NEW YORK - The 2013 Columbia softball team enters the spring with an energetic and young squad under the direction of 11th year head coach Kayla Noonan. The Lions open up their 52-game slate this weekend with five games at the Towson Invitational from Mar. 1-3.
Columbia has a diverse group of players that can play multiple positions to give their lineup different looks depending on situation and opponent, which includes a pitching staff that goes five-deep.
Noonan believes the mix of speed and power creates an advantage against opposing teams and will bring an exciting brand of softball to the Baker Athletics Complex this spring.
"We'll try and make things happen," Noonan told gocolumbialions.com. "We will take what the defense gives us and try to take advantage for sure. We're going to be aggressive and the team is ready for that. I can see the weight is on the balls of their feet and they are ready to make something happen."
After the long offseason, the Lions are eager to return to the diamond and see if their hard work on and off the field pays dividends.
"This group has been getting after it in the weight room and working on camaraderie and chemistry, which will help us immensely, and are eager to get on the dirt. It's never where you start it's where you finish. We have the depth and pitching to be in the mix of the Ivy League race. If we scrap and outwork other teams and make hustle plays, we should be equal to the task."
Here's a breakdown of the 2013 Lions by position.
As most coaches will say, pitching is key to building a winning team and Noonan is no different. Sophomores Brook Darling and Kalli Schultea combined to throw 264.1 out of 278 innings (95.1%) in 2012. Darling posted a team-best nine wins and 83 strikeouts, while Schultea earned three victories and fanned 45 batters in 103.1 innings of work.
The Lions also have a trio of rookie arms in Emily Kenyon, Tessa Kroll and Summer Secrest. Kenyon, an Oregon native that has a knack for getting swings-and-misses, set single-season (312) and career (886) strikeout records at Central High School. Kroll has a winning pedigree, helping York High School in Illinois to a pair of regional titles. Secrest earned second team all-league honor in 2010 and 2011 and cracked the first team following her senior year at San Clemente High School in California.
A familiar face returns for her junior season at first base in Morgan Cook. Always known for her steady glove, the Gilbert, Ariz. native, improved her offensive numbers in 2012, raising her batting average to .262 and tied for the team lead with 17 RBI.
Noonan expects juniors Alix Cook and Emily Snodgrass along with first-year Nicole Borchard to see time at second base. All three can play different positions and could see time in the outfield.
Alix Cook was the 14th toughest player to strikeout in the country, fanning just five times in 130 at-bats in 2012. Emily Snodgrass belted 11 doubles to lead the team and Noonan noted she has looked good at the plate thus far in practice. Borchard was a three-time All-League selection at Amador Valley High School, one of the top softball programs in Northern California.
At shortstop, first-year Macy Shrum looks poised to win the job. Noonan sites her "cannon for an arm" and offensive pop as positives heading into the year.
Snodgrass, Alix Cook and sophomore Kayla Shimoda are all in the mix for time at the hot-corner. Shimoda is coming off a season where she hit .280 with five doubles to earn her All-Ivy Legue Honorable mention status. Noonan also expects her to see more time at catcher to spell sophomore Liz Caggiano.
Caggiano, the Lions other All-ivy League Honorable Mention player, led the team with five dingers and 17 RBI. With Shimoda possibly gaining more time behind the plate, it will free up Noonan to use the standout from Texas as a designated player to keep her fresher down the stretch.
Expect sophomore speedster Emily Caruthers to patrol centerfield. The talented lefty slapper hit .362 and is slotted to bat towards the top of the order.
Senior Alison Lam along with first-years Alyssa Swearingen and Mackensy Lakian will push for time in the outfield. Lam was a steady player who hit .278 as the Lions' primary centerfielder. Swearingen and Lakian are polished defensive players with strong arms and bring more left-handed bats into the fold.