Junior Suzanne Riggs could start in right or left field for the Pirates this season.
Feb. 9, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Only two days remain before the East Carolina softball team opens the 2011 season Friday against Lipscomb at 9:00 a.m. in Athens, Ga. The Pirates will take part in the Red & Black Showcase this weekend.
Yesterday, Part I of the softball preview looked at the coaching staff, pitchers and catchers. Today, Part II examines this season's infield and outfield units.
After four years of a left-side wall featuring Cristen Aona and Kaui Tom, the ECU infield will be in transition this season. The Pirates' most likely candidates to step in for Aona as the starting third baseman are freshman Alex Fieldhouse or sophomore Cicely Lopez. Fieldhouse earned all-Trinity League honors each year of her career at Rosary High School. The Garden Grove, Calif., native earned second-team all-county honors and the team's defensive player-of-the-year award as a senior. She also was selected for the Orange County squad in the Orange County vs. Riverside County All-Star Softball Game and to participate in the 11th Orange County Coaches All-Star Showcase following her final campaign.
Lopez started 16 of the 23 games she played during 2010 before suffering an injury that kept her out for the remainder of the season. In the only three Conference USA contests she played before the injury, Lopez batted .500 (4-8) and scored a run. The Anaheim, Calif., native's biggest hit of the year was a single in the eighth inning at Fresno State that drove in the game-winning run and handed the Bulldogs their first home loss of the season.
At shortstop, Tom's replacement is likely to be another Hawaiian, Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin or Kristi Oshiro. While at Saint Francis High School in Honolulu, Kaluhiokalani-Glackin was an all-state and All-Interscholastic League of Honolulu selection as a junior and senior. Following her final campaign, she was chosen to play in the New City Nissan Goodwill Softball Classic, featuring some of the best players from Hawai'i.
The most experience on this season's infield will be found at first base, where senior Sissy Jimenez and junior Priscilla Velasquez will battle with freshman Jordan Lewis for playing time. Jimenez started a career-high 51 games and played in 57 contests last season. She established personal-best season totals in hits (34), runs scored (17) and runs batted in (22) while pounding out eight doubles, the second most on the team. The Oakdale, Calif., native also ranked third on the squad in slugging percentage (.380) and fourth in runs batted in. Jimenez was a key piece to the Pirates' C-USA championship puzzle as she batted a squad second-best .265 in league action.
Velasquez also stepped into a larger role during the 2010 campaign, starting a personal-best 42 games, including 20 at first base. She contributed 21 hits, 14 runs batted in and 14 runs scored. The La Quinta, Calif., product drove in three runs during the Conference USA Tournament, including the game-winner against UCF in the championship game with a sacrifice fly.
Lewis, of Fremont, Calif., was a three-year starter for Moreau Catholic High School who earned First Team All-Hayward Area Athletic League selections as a junior and senior. Following her last season, she was named the East Bay Prep Athlete-of-the-Year by the Bay Area News Group and a First-Team All-East Bay selection.
Rounding out the infield at second base will be either Oshiro or classmate Jill Jelnick. While at Aliso Niguel High School, in Aliso Viejo, Calif., Jelnick was a four-year leadoff batter and two-time First Team All-South Coast League selection. Following her final season, she was selected for the Orange County squad of the 11th Orange County Coaches All-Star Showcase. Jelnick received numerous accolades as a senior, including the school's Lee Brenan Sportsmanship Award, the South Coast League's Sportsmanship Award and the team's leadership award.
As with the infield, the ECU outfield will see a major shake-up with all three regular starters lost from the 2010 team.
Experience in this year's outfield will be with junior Suzanne Riggs, who can start in either right or left field. After bouncing back from a foot injury that sidelined her for the entire 2009 season, Riggs was one of the Pirates' most clutch performers in 2010, delivering a pinch-hit, game-winning single in the final inning three times. The Greenville native drove in the game-winning runs against N.C. State, UTEP and Southern Miss. For the season, she picked up 10 runs batted in, eight hits and three runs scored.
Another candidate to experience action in left field is freshman Mahrisch Medina. The Bellflower, Calif., product was a four-year letterwinner and All-Suburban League selection at Mayfair High School. As a senior, she guided the Monsoons to the league championship and earned Suburban League Co-Most Valuable Player honors as well as being named the team's best offensive player after batting .500 with a squad-best 27 runs batted in.
For the last four years, Christina Merrida manned center field. This season, freshmen Jasmine Robbins and Medina are likely to see the majority of the playing time. Robbins, from Indian Trail, N.C., guided Providence Day High School to Charlotte Independent School Athletic Association (CISAA) titles, the first in school history, as a sophomore and senior. Robbins also received four All-CISAA and All-North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association honors. As a junior, she batted over .400, threw a no-hitter against Charlotte Christian and won the Providence Day School Supporting Athlete-of-the-Year award.
Also in the mix for starting duties around the outfield are freshmen Taylor Megargel, Jelnick, and Lewis. Megargel, a Bear, Del., native, brings plenty of championship experience to the Pirates, having entered the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament with the No. 1 ranking all four years at Caravel Academy. The Buccaneers advanced to the championship game four times, claiming the title with a 2-0 victory over Milford as a senior. After her final season, she was an honorable mention all-state selection at third base and chosen to play in Delaware's Blue-Gold all-star game.