WALTHAM, Mass. – The 2012 Bentley University softball season will get underway Saturday night (5 pm.) when the Falcons take on the University of Bridgeport in the first of a ten-game trip to the National Training Center in Clermont, Fla.
The trip, which runs through March 16, will also include a Northeast-10 Conference doubleheader with the University of New Haven (the number two team in the preseason NE-10 coaches poll) and a Tuesday morning encounter with Winona State, currently the 12th-ranked Division II team in the country.
Seventh-year head coach Michele DeGregorio, who led Merrimack College to the 1994 NCAA Division II national championship, has seven players back from last year's 15-25 team. Also returning are two players who missed all of 2011 due to injury, junior pitcher Carly Taitz (Blue Point, N.Y./ Bayport-Blue Point HS) and junior captain Laura McDonough (Braintree/Braintree HS).
DeGregorio has experience around the infield and behind the plate with the returnees including junior shortstop Stephanie Kasson (Hyde Park, N.Y./Franklin D. Roosevelt HS) and the team's lone senior, second-year captain Megan Blier (Wells, Maine/Wells HS) at catcher. Kasson, a slap hitter, led last year's team in batting average at .362, and Blier, who caught every inning last season, has a .248 career average.
Joining Kasson, a third-team All-Northeast-10 selection, in the infield will be McDonough at second, sophomore Samantha Tierney (Wappingers Falls, N.Y./Roy C.Ketchum HS) at first and sophomore Kelly Sanborn (Hopkinton/Hopkinton HS) at third. Sanborn and Tierney were two of the six players who started every game a year ago, a group that also included Kasson.
Among those who'll see time in the outfield are junior Erica Thibodeau (Cohoes, N.Y./Shaker HS) and sophomores Jackie Gauthier (Braintree/Braintree HS) and Chelsea Tamuk (Port Jefferson, N.Y./Earl L Vandermeulen HS). Thibodeau, who could also be used at catcher, spent most of last season at second and had 18 sacrifice bunts in addition to 25 hits. Gauthier made 31 of her 40 starts in center.
All the pitching will be handled by Taitz and freshman Caitlin Betz (Randolph, N.J./Randolph HS). Taitz had a promising freshman year in 2010, with a 4-5 record and a 2.59 ERA in 19 appearances. Betz earned All-County honors during her final season in high school.
Bentley, which was picked 14th in the NE-10 preseason coaches poll, is scheduled to open the home portion of the schedule Mar. 20 with a doubleheader against Stonehill.