WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- There's a sense of excitement around the Williams College softball team as the 2016 season approaches.
With good reason, as the Ephs return 12 players from a squad which finished 32-9 last year -- eclipsing the 30-win mark for the first time in 10 years -- and hosted a regional for the second year in a row.
The Ephs have an accomplished senior class that is hungry for more. Led by captains Kacey Cramer and Erica Li and also including Tayler Donze, Priscilla Pino, Melissa Cendejas and Amanda Siedem, Eph head coach Kris Herman has a high confidence in the group.
"Those six kids are really good softball players, really good leaders and care a lot about Williams softball," she said. "They have done a nice job creating a winning chemistry over the course of the preseason."
You can expect all six to see plenty of time on the field as well. Cramer is a veteran at third base and last year had a career-high 33 RBI. Li is as versatile player as one could have -- she's played eight positions for the Ephs in her first three years -- and she batted .318 last season with five stolen bases. Donze had career highs in games and at-bats last season while hitting .299 and stealing a team-high 14 bases. Cendejas will be back at first base after hitting .303 with 18 RBI in 2015. Pino also carries a valuable bat along with versatility and Siedem is an outfielder who will also help out at catcher. She hit .297 in 2015.
All-NESCAC player Alison Michalik heads up the junior class. The shortstop hit .391 as a sophomore with a team-high 35 runs scored and a .503 slugging percentage. Classmate Brooke Bovier will lead the pitching staff after compiling a 15-3 record in 2015. She struck out 86 batters in 119 innings and finished with a 1.53 earned run average. Ashley Wirth is a valuable bat off the bench who has the opportunity of even more playing time this spring, and Cohen will add depth to the pitching staff.
The sophomore class is small but ultra-talented. Lexi Curt hit .352 in her first-year campaign with a team-high seven home runs and 39 RBI. Her slugging percentage of .602 was first among regulars. Before suffering a season-ending injury that limited her to 14 games in 2015, catcher Margo Beck hit .412 with three home runs, 16 RBI and a .794 slugging percentage. Brenna Martinez is another valuable bat who played a lot of second base last season, but may fill in at SS early in 2016 while Michalik recovers from an injury.
"We play 20 games in two weeks at the start of the season, we're going to need all three of them to be up for the challenge," Herman said.
Kristina Alvarado is an outfielder while Jessica Kim could see some time at shortstop as well. Jill Jenkin will also see time in the outfield. Casey Pelz is battling for playing time at either corner infield position.
"We have 19 players," Herman said. "Our mentality is when it's your turn, be ready. Everybody on this roster is going to help us win games. We have high expectations; we've been working our process very hard and are excited to see what happens."
The Ephs open their season Sunday at the National Training Center in Clermont, Florida. They will face Wellelsey at 11 a.m. and Oswego State at 1 p.m., the beginning of a 12-game Florida trip. They are scheduled to open the New England part of their schedule on March 29 at Wheaton and their first home games of 2016 are scheduled for April 8 and 9 versus Little 3 rival Wesleyan.