By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- After finishing below .500 in back-to-back seasons, the Bridgewater State University softball team appears ready to return to its winning ways.
The Bears return 11 players, including six who earned All-Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference honors, from a team that was 18-19 last season.
Bridgewater State, which went 9-5 in the MASCAC, opens the season by playing 10 games in central Florida starting with a doubleheader on Saturday against Roger Williams University and Washington College of Maryland in Clermont.
“I think that this team has the potential to make it to the NCAAs and even compete if we were to get to regionals,” said second-year coach Lindsay Couturier. “That’s going to take us firing on all cylinders. We just can’t have our pitching be on one day. We really have to hone in on the pitching, the offense and the defense all coming together. That’s how we’re going to win.
“I do have a good solid group of returners with lots of experience, lots of different talents. They all play hard, that’s something a coach loves.”
Three first-team All-MASCAC selections return including first baseman Shannon Grindle of Halifax, second baseman Jenny Heller, a former Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High standout, and outfielder Kacie Carvalho.
Grindle, who also made the all-region third team, hit .404 with nine homers, nine doubles and 34 RBI, Heller batted .402 with 41 hits, including nine doubles and three homers and Carvalho led the team with a .430 average, getting 43 hits.
They are joined by all-conference second team picks Samantha Mulcahy, a middle infielder from Taunton who batted .355 with 43 hits, MASCAC rookie of the year Alexandra Ruprecht of Kingston, who hit .325, and pitcher Natalie Sorrenti of Bridgewater, who was 9-4 with a 2.04 earned run average after joining the team in the middle of the season.
“We definitely have some good experience with her,” said Couturier of Sorrenti, a Bridgewater-Raynham graduate.
Sorrenti, a junior, has three freshman with her on the pitching staff, including Laura Hatch of Middleboro, Kelly Reichert and Katherine Ryan.
“I’m very excited for the three of them,” said Couturier of the first-year pitchers who are among nine freshmen on the roster. “They have different pitches that work well in different situations. It’ll be nice to finally have an actual pitching staff.”
Other returning players include seniors Courtney Gouveia, a third baseman from Taunton, outfielder Mackenzie Holt, first baseman Rebecca Uschmann and catcher Tabitha Domeij along with junior outfielder Meghan Navarro of Taunton and sophomore infielder Krista Kennedy.
The other freshmen are outfielder Michaela Nista of Halifax, catchers Alexandra Taylor and Allison Kuchy, infielder Megan Sharon and utility player Emma Healy of Plymouth.
“We’ve got a bigger roster with 20 kids this season,” said Couturier, whose team has been practicing indoors since Jan. 20. “I like to emphasize that we need every single one of them to win every game. Whether you’re my starting pitcher or the last one of the bench, you have a job and we’re not going to be successful unless everyone does her job.”
After the trip to Florida, Bridgewater State is scheduled to open the New England portion of the schedule at Wheaton College on March 19 with the home opener a twinbill against Rhode Island College on March 21.
The MASCAC season begins on March 30 with a doubleheader at Salem State. In the preseason poll, the Bears are picked to finish third, tied with Westfield State behind defending champion Framingham State and Worcester State.