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The Hatters will open up their season this weekend, hosting the annual Stetson Lead-Off Classic
by: David S. Williams
2014 Stetson Softball Preview
Courtesy: Stetson University  
Release:  02/03/2014
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The 30th season of Stetson fastpitch is quickly approaching, and with it, the goals and expectations of a new year. The Hatters are coming off a season in which they went 31-22 and set an all-time program record with 45 home runs.  The offense looks to pick up where it left off a season ago with the return of 2013 home-run leaders Meredith Owen (11) and Demi Meza (10). The pair became the first in Stetson history with double-digit home-run totals in the same season, and with 35 of those 45 long balls returning in 2014, there is reason to be optimistic.

“I think our offense is going to be able to do a good job,” said 18-year head coach Frank Griffin. “I don’t know if this will be another record breaking year, but I do know that we have the talent to score some runs.”

Stetson scored at a blistering pace last year, plating 4.6 runs per game, its highest average since 2005.

Griffin not only expects his team to put crooked numbers on the board this season because of their power, but he feels speed is another vital component to the offensive equation .

“This is perhaps overall the fastest team I’ve had in my career,” Griffin explained. “We also have a lot of pop to go with it, so I think we are going to score some runs especially as the season goes on.”

One of the fastest Hatters is senior Chrissy Morello, who will anchor the outfield for Griffin in 2014. The four-year starter led her team in steals each of the past three seasons and has 67 stolen bags to date. Another Stetson speedster is freshman Jessie TenBroeck, who set a record for career stolen bases at her high school and looks to continue her quick ways on the base paths of Patricia Wilson Field.

To complement the Hatter offense is a veteran pitching corps, which returns all four components from a year ago. Seniors Sarah Read and Owen return for their final seasons in DeLand, and are joined in the circle by juniors Courtney Brandt and Taylor Cochran. Owen led all Hatter hurlers last season with a 1.96 ERA and a 22-10 record in 207.2 innings pitched, while Brandt picked up eight victories during her 20 appearances.

“I am really pleased with the depth we have on the mound, and all four pitchers have improved since last season,” Griffin said. “And I contribute a lot of that to their strength training, for example, Meredith is approximately five miles per hour faster than she was last year.”

Owen is not the only pitcher from whom Griffin has seen progress during the off-season as her senior counterpart, Read, is now healthy and ready for a full season.

“Sarah has had the most improvement because last year she was recovering from arm surgery, so there is a huge difference in her performance from last year to this year," Griffin said.

Backing up the pitching staff will be a solid defensive unit, including 2013 A-Sun All-Freshman team members Kayla Drury and Brittany Hawn. The two infielders combined for 161 putouts and 191 assists in their first season of collegiate ball, and are looking to become even stronger with their gloves during their sophomore campaigns. Fellow sophomore Morgan Hatch along with Meza and junior transfer Amanda Grimaldo will also see time in the Stetson infield, giving Coach Griffin a number of defensive combinations to choose from.

“I would like to have an infield that makes routine plays routinely,” Griffin said. “No big flashy plays or bobbling of the ball, and I feel confident that the players we have out there will do just that.”

The Hatters also boast depth behind the plate with junior Allison Sutherlin and a third A-Sun All-Freshman team member in now-sophomore, Jessica Griffin.

Another deep position for Griffin figures to be the outfield, with Morello in center and a combination of returners Mallory Brooks, Molly Shasteen and Brandt along with freshmen Lydia Kinney, Kelsey Waters and TenBroeck in left and right.

“We’ve got some depth there too,” Griffin explained about his outfield. “Molly and Mallory do a good job in the outfield and Courtney plays a good outfield when she’s not pitching, so a lot of the playing time there is going to be determined by who is hot at the plate.”

Griffin is also looking forward to seeing what his four newcomers can do come the regular season. The quartet saw action during fall ball but will officially make their Stetson debuts this spring.

“They are all very good athletes and show a lot of determination,” Griffin said of his three freshmen and one junior transfer. “They have a lot of drive and discipline so I am just looking forward to seeing them play.”

The Hatters open the season, Feb. 7-8 as they host Michigan State and Rhode Island in the Stetson Lead-Off Classic. Stetson then hosts the Hatter Invitational (Feb. 14-16), before hitting the road to take part in the UCF Tournament (Feb. 28-March 1) in Orlando. The Stetson Classic (March 7-9) is the final tournament SU will host before the start of conference play, March 11, vs. USC Upstate in DeLand. The Hatters are scheduled to play 27 A-Sun games in 2014, with a dozen at home. Stetson will also take on Bethune-Cookman, Marist and Buffalo in non-conference home match-ups throughout the year. The Atlantic Sun Championship will again be hosted by Lipscomb from May 7-10 in Nashville, Tenn. 

Follow the Hatters on Twitter (@StetsonSoftball), Facebook (Stetson Fastpitch) and Instagram (StetsonSoftball) during the 2014 season for all the latest photos, articles and updates. 



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