Monday, January 31, 2011

Player Profiles

Links to the profiles of your 2011 Canisius College Golden Griffins are on the left side of this page. Trying something new this year---we'll see how it goes. They will be "living profiles" as I will add to them as the season progresses.
Well, that's it for the dreadful month of January.
The season begins in a few days!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Speed Kills

*Click to enlarge*

Expect more of the same this year!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Just Around The Corner!

Hard to believe, but the clock says 21 days until first pitch!
It seems like yesterday that I was walking out of the Demske Sports Complex after the tough season ending loss at the MAAC tournament, but even as I was departing I was thinking ahead to this season. I felt that with the loss of only one player to graduation (last year's team had lost five), this talented group of players would get better with the experience. I think this edition of the Golden Griffins is setting up to resemble the 2008 team, which set a school record for wins, won the MAAC title going away and won a game in the NCAA regionals. I think this year's team will have a lot more power though.

I have lived in California in my lifetime, but there is no place like Western New York for when softball season begins. The snow is high, the team can't practice outdoors--- but it's time to play ball! It's like an early spring every year. Of course the team won't be playing here for nearly two months, but we'll be following them every step of the way!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 Golden Griffins In The MAAC

Coach Rappl and his staff did a great job in 2010 of preparing the Golden Griffins for conference play and the MAAC Tournament. An early start to the season along with a challenging schedule contributed to a 13-3 record and first place. The fly in the ointment however was a rash of injuries at the end of the season, a happenstance that can't really be avoided. Although this season begins a week later, and the schedule is not quite as difficult, the same formula should have the Griffs very prepared once MAAC play begins in April.

Canisius is loaded and poised to make a run at the MAAC softball championship come May, but the conference will be very competitive at the top this season. Iona is reigning champion, and return virtually their whole team this year. Canisius swept them in the regular season; but were swept in the tournament. They will once again have to solve MAAC Pitcher Of The Year Sarah Jackson, a junior. Caroline Main matches up well with her though---last year's matchup between the two All-MAAC pitchers was a classic. The teams meet in New Rochelle this season.

Local rival Niagara lost some key players to graduation, but will be strong offensively once again. Not only did they look great in fall ball (and were undefeated), but looked to me to be a team on a mission. It's been a long time since they won a title, and they certainly have the talent to do so. Once again, pitcher Julie DiMatteo will be their number one. A junior now, she has pitched very well against the Griffs during her career. To help her out, the Purple Eagles have brought in three new pitchers this season, with Ali Grab returning. If they have shored up their staff, they are going to be very difficult to beat. The two teams played a very intense doubleheader last season (a split); the Griffs eliminated Niagara in the tournament. This season they will play at Canisius late in the season; with both squads being likely contenders, that should be some scene.

Manhattan will be visiting Canisius this season, where they have had no success recently. But the Lady Jaspers are a tournament experienced team returning everyone---they're loaded with seniors. Led by the dangerous Jaci Rahey, a .400 hitter who led the MAAC in RBIs in 2010, the LJs have plenty of offensive talent. Senior pitcher Erika Sullivan shut down the Griffs last season at Manhattan. She was injured and did not play when the teams met in the tournament. The Griffs just squeaked by in that one. Remember, these same Manhattan players won the regular season title in 2009.

The Fairfield Stags will field a new look team in 2011, losing 8 players to graduation. Pitcher Sarah Minice returns for her senior season however. The 2009 MAAC Pitcher Of The Year is good enough to keep her team in any game, but how the Stags will perform with 8 freshmen is somewhat of a mystery. Fairfield was going strong last season until their first place showdown with Iona, then faded to a 6th place finish. The Griffs will be visiting Fairfield this season.

Rider's hopeful 2010 season hit a serious speed bump when they visited Western New York and lost 4 mercy rule games. They made a late season push, but it wasn't enough. They have a good offense, but have not received the pitching they need to make the jump into the top four in the conference. The Broncs do play Canisius better at home in Lawrenceville where the two teams will meet this season.

I don't expect Siena, Marist or St. Peter's to give Canisius much difficulty this season. Siena does have a group of very promising young players however. Marist is in a rebuilding stage, and St. Peter's is starting from scratch with a new coach.

