The Plattsburgh State softball team is kicking off the 2013 season in Florida, where it will face three teams it met in the NCAA tournament last year.
Starting this morning against Ramapo, Plattsburgh will play 12 games in seven days at the National Training Center Spring Games in Clermont, Fla.
Plattsburgh is coming off a season where it went 35-11 and reached the NCAA Division III Softball Championship finals.
This afternoon, the Cardinals will play Keene State, which they defeated for an NCAA regional title last year. Other opponents at the Spring Games include Amherst, which was also at the regional tournament, and Tufts, which beat them in the finals.
Coach Stephanie Zweig said the Cardinals aren’t really worried about who they’re playing.
“I’m hoping that we‘ve worked really hard not to set expectations, just focus on key things like working together, being an offensive powerhouse,” Zweig said. “Little things that have little to do with the opponent and are just about us. We’re just trying to keep it to our game.”
Plattsburgh returns starters at a number of key positions, including pitcher, where All-American Ashley Marshall is back for her senior season. But the Cardinals lost five seniors and have seven freshmen on the roster.
“I think we have some key players still with us like Ashley, and they make us more experienced than ever,” Zweig said. “Having players still here that went through last year, the seniors and juniors, is helping the team work out the kinks early on.”
One hole Plattsburgh has to fill is at catcher, where Erin Florkiewicz played last year. Besides being strong defensively, the senior hit .376 with 41 hits and 25 RBI. Zweig said junior Sam Tenney, a Morrisonville native, will catch this season. Tenney played a few games last year.
Likewise, senior Kristin Nabor will step into an outfield spot after playing just three games last season.
The Cardinals have three of their top five hitters back, including junior first baseman Brianna Clarke, who led the team with a .385 average and 52 hits last year. Shortstop Brittany Marshall hit .345, while outfielder Megan Price had a team-high seven home runs and a .292 average.
Marshall has been Plattsburgh’s top pitcher the last three seasons. She boasted a 1.53 ERA last year while throwing 275 strikeouts and set a school record with 25 wins. Heather Loughran, who started about half the games last year, graduated, and the Cardinals brought in freshmen Morgan Anderson and Samantha Moss.
Zweig expects both players to see time in the pitching circle this season and said the trio should be tough for opponents to prepare for.
“We definitely have a different look about us with the pitchers. I think we have more variety than we’ve ever had,” Zweig said. “Every one of them is different. I’m looking forward to people not being able to think about just facing Ashley when they face us.”
Plattsburgh finished second in the SUNY Athletic Conference in 2012 but then made a run through the playoffs, claiming the SUNYAC Championship and the Amherst Regional championship before falling in two games at the NCAA finals.
The Cardinals are currently ranked ninth in the NFCA Division III Top 25 Poll without having played a game. Zweig said last year’s success may ramp up outsiders’ expectations, but the Cardinals are trying not to look at it that way.
“I think maybe some of the individuals on our team think about it, but we’ve rarely talked about it,” Zweig said. “It’s a new team; there’s so many new faces with seven freshmen, you really take on a whole new identity. I’m hoping we can have the same success with a new identity — not try to repeat last year, but just continue the success of the program.”
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