season that saw her swing the bat to the tune of a .329 average with 14 runs and 10 RBI.
The team also welcomes back sophomores Melissa Bird, Kelli Thompson and Becky Mann in the outfield, junior Shana Lalo at shortstop and junior Gretchen Anderson at first base.
"We have three very good pitchers, which is exciting," Head Coach Cheri Swineford said. "We are going to need the same offensive output we had last season and we are also going to rely greatly on Shana's defensive prowess."
With the graduation of the Crusaders' all-time strikeout leader, Kristen Hogan, the team will look to a youthful trio of hurlers to carry the load. Sophomore Amy Kleman finished 3-7 last year, but maintained an impressive 2.33 earned run average. She will be joined by highly touted freshmen Heather Litzebauer and Shannon Nagy.
"The most important thing we need to do is definitely to stay healthy," Swineford said. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, however, Kleman and Litzebauer have been struggling with injuries so far this preseason.
"Amy (Kleman) was having lower leg problems from the fall, but has been rehabbing and is doing much better," Assistant Athletic Trainer Laurie Noonan said. "Heather is dealing with an ankle sprain that she received over the Christmas holiday, but she is also coming along very well."
The Crusaders will open the season March 1, with a triple-header at the Methodist College Tournament in Fayetteville, N.C. The women will first face the Savannah College of Art and Design, then Christopher Newport and finish the day against Lynchburg. Their first home action will be March 19, when they face York College.
SPORTS HEADLINESCrusaders nearly upset Jays Swimmers finish year at MACs Late collapse leads to loss on road Softball looks to defend crown Ranieri looks to lead Crusaders to title Miller predicts success for young squad Zook leads young Crusaders
WEEKLY FEATURESNewsLiving & ArtsUniversity UpdateForumSports