The Golden Griffins certainly have the talent to win their 13th MAAC Championship this season, and Head Coach Mike Rappl is an edge they have every season regardless of the talent level.The Canisius pitchers match up well with the conference's other teams---Caroline Main was a perfect 8-0 in the regular season. The Griffs' bats will not be denied in '11. This Canisius team also has another motivation to get back to the NCAAs. Revenge. Injuries notwithstanding, they did not like being defeated on their own field last year. This year's MAAC Championship will be held at Marist College, the site of the Griffs last championship in 2009. This team is more talented than that one. All they need is the desire, and good health.

Will the Griffs win again in Poughkeepsie in 2011?

Friday, January 21, 2011

2011 Golden Griffins In The Circle

After a very successful 2010 season, the Canisius softball pitching staff is poised to lead the Golden Griffins to a MAAC championship in 2011. The Griffs began last season with two young, inexperienced pitchers. They ended the season with a team ERA of 2.28 and 34 victories. The Griffs enter this season with very stable pitching.

After being an understudy in 2009, junior Caroline Main emerged as a dominant MAAC pitcher last year. She was a perfect 8-0 in regular season conference games, and did not lose to a MAAC rival until the tournament, in which she was pitching injured. The All-MAAC First Teamer beat MAAC Pitcher Of The Year Sarah Jackson in a 1-0 pitcher's duel in the most important regular season game of the year. Her ERA in MAAC games was 1.40; she struck out 51, and walked only 9. Caroline showed great control in 2010, walking only 40 batters overall, while throwing only 4 wild pitches. As the season progressed, so did her confidence. She seems to want the ball in her hand, and has emerged as a leader on the field. Assuming Caroline is 100% healthy (the team doesn't mention injuries), she is going to be extremely difficult to beat in the MAAC again. Caroline has been a dominant pitcher at every level she played; and I think we have yet to see her best.

As good as Caroline Main is, I wouldn't go calling sophomore Amanda Baun the Griffs' number two pitcher. Maybe they are 1A and 1B, because Amanda had a fabulous freshman season that saw her set Canisius freshman records for wins and strikeouts. And she had a bit of pressure on her last season, what with two senior pitchers having graduated and another freshman suddenly leaving school. Amanda has showed great poise from her first pitch in 2009 fall ball. She finished 2010 as the second ranked pitcher in the MAAC (1.98 ERA behind only Sarah Jackson), and was named to the All-MAAC Second Team. She struck out 187 batters last year; in fact she struck out 12 her very first regular season start. She pitched a one hitter in the MAAC Tournament (coming within one batter of a no hitter), and pitched three shutouts in MAAC games. When Amanda gets in a groove, batters go down swinging. She entered fall ball this season picking up where she left off and was almost unhittable. She will be even better this season.

Freshman Jen Consaul will have the luxury (barring injury) of developing behind the pair mentioned above. Jen is strong and a hard thrower who will benefit from a year of college coaching. Look for her to get some starts though during the tournament portion of the season, and when the team heads into MAAC play see action as a reliever. Amanda Cannizzo will again be the team's emergency pitcher. She only pitched 3 innings last season, but allowed only 2 singles and no runs.

Canisius has the best 1-2 pitching punch in the MAAC. With a potent offense, the Griffs' pitchers likely will find themselves often pitching with leads. This combination will make them very difficult to beat in '11.

Coming up: 2011 Golden Griffins in the MAAC.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chelsea Plimpton Begins Senior Season

Former Williamsville South High School pitcher Chelsea Plimpton officially began her senior season when the Fordham University Rams opened practice today. Although she pitches behind All-American Jen Mineau, Chelsea made a wise choice when she transferred to the Atlantic 10 school after playing at St. John's her freshman season.
Fordham was an "at large" team in last season's NCAA Tournament, eventually losing to national power Oklahoma in the championship game of the Maryland Regional. This year the Rams enter the new season ranked #18 nationally.

Chelsea has done quite well her two seasons at Fordham, producing a record of 23-6 with a stingy ERA (1.72). The Rams have a very challenging schedule in 2011, and I'm sure as a senior Chelsea will see her share of innings. Fordham will be paying a visit to St. Bonaventure on March 25-26 for a pair of conference games against the Bonnies.
Good luck in '11 Chelsea!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Diamond Girls Blog

The New Era Diamond Girls have their own blog up and running (not affiliated with this one). You'll find the link to it in the blog list on the right hand side of this page.

2011 Season Officially Begins This Week

The student-athletes are returning to campus and practice begins this week in preparation for the 2011 softball season.
First pitch is a month from tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011 Golden Griffins At The Plate

The Golden Griffins will again in 2011 field a lineup that blends speed and power. Having lost only one player to graduation, and with the remaining players gaining a year in experience, we may anticipate the Griffs being just as, if not more, explosive offensively this season.

