"We have a lot of talented players who have been working very hard," Ephs' head coach Kris Herman said. "We have a lot of question marks in terms of who will be playing where, but we're going to figure out a way to get everybody on the team contributing."
In 2016, the Ephs set a single-season record for wins in a season, finishing 35-11 overall, winning a conference championship and taking M.I.T. to the 7th and final game of a NCAA Regional before bowing out, 5-3. Lost from that squad is a bevy of contributors, including conference co-player of the year Erica Li.
However, Herman's cupboard is not bare. The majority of the roster returns and is complemented by a first-year class of five. Last season, the Ephs set single-season team records for runs scored (307), hits (446), doubles (84), home runs (36) and runs batted in (273).
In short, this team should hit.
"My thought on the what the line-up will be is, 'make me put you in the line-up,'" Herman said. "The determing factor will be how can you help the team offensively? We don't really know who will be playing where, but we feel we can mix-and-match and be pretty good."
Williams is not all about hitting either. The Ephs have returning NESCAC Pitcher of the yea Mackenzie Murphy, just a sophomore. Last year in the circle, Murphy tied a school single-season record with 16 wins, finishing with a 2.19 ERA.
Murphy and batterymate Lexi Curt, a junior, were accorded NFCA All-New England honors for their efforts, along with Li.
This season, Murphy will be joined by seven others vying for time toeing the rubber. Senior Brooke Bovier is expected to go out with a flourish. As a sophomore she went 15-3 for the Ephs and her 35-11 (.761) record is second all-time for the program. Sophomore Alejandra Magana went 9-4 with a 2.76 ERA as a first-year in 2016. Senior Dana Cohen is one of two left-handers on the staff.
"We're really excited about the potential of this group," Herman said. "We have a lot of different options and cover all the bases on different kinds of pitching, including the two lefties. It's a very versatile group as many of them play other positions."
The Ephs co-captains are senior Ali Michalik and the aforementioned Cohen. Michalik will get a long look at second base, a position she has manned for three seasons, and could also see time at short. Sophomore Jessica Kim, who batted .400 as a first-year, is back at shortstop. Junior Brenna Martinez is also a candidate for the middle infield after batting .283 with a .522 slugging percentage in 2016.
The corners are open positions, but you can expect Murphy, who led the team with a .465 average, 7 home runs and 49 RBI last year, to see some time at first base. Corbett could also see time there, and either catcher — Curt or Margo Beck — could be there as well when not behind the plate. Curt hit .389 in 2016 with 6 home runs and 36 RBI. Beck, when healthy, is as dangerous a bat as the Ephs have.
The outfield is also crowded with quality candidates. Senior Ashley Wirth, Magana, sophomore Kristina Alvarado and first-year Duncan will all see time there. Beck and possibly Michalik could see time in the outfield as well. Sophomore Jill Jenkin is also expected to contribute once healthy.
Herman is putting no limit on this group.
"I say it every year, our goal is to win a national championship," she said. "It was a great step for the program to win the NESCAC again last year after a long drought. We know our league is very good and every game matters, so we just have to be prepared to challenge ourselves every day be it in practice or during games."
The Ephs open their season Sunday at Whitter College in California with a doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m., Pacific Standard Time.