Large Group of Returning Starters Look to Lead Scots to NCAC Tourney
|Rachel Frank had a career-year in 2011, and is one of four seniors on the roster this spring.|
Following a respectable 14-win season which saw The College of Wooster lose 10 games by two runs or less, the Scots have reason to believe they can win more close games in 2012, as they return seven of their top-nine hitters and all three of their starting pitchers from a team that won three of its last four games a season ago.
"We want to get back to 2010 form," said 13th-year head coach Lori Schimmel, whose team won 20 games and broke several school records that year. "Last season (2011) was tough mentally, with all the close games, not to mention the large number of rain outs and rescheduling we had to do…but those experiences should help us this year. We're ready to bounce back, and we know what we have to do to get where we want to be."
"Lauren was healthy last year, and when she's healthy, she is capable of doing a lot of good things for us," said Schimmel. "We know that she can hit, and she's got a cannon for an arm, but she's the type of player who you could put anywhere out there and she could help your team."
Swinehart was voted second-team all-NCAC after leading the Scots in most statistical categories, including batting average (.324), hits (33), home runs (4), doubles (7), RBI (13), and runs scored (21). She also chipped in seven stolen bases and made some big plays in left field, and will likely be locked into the No. 3 hole yet again on Schimmel's lineup card.
Villa, who was an honorable mention pick on the all-conference team, batted .267 on the season, but that number increased to a team-leading .315 with runners on base. The left-handed hitter also scored 12 runs and stole eight bases, with the latter expected to increase this year, as Schimmel wants the team to be even more aggressive on the base paths.
"At the plate, Erica is a triple threat…she can take a full swing, slap, or drag," said Schimmel. "And as a base runner, she's not afraid to take off. She can beat you in a lot of ways."
Frank, a three-year starter in the outfield, had her most productive season a year ago, hitting .272 with 11 runs scored. Grooms, who played substantially at both catcher and first base, also posted a .272 batting average, and showed power potential with six doubles and seven RBI.
Horton tied for the team-lead with 13 RBI, while Pirolozzi drew 18 walks and totaled six extra-base hits coming in the form of four doubles and two homers.
The pitching staff has remained completely intact, with Horton and Pirolozzi expected to log the majority of the innings, but according to Schimmel, Allie Webb and Atwell could get more chances in the circle as well this year.
"We feel that we have four pitchers that can be effective," explained Schimmel. "Horton and Pirolozzi have been very solid for us these last two years, and I don't think we've necessarily seen them reach their full potential yet."
Horton, who has been an all-NCAC honorable mention in each of her first two seasons, went 7-10 last year, despite only allowing more than three earned runs on two occasions. She posted a 2.59 ERA and struck out 6.25 batters per game, which was the fifth-highest total in the league.
Pirolozzi had a solid year, going 4-6 with a 3.53 ERA, and striking out 52 batters in 75.1 innings. Webb posted a 2-2 record in eight appearances (six starts), while Atwell earned some pitching nods early in the season, but later carved out a niche as the starting third baseman.
The Scots will also welcome six incoming freshman to the team this spring, several of which are expected to push for playing time right away.
"With Denison, Hiram, and now DePauw joining the NCAC, there's no doubt that this is a very talented league," said Schimmel. "But we want to get into that group…that top-four, and make the conference tournament, because at that point anything can happen."