2010 Softball Outlook Part II
Feb. 10, 2010
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Only two days remain before the East Carolina softball team opens the 2010 season Friday against Illinois State at 12:30 p.m. in Clearwater, Fla. The Pirates will take part in the USF DeMarini Tournament this weekend.
Yesterday, Part I of the softball preview looked at the pitchers, catchers and 2010 schedule. Today, Part II examines this season’s infield and outfield units.
The void is at first base where Jessica Johnson left big shoes to fill after wrapping up her collegiate career a year ago. Johnson finished ranked in the top 10 in Pirate history in home runs, walks, runs batted in and hits.
Aona will serve as the glue for this year’s infield. East Carolina’s leader with 17 runs batted in during league action a year ago was a Preseason All-Conference USA selection. She hit a personal-best six home runs last year and is now tied for seventh on the school’s career home run leader board with 13. In 2009 she also committed her fewest errors as a Pirate with seven while tallying 107 assists, the seventh most in C-USA.
For the fourth consecutive year, Tom will be at shortstop. She started 53 games and picked up 89 assists, second only to Aona on the team, last year. Tom’s walk-off three-run home run against Campbell was the last of six contests during the season in which she drove in the game-winning run.
Sumner started all 55 games on the infield last season and will split time between second base and right field this year. In 2009, she finished with 43 hits and 28 runs scored. Her 20 sacrifice bunts tied her for the league lead and ranked her ninth in the NCAA with .36 sacrifice hits per game. Nationally, Sumner was also the ninth-toughest player to strike out as she fanned just six times in 198 plate appearances. Defensively, she picked up 78 assists, including tying the C-USA record for helpers in a game with nine against Wisconsin, and committed just six errors.
Completing the starting infield will be either junior Sissy Jimenez or sophomore Priscilla Velasquez at first base. Jimenez has four starts at the position in her career with three coming her freshman season and one last year. In 2009, she led the Pirates in games appeared in as a substitute with 26 and pinch-hit at-bats with 20. Velasquez made one start at third base a season ago and recorded a hit in her first career plate appearance. Her 13 pinch-hit at-bats were the second most on the squad.
Senior Nicole Jordan and freshman Cicely Lopez are valuable middle-infield options for ECU when Sumner heads to the outfield. Jordan saw action in eight games in 2009, driving in one run with a bases loaded walk. Lopez was a two-time First-Team All-Empire League selection while at Loara High School in Anaheim, Calif.
It begins with another Preseason All-C-USA selection in senior center fielder Christina Merrida. She started 54 of the team’s 55 games in 2009 without committing an error for the second-straight season. Her career fielding percentage is .987. At the plate in Conference USA games, Merrida tallied a team third-best 22 hits to go along with a .414 on-base percentage. From the beginning of April to the end of the season, she was ECU’s hottest hitter, batting .355 and scoring 11 runs.
In left field will be classmate Marina Gusman-Brown. In her first season with the Pirates after transferring from Eastern Arizona College, Gusman-Brown led the team with 17 stolen bases and 11 hit by pitches, both ranking in the top five in C-USA. She also drove in 25 runs, the third-best total on the squad. Defensively, her strong arm led to three assists, the second-most among the outfielders.
Sumner will see time in right field along with Moreno and Riggs. Moreno enters 2010 ranked eighth on the ECU career doubles list with 32 and tied for seventh in home runs with 13. She has started every game but three during her career. This year, the rotation will likely see her in right field when Sumner is at second base and as the probable designated player when Sumner is in right field.
Before an injury forced Riggs to miss 2009, she recorded six pinch-hit plate appearances as a freshman, picking up three walks. She also saw time in the pitching circle, making 11 starts and going 3-6. Throughout the season, she could see additional playing time as the Pirates’ designated player.