WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — There's a lot of positive vibes floating around the Williams College softball team these days.
And why not? The Ephs return just about all of their offensive production from last season, plus starting pitchers Emma Harrington and Emalie Rott, and head coach Kris Herman figures her defense to be much better after a lot of youngsters saw a good amount of action last season.
The Ephs went 16-21 in 2013, but 7-5 in the NESCAC West Division, narrowly missing out on the NESCAC playoffs by losing a tiebreaker with Little 3 rival Wesleyan.
"We've had a great preseason," Herman said. "Most of our returning players are significantly better than they were a year ago. I am very impressed with our work rate, they spent a ton of time in the offseason on improving and it shows."
The Ephs have two seniors, both captains, in Theresa Legan and Ali Graebner. Legan was a Second Team All-NESCAC selection a year ago. She hit a team-best .367 with a .406 on-base percentage and was solid at second base for the Ephs. Graebner led the team in on-base percentage (.432) while batting .340 and scoring a team-high 22 runs while knocking in 15, second on the squad. She played almost exclusively in the outfield.
"We have great seniors," Herman said. "They've been great leaders since they got here in terms of showing their committment to the team and the hard work they put in to improve. They're both also strong players and are playing with confidence on both sides of the ball."
The Ephs' junior class begins with Harrington, who went 10-6 with a 2.74 earned run average last season from the circle. It also includes Rott, Lindsey Precht and Mo Frank.
Harrington and Rott return to the circle and are part of a foursome which also includes first years Brooke Bovier and Dana Cohen. Harrington carried the bulk of the load last season, starting 14 games and tossing 89 1/3 innings while striking out 78. Rott started five games and went 3-2 with a 2.48 ERA over 31 innings.
"Emma has worked very hard in the offseason and we're looking forward to how that helps her build on what was a stellar sophomore campaign for us," Herman said.
Lindsey Precht has also put in a lot of time and is in the mix to replace the departed Amanda Correnti as the Ephs starting catcher. She suffered through an injury-riddled sophomore season, but did blast five home runs her freshman season.
"She has some big goals for herself, and worked hard to achieve them," Herman said of Precht.
Herman likes to stick Frank all over the field to take advantage of her versatility. Last year she battled an injury and hit .289 in 38 at-bats for the club.
The sophomore class really makes up the core of this up-and-coming team. Corner infielder Kacey Cramer hit .319 last season and led the team in RBI (21), doubles (8), triples (4) and home runs (3). Erica Li made herself into a lead-off hitter and hit .301 with a team-hogh 13 stolen bases. She'll play either catcher, shortstop or in the outfield. Priscilla Pino batted .341 in 44 at-bats for the Ephs and will be in the outfield mix as well. Taylor Donze is another versatile player who is expected to see increased playing time. Melissa Cendejas will likely be back at first base after batting .227 as a first-year with 12 RBI.
In addition to Bovier and Cohen, two other first years round out the squad. Speedy Ali Michalik will find time either in the middle infield or outfield, and Ashley Wirth an outfielder with a strong bat.
Herman knows her schedule and the NESCAC West are going to be challenging, but she likes the make-up of this squad.
"The gist is we're talented but we do have some question marks. Can we hit consistently? Can we play significantly better defense? Can we pitch better? Because that's what wins championships. I'm excited to see what we're going to do out on the field."
Williams opens its season Saturday against Carleton and Anderson down in Florida at the National Training Center.