Let's look at how the team ranked in the MAAC last season: 2nd in average (.300, 23 points ahead of the third ranked team); 1st in hits (412); 1st in doubles (77); 1st in triples (20); 3rd in homers (30). They easily ranked number one in extra base hits. They were 1st in walks (156); 1st in runs (269). In stolen bases, they were 1st with 100 out of 115 attempts. The next ranked team had 59 thefts.

So there you have Coach Rappl's modus operandi ---use the team's speed to get into scoring position, and then drive them all home. The added bonus to this attack was the home run power displayed in 2010. The team this year is loaded with offensive talent.

It all begins with senior Lauren Hope, the team's leadoff hitter. Lauren is a contact hitter who can send the ball to all fields. She also takes what is given her. She seems to try to place the ball where she'll have the chance for the most bases. She's led the conference in triples her last two seasons and was nationally ranked. Give her an inch, and she'll take a base. Lauren is of course most known for her base stealing. She led the MAAC in stolen bases each of her three seasons. She holds the school records for steals in a season and career. She holds the MAAC record for steals in a season, and will likely break the career record this year. She sets the table better than any player in the conference.

Looking at senior Paige Freiberger's career, you will see that she has improved dramatically each season. In 2010 she led the conference in home runs, setting a school record in doing so. She led the team in extra base hits last year. She drove home a career high 46 runs. She easily led the team in walks; she's an expert in getting hit by pitches! She led the team with a hefty .711 slugging percentage. She scored 34 runs and also stole 5 bases as well. But it's not the great numbers that make Paige a dangerous player. She's at her best when the game is on the line. Her biggest moment in 2010 was in the nail biting game against first place Iona. She broke the scoreless pitcher's duel with a line drive triple that won the game 1-0 and gave the Griffs first place. Paige did it again! was a common refrain in 2010. She hit a number of late inning homers to tie and win games also. But for me, I'll always remember the game against Big East champion Syracuse. The Orange's pitcher struck out the first 10 Canisius batters---she was untouchable. Paige had struck out too. But her second at bat she annihilated a pitch over the center field fence for three runs, stunning Syracuse. After that one hit, the Griffs were the better team the rest of the day and gained a split over a very good team. Paige elevates her team's morale and performance. It seems like it will be difficult for her to improve once more, but I believe she can.

Redshirt sophomore Katie Medina I believe will break out as a top MAAC hitter this season. She made a fairly quick adjustment to college pitching during her first season. At one point last year I had a hunch, and doing some math figured out that she was at that time the team's hottest hitter. After a slow start to the season, she ended up with a very solid .298 average. I really like her swing; and she has a great eye---striking out the fewest times on the team. She walks a lot, and is a proficient base stealer (13-14). Scores a lot of runs too. She can hit with power, driving out her first career homer at Youngstown State. She's tall and very athletic. I just see a big upgrade in her game this season.

Junior Katie Lancellotti is a threat to knock the ball out of the park every time she's up. The thing I notice about her is she's always trying to figure out what a pitcher is doing. Every pitch she lets by she looks to see where it went. And then...pow! She improved her power numbers last year, finishing among the conference's leaders in homers and RBIs. I'm looking for her to increase her batting average this season, and I believe she will.

Lizzy Gatto's production is diverse. The junior was having a blistering April last season before she was injured---she was a top 3 MAAC hitter with an over .400 average. She can hit for average; she can hit for power; she can bunt, run and steal. Lizzy was 17 for 19 in stolen bases, and scored 36 runs. She's a tough base runner and hard slider. She can pop one over the fence too, as she did against nationally prominent DePaul. Her injury last season was unfortunate, but there's no quit in Lizzy, she played through it. Look for her to have a big year. Is a captaincy in her future?

Senior Emily Helbig ended up among the MAAC's elite with a .378 average last season. Her biggest hit came against Fairfield and won the game in a 7th inning comeback. Emily hit .777 in the MAAC Tournament (playing twice against the MAAC Pitcher Of The Year)...which of course backs up my claim that she is a MAAC killer. In the games that count the most, she's at her best. But to be honest, I've been most impressed with what I saw from her this past fall season. I know it's only fall ball, but she was smacking it all over the place for extra bases. I guess I see it as an omen. I was reminded that she was an unbelievable high school hitter, and I think that now as she enters her senior season she's going to let it all hang out. She will be an important part of the heart of the Canisius batting lineup.

