Feb. 5, 2009
University of Dayton second-year head coach Cara Clark has high hopes that her 2009 Flyer softball squad will exceed the success from her first campaign a year ago. Clark’s dedication, competitive drive and vision have instilled values of a winning attitude and are changing the way people view Flyer softball.
Last season the Flyers achieved their first 20-win season in three years and more than doubled their Atlantic 10 win total from 2007. Clark's 20 wins was the most by any first-year head coach at UD. A vast majority of the team numbers improved from the 2007 season to 2008. The Flyers led the Atlantic 10 with a .968 fielding percentage, which was 40th in the NCAA, and their 47 errors were the lowest in the league.
“We look to continue to build upon the gains of last year’s team,” said Clark. “The accomplishments of last season will offer this current team a foundation of success from which to continue advancement of the program.”
The Flyers return nine players, including six position starters, and a starting pitcher. The team also features six incoming freshmen.
“The strength of this group is balance. We have an even mix of speed and power,” said Clark. “The 2009 team will demonstrate solid defense and we expect to again rank in the top of the Atlantic 10 Conference in most defensive categories. Our offensive success will depend on the combination of our speed and power game.”
The Flyer infield features three returning starters in sophomore shortstop Emily Stegeman, senior Katie Jordan at second base, and junior Anne Maci, who could start at either first or third base. Stegeman earned a spot on the A-10 All-Rookie Team after starting all 51 games for the Flyers. She had just eight errors, playing shortstop and is the team’s second leading returning hitter, posting a .296 batting average in 2008. Jordan played in all 51 games with 50 starts and also had just eight errors. The corner positions will be manned by Maci, and freshmen Brandy Brown or Lauren Nacke. Maci started all 51 games last season and led the team in putouts (322) and doubles (12).
“With the experience of the returning infielders, along with a talented group of newcomers, great things are expected both offensively and defensively for the Flyers in 2009,” said Clark.
Junior Molly Meyer returns to patrol centerfield for the Flyers. She had just one error in 81 chances and is the Flyers’ leading returning hitter with a .339 clip last season. Meyer, an A-10 All-Rookie selection as a freshman and an A-10 Honorable Mention pick last season, also provides speed on the base paths, tying the team lead for steals with 11 and leading the Flyers with 37 runs scored, which was fifth-best in the A-10. Fellow junior Megan Lee is back after playing 49 games last year. She posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Sophomore Alicia Nichols will also vie for a starting spot, along with freshmen Megan Barrett and Raime Cronkhite. When junior Eva Rappe is not pitching, she will also serve spot time in the outfield.
“The return of two starting outfielders gives us great leadership, skill and speed,” said Clark. “However, our newcomers are expected to challenge, compete and contribute immediately.”
Megan Lee also has experience at catcher and will be pushed by freshmen Raime Cronkhite and Courtney Kutsulis.
The Flyers feature three pitchers in their rotation this season. Eva Rappe started 24 games last year and finished the season with five shutouts and 65 strikeouts. She also broke the UD single-season record for saves, notching three in ’08, which ranked 40th in the NCAA.
Sophomore Allie Falk made eight appearances on the mound last season for the Flyers, and freshman Sarah Wedel rounds out the pitching corps.
“Our pitching staff is versatile and each brings something different to the game,” said Clark. “We are very lucky to have such a strong group of competitors that can each pitch successfully for us.”
Allie Falk saw action in 48 games as UD’s designated player last season. Senior Lyndsi Gocken will also fight for time as designated player, along with freshmen Brandy Brown and Lauren Nacke.
The University of Dayton softball team continues to earn honors for its academic achievements. The most recent recognition for the Flyers was being named to the Girls Got Game/NFCA All-Academic Team. Dayton posted a team GPA of 3.363, which was the 17th best in the NCAA Division I category. Several players also earned recognition to the UD Dean’s List this semester.
“Our softball program maintains high academic standards,” said Clark. “They each have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in the classroom and are deserving of the recognition.”
For the second consecutive season the Flyers will open their season at the UNI-Dome Tournament in Cedar Falls, Iowa on Feb. 7-8, 2009. Dayton faces Nebraska in its opener Saturday, Feb. 7 at noon ET.