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Friday, March 4, 2011 - page 2

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Season Preview
softball finds strength in numbers

More than in past years, it's not unusual to see members of the Muhlenberg softball team resting at practice.

It's not that the Mules are taking it easy. They have been working hard in anticipation of the 2011 season, which begins on Sunday with
Alyssa Epstein
Epstein hit a career-best .292 in 65 at-bats last year.
two games in Clermont, Fla. It's just that there are so many players on the roster, when they do one of their conditioning drills they get a little break in between turns while waiting for all of their teammates to go.

Muhlenberg finished the last two seasons with 14 and 13 players, respectively. This year, the Mules number 19, and the difference has already been noticed.

"It's nice to have a lot more people," said Alyssa Epstein, one of four seniors on the team. "In the past we haven't had a lot of options. Now we have people who can move around to different positions."

The expanded roster is a product of a strong group of returning players and a talented freshman class of seven.

"They're really good," said Epstein of the newcomers. "They work well with the rest of the team; they fit right in. And they're very dedicated."

The veteran players are dedicated to turning around
Alyssa Bruckner
Bruckner received All-Centennial Conference honorable mention in 2009.
last year's 14-19 record and returning to the form that allowed Muhlenberg to win the 2009 Centennial Conference championship.

The pitching staff figures to be solid, with the Mules returning their "Killer ABs" in seniors Ashley Brewer and Alyssa Bruckner. Each won six games last year, and both have thrown no-hitters.

Sophomore Angie Sisco, who led the staff with a 2.71 ERA last year, is also expected to have a big year.

Muhlenberg struggled at times on offense last year, scoring two or fewer runs in 17 of the 33 games, but according to Epstein that should change.

"[New head coach Marisa DeStasio] has a different way to teach us hitting," she said. "I really like the way she's teaching batting, and I think it's going to help us put more balls in play and score more runs."

Whether she's pitching or playing second base, Brewer will be one of the focal points of the offense. The 2010 CC player of the year hit .430 with 3 home runs, 13 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Senior shortstop Jess Kasza battled through injuries to lead the team in doubles (7) and RBI (15).

Junior Shelby Smith will also see time at second base, with a pair of freshmen manning the corner infield positions.

Returning in the outfield are Epstein and sophomores Devon Barber and Jessica Costa. Barber hit .301 as a freshman, and her team-leading 23 stolen bases helped the Mules set a school record with 72 thefts. Costa, the fastest player on the team, is prepared to have a breakout season.

Junior Brittany Blohm (.258, 11 RBI) moves from first base to behind the plate, where she will be joined by sophomores Brielle Klein (.275) and Elizabeth Sullivan (8 RBI).

"Our main goal is to 'play in May,' as we say - get back to the Centennial Conference playoffs," said Epstein. "I think talent-wise we'll be able to make it if we work hard."

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