Senior Kerry Ulmer has a chance to be the team's every day designated player. Early in the 2010 season, she was hitting often and with power. A return to that form should insure her regular playing time, with an occassional stint at first base. Keep an eye on junior Amanda Cannizzo this season. Although she ended last season at .222, she made some huge hits. She uncorked a grand slammer against Rider; and in a big pressure filled situation in the tournament knocked home two seventh inning walk off runs to bring the Griffs back from the dead. She's a tough player. She has been platooning in the outfield, but Coach Rappl rewarded her with some designated player time. Fellow outfielder Lauren Falzone finished at .233 in 2010. She was a perfect 4 for 4 stealing bases; and also used her speed for six extra base hits, including a triple. Chloe Contreras saw limited action as a freshman, but produced when called upon. She hit .286, and scored 7 runs as a pinch runner. The team's primary pinch runner is junior Lauryn Chris. Excellent on the bases, she scored 8 runs and was 3 for 3 in thefts. Sophomore Stephanie Pfentner struggled at the plate her first year, although she did knock home 5 runs. I think that will change this year however as she showed signs in the fall of developing her high school power. As for the freshmen on this year's squad---Marissa Miller is a very athletic player with a big swing, but she saw limited time in fall ball. She may need a season to develop. Pitcher Jen Consaul can hit. I don't know if she'll be doing much of that this season though. But she was taking at bats in fall ball, along with a heavy pitching load. This may develop more next season. You read it here first---Valorie Nappo will be a MAAC Rookie Of The Year contender. My gut feeling is that she going to shock with her play. And remember, it's a talented lineup this season with a lot of upperclassmen. But I think Coach Rappl will have no choice but to play her. And I think she's going to perform well right out of the gate.

The Golden Griffins are going to smack the ball around in 2011. They will also run wild around the bases. If they're pitching, which was stellar last season, progresses, they will be very difficult to beat.
Next up: the Golden Griffins in the circle.

Friday, January 7, 2011

2011 Golden Griffins On The Diamond

I'm going to begin this season's preview of the Canisius College Golden Griffins softball team with a look at their defense. As always, this is from a fan's perspective.


Known best for stolen bases and high batting averages, senior left fielder Lauren Hope also happens to be an outstanding fielder. Her great speed allows her to reach balls others don't. She has a good glove and a very accurate arm; she had 5 assists in 2010.
Junior Lizzy Gatto will once again be in center field. Lizzy is a ball hawk with a very strong arm.
Junior Lauren Falzone has seen all her action in right field; she too uses speed to her advantage. Junior Amanda Cannizzo has played all outfield positions. Sophomore Chloe Contreras has generally played in left field. Freshman Val Nappo could see significant time in right field.
The Griffs' outfield is built on speed. They all run very well and as a result do not allow many extra base hits. In 2010, excluding home runs, Canisius had 97 extra base hits while limiting their opponents to only 40. Excluding home runs, 25% of the Griffs' hits were for extra bases; their opponents were held to 13%. So the Griffs' outfielders are not only busy catching fly balls (some of them great running catches); they are also using their speed to limit total bases. And that limits runs scored.


The Golden Griffins have two seniors at first base: both of them excellent fielders, and both of them are tall. I've written before that I believe Emily Helbig is the best fielder in the MAAC. She's committed only 7 errors in her whole career. She's the kind of player you almost take for granted because she's so steady. She's a player who is always aware of the situation on the field before it happens. The Griffs however would be just fine if Kerry Ulmer played every game at first because she is quite good herself. Another smart player not prone to mental errors who has a great stretch. She will see more time as a designated player though. Freshman Val Nappo looks to step into the starting role next season, but is unlikely to see significant playing time at first base in 2011. For now, she will have to be used elsewhere in the lineup.

The Griffs' have a pair of outstanding second basemen as well. Redshirt sophomore Katie Medina claimed the starting role with increasingly exceptional play in 2010. Athletic and very aware, she likes to play on the lip of the outfield. Once the ball is in play, she moves well, and has a very strong arm. She was in on 4 double plays in 2010, one of them a game saving unassisted 7th inning effort at St. Francis. Junior Lauryn Chris did not see as much playing time in 2010; but she was in on 2 double plays and committed only one error. A smart player with great speed.

