Softball to field one catcher, pair of aces

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 at 5:35 PM
Softball to field one catcher, pair of aces by Chris Rosato Jr.
Photo: Christopher Rosato Jr.

While Head Softball Coach Dan Gierlak tested out a number of different lineups during his team’s 12 games over seven days in Florida, they all seemed to confirm what he hinted at prior to his team departing for their annual spring break trip:

The Fighting Scots will rely on just two pitchers, and one true catcher, to get them through the 2019 season.

Last year, the trio of Carley Nasca, Amanda Metz and senior Kerri Stevens shared time in the circle. The departed Stevens spent most of the season in a late-innings role, meaning the Fighting Scots would have to augment their pitching strategy coming into 2019.

All 12 games this season have featured some combination of the duo of Nasca and Metz — except two games that saw each of them go the distance. Metz went all seven innings in a loss against University of Mary on March 5, though she surrendered just five hits and two runs (one earned). Nasca recorded 11 strikeouts while giving up just one unearned run in a 6-1 win against Walsh University on March 9.

“I feel really good about those two. I think that as a one-two combination, as a starter and a closer, man it’s two totally different pitchers,” Gierlak said of Nasca and Metz. “One’s a down-ball pitcher that can come up and change her speeds, and then you got one that can throw that curve and likes to throw the screwball in and curveball away.”

On the other side of the battery, Roni Lipinski will once again be leaned on to make the bulk of the starts behind the plate. Last year, she had freshman Rose Haggerty as a backup, but Haggerty is unavailable due to injury.

Prior to the spring trip, redshirt senior Jessica Little took reps at catcher in the event she was needed, and made one start behind the plate to give Lipinski a breather — though Lipinski would pinch-hit for Little and finish the game at catcher, finishing the trip having caught in all 12 games.

“Roni did a great job,” Gierlak said of her performance in Florida. “You can tell when Roni has the energy. That’s what makes us go. Roni is our leader out there. She’s got to be vocal. That’s our quarterback out there. She has to be the one that takes charge.”

Nasca, Metz and Lipinski will be joined in the lineup by a suite of players that have all improved significantly following their 6-25 season last year, Gierlak said.

“Those kids are taking that experience they got last year, and we’re a totally different team,” he explained. “Like I said earlier, we’re battling people, and it doesn’t matter who’s out there — we’re still battling them. We’ve just got a couple things to shore up offensively and defensively, and we’ll be in pretty good shape. We really will.”

Last season, the Fighting Scots found themselves filling four positions left vacant by senior starters. Every Edinboro starter has returned this season with the exception of Stevens, the only senior last year. This year they have 12 seniors. 

Among the returners, senior Olivia Jankowski and graduate student Danna Heh were selected to the All-PSAC West team a year ago. Jankowski, Edinboro’s center fielder, was selected as an outfielder, while Heh was chosen in one of the at-large spots.

The experienced squad will look to improve on a 2-16 PSAC record.

“We’ve just got to continue to get ourselves better every game…and force other teams to make mistakes instead of us putting the pressure back on us,” Gierlak said. “It’s a very tough [conference]. You’re playing against teams that are very good all the way through.”

Edinboro was picked to finish last in the Western division in the PSAC Softball Coaches’ Preseason Poll. They continue their season March 23 when they head south to the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in a non-division match-up.

Christopher Rosato Jr. | sports.spectator@gmail.com

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