By COURTNEY LEWIS
---- — The Plattsburgh State softball team begins the northern portion of its schedule this weekend but still won’t play at home until April 12. And that’s one of just four home dates this season.
The Cardinals, who typically start the season with a bunch of games in a warmer locale, are used to playing away from Cardinal Park and aren’t worried about all the road trips they have to take this year.
“We love playing at home because we love our fans, but playing away, it also gives us a chance to shut people down at their own places,” third baseman Sam Capobianco said. “So that’s always exciting. It’s definitely an opportunity.”
The Cardinals (7-5) open the SUNY Athletic Conference season today with a doubleheader at Geneseo, and they’ll play Brockport in Geneseo on Saturday.
The Blue Knights (4-8) spent the early part of their season in Maryland and Florida. Their wins include Amherst and UMass Boston, two teams that Plattsburgh also beat, but they lost the last four games of the trip.
Samantha Trapasso, a junior infielder, was named SUNYAC Player of the Week after leading Geneseo during the trip. She batted .481 and hit three home runs.
Last year in Plattsburgh, the Knights lost 5-4 and then came back to thump the Cardinals 8-1.
Brockport (4-7) won two of its last three games during a Florida trip last week. The Golden Eagles split their doubleheader against the Cardinals last year.
“When we go into conference, we know that each team we play is capable of beating us because we just have an intense conference,” Plattsburgh coach Stephanie Zweig said. “Everybody wants to beat us, especially, because we are the ones to beat as of last year. So I think that everyone goes in wanting to beat us, and we go in wanting to play our game.”
Catcher Samantha Tenney is leading Plattsburgh with a .440 batting average and 11 hits. Shortstop Brittany Marshall has driven in a team-high seven runs while batting .286, and first baseman Brianna Clarke is hitting .303.
Ashley Marshall saw most of the action in the pitching circle during the Cardinals’ spring break trip, compiling a 6-2 record and a 1.07 ERA.
Plattsburgh, which is ranked 25th in the NFCA Division III Top 25 Poll, was picked first in the SUNYAC Preseason Poll earlier this month. The Cardinals received eight first-place votes and finished six points ahead of second-place Cortland. Brockport was picked third.
Capobianco said the Cardinals know they’re looked at as the team to beat.
“I guess everyone’s going to portray it to be that way, but we just want to stay on top because that’s how we are,” Capobianco said. “So hopefully nobody takes it as some sort of pressure. Just we want to be the best because we definitely believe we are the best.”
Plattsburgh finished second in the regular season behind Cortland last year and then beat the Red Dragons to win the SUNYAC Tournament. While the conference race has frequently come down to the Cardinals and Red Dragons in recent years, Zweig’s not sure how things will shape up this season.
“You never know,” she said. “There’s a lot of different pitchers out on the mound, so I think there’s going to be a different look to each team that we face. But I still do believe that we’re a strong contender. I think we’re at the top of our game, and I just hope that shows when we take the field against these other teams.”
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