Junior Katie Lancellotti is the team's shortstop; and has started every game save one at that position during her career. Katie is not the fastest player on the team, but her great anticipation gets her to balls you think she wouldn't have a chance on. Some of her greatest plays have been infield hits! It looks like a sharp ground ball is going to the left field fence for extras, but there's Katie sweeping it up with a long dive and holding the runner to a single. If you're an opposing player, you may want to think twice about sliding hard into her at second base; she's like a wall while protecting the bag. Katie led the team in 2010 with 85 assists and had a .973 fielding percentage.

Senior Paige Freiberger will play third base every game in 2011. She began her Canisius career at second base; her transition to third upon the graduation of Cameron Norton was smooth. Very alert on the field, she plays bunts very well and is outstanding at chasing down foul balls. She has a quick glove and can make difficult plays seem routine. Paige had a .970 fielding percentage last season while participating in 4 double plays.


Sophomore Stephanie Pfentner has big shoes to fill with the departure of Michelle Fridey, but she was prepared by seeing significant action behind the plate in 2010. Stephanie has good size and moves well and has a very strong arm. Last season she threw out 3 of 6 attempted base stealers. To put that in perspective, the Griffs' opponents threw out only 15 of 100 Griff attempted base stealers. She allowed only one passed ball as well. Freshman Marissa Miller will back her up. Marissa is also athletic and quick. She should get a chance at significant playing time.

Defense should once again be a strength of the Golden Griffins in 2011. Lots of speed; and anchors at key positions.
Next up: the 2011 Golden Griffins at the plate.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Season

Our thaw is ended, and winter has returned. But here I am another year later informing you that softball season begins next month! This year the Golden Griffins begin their quest in Mt. Pleasant, SC at the College Of Charleston Cougar Classic. They will play at Patriots Point Athletic Complex (pictured), a very nice ball park in which to begin their season.

In the coming days of this month I will preview in detail the Griffs' 2011 team. Over at our MAAC blog, I've begun to preview the Griffs' rivals. I think it's going to be a very exciting MAAC season.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2012 Canisius Softball Schedule

February 10-12
Pirate Classic
Greenville, NC

February 10
Drexel 12 pm
@ East Carolina 4 pm

February 11
Virginia 10 am
@ East Carolina 2 pm

February 12
Drexel 10 am

February 19
@ Hampton (DH) 12 pm

February 20
@ Norfolk State (DH) 1 pm

March 2-4
UMBC Classic
Baltimore, MD

March 2
James Madison 11:25 am
@ UMBC 3:45 pm

March 3
Princeton 9:15 am

March 4
Princeton 9:15 am
Coppin State 11:25 am

March 9-11
South Florida Under Armour Showcase
Clearwater, FL

March 9
Toledo 2 pm
E. Tennessee St. 6:30 pm

March 10
Wisconsin-Green Bay 9:15 am
Cleveland St. 11:30 am

March 11
N. Iowa 9 am

March 13
@ Florida Gulf Coast (DH) 3 pm

March 14
Dutch National Team 2 pm
@ South Florida 5 pm

March 16-18
South Florida The Game Tournament
Tampa, FL

March 16
Tennessee-Chattanooga 4:30 pm
Maryland 6:45 pm

March 17
Long Island 9 am
Bryant 11:15 am

March 18
Towson 11:15

March 24
Duel At The Dome
Syracuse, NY

Colgate 10 am
@ Syracuse 12:30 am

March 28
@Buffalo 4pm

April 3
Detroit Mercy (DH) 3 pm
Demske Sports Complex

April 5
Mount St. Mary's (DH) 3 pm
Demske Sports Complex

April 7
Siena (DH)* 2 pm
Demske Sports Complex

April 9
@ Robert Morris (DH) 2 pm
Moon Township, PA

April 11
Buffalo 4pm
Demske Sports Complex

April 14
Fairfield (DH)* 12 pm
Demske Sports Complex

April 15
Iona (DH)* 12 pm
Demske Sports Complex

April 17
@St. Bonaventure (DH) 3 pm
Olean, NY

April 21
@ Manhattan (DH)* TBA
Riverdale, NY

April 22
@St. Peter's (DH)* TBA
Jersey City, NJ

April 28
@ Marist (DH)* TBA
Poughkeepsie, NY

May 2
@ Niagara (DH)* 3 pm
Lewiston, NY

May 6
Rider (DH)* 12 pm
Demske Sports Complex

May 10-12
Poughkeepsie, NY

*MAAC Games