Senior Lindsay McKillop is leading Stonehill with a .360 batting average so far this season.
The Skyhawks return 12 players from a team that reached the Northeast-10 Conference tournament for the third time in four seasons.
BY JIM FENTON
EASTON – The Stonehill College softball team has become a regular participant in the Northeast-10 Conference tournament in recent years.
After qualifying for the tourney just twice in program history, the Skyhawks have made three appearances in the past four seasons under coach Ken LeGrice.
With 12 returning players from a team that lost to New Haven, 2-1, in the second round last spring, LeGrice is optimistic about what the Skyhawks can do this season.
Stonehill is picked in the coaches poll to finish second in the NE-10 Northeast Division.
"We're making the playoffs at a regular rate,'' said LeGrice, now in his fifth season, "and this team, I have high hopes for. It is a talented group of players and I wouldn't be surprised if we made it to the (NCAA Division 2) regionals.''
Stonehill is off to a 5-11 start, winning five of 12 games in Clermont, Fla., before losing doubleheaders to LIU Post and New Haven over the weekend.
Sophomore Megan Ruonavaara, who set the school record with 15 wins a year ago, returns to the circle with plenty of experience. She made 28 starts and had 18 complete games as a freshman, compiling a 2.97 earned run average.
Sophomore Alison Sumski is hitting .321 with a home run and eight RBI in 16 games this season.
"We have a lot of hope for her returning to that form,'' said LeGrice.
The offense will have to make up for the loss of Nicole Eisenmann of East Bridgewater, who holds the school career records with 200 hits and 125 RBI, and had 14 homers to break the single-season mark last year.
The entire infield returns, including Lindsay McKillop at first, Alison Sumski at second, Emily Padilla at shortstop and Jocelynne Morrell at third base. McKillop (.311), Sumski (.300) and Morrell (.321) were among the top hitters in 2013.
"They worked very well together last year and it's nice to have all four back,'' said LeGrice.
Esposito, who played in 32 games as a freshman, will be in left field with Squeri in center field and Taylor Lester and Lianna Jordan in right field. The catchers are Staudle (.368 last season) and Brianna Gunter.
"The pitching is very promising for us and we'll be sound defensively,'' said LeGrice. "Offensively, we should do better statistically than we did last year. We lost a lot of power with Eisenmann, but our average is going to make up for that up and down the lineup.
"I feel pretty good about this team, very confident. We've got a young squad, but they have had a lot of playing time already. That will be a big boost. We've got a good group.''
Jim Fenton may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JFenton_ent.