Softball excited for fresh start after 2011 struggles

Senior Rachael Matreale won five games last year and threw 20 complete games. Matreale is Rider’s top starter this season.

By Kevin Whitehead

Senior relief pitcher Kelsey Krisch wants this year’s softball team to be noticed. After three years of representing the Rider softball team, she wants to cause a stir on campus. And surely Krisch is not the only one who feels this way.

“We want to be recognized,” Krisch said.

Senior Rachael Matreale, last season’s second team All-MAAC selection and the Broncs’ ace, is confident about the upcoming season.

“Our number one goal is to get to the [MAAC] Tournament and eventually win it,” she said. “We have been using last year as motivation to do a lot better.”

The 2012 campaign kicks off this weekend with the Spartan Classic at UNC-Greensboro, where Rider will start with a clean slate after a dismal 9-37 record overall in 2011. Krisch and the Broncs are looking to be a top-four team this year.

“This year is looking very promising,” Krisch said. “We’ve been working really hard, especially being able to get outside before this weekend’s matchups [at UNC-Greensboro].”

Fresh faces such as freshman shortstop and Marlton N.J. native Gina McCool should bring a refreshing intensity to a team that has had its share of battles.

“It’s really exciting [to be at this level],” McCool said. “The competition is the best that it can be. You just have to be on top of your game. You don’t have time to waste. The only way to get better is to play with people that are good players.”

Krisch is excited about the additions of McCool and the rest of the freshmen.

“[McCool] really steps up,” Krisch said. “She takes the leading role at shortstop. I’m really looking forward to see how [the infield] is going to play out.”

McCool and her fellow freshmen have paid attention to the advice of Rider’s veterans.

“We have great leadership,” McCool said. “When [the freshmen] are lost or confused, we start back over and learn from the seniors.”

Matreale will start the year on the hill for Rider after posting career-highs in earned run average (3.14) and strikeouts (158).

“We definitely need to start off a lot stronger this year,” Matreale said. “Once we do that, we can get into the groove of the game.”

Along with Matreale, seniors Lucy Higgins, Samantha Mayer and Krisch are captains this season. Junior third baseman and leading hitter (.327) from 2011, Alyssa Paul, will return for another season at the hot corner after missing part of last season. These key returners will have to step up because of the loss of last year’s leading home run hitter, Brittany Eckett, to graduation.

The Broncs will have to play more of a small-ball game to compete with the top MAAC competition.

“I think we can do well,” Matreale said. “We’ve been working on our small game like bunting more and stealing.”

Rider takes on Drexel today at 11 a.m. to start the Spartan Classic, and to begin what it hopes to be a solid season.

“I think we are looking at top four in the MAAC,” Matreale said. “We definitely have the talent to do it.”

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