BRADFORD, Pa. – The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford softball team is set to open its 2018 season with 10 games in the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Lee County, Fla., next week.
Pitt-Bradford is led by longtime Head Coach Tina Phillips, who is entering her 15th season at the helm of the Panthers softball program. Phillips has garnered an overall mark of 260-256-2 and an impressive 150-102 record in AMCC during her tenure at Pitt-Bradford.
Backed by experience, Pitt-Bradford returns 16 players from last year's team while welcoming seven freshmen.
"Things are going really well with this team so far," Phillips said. "We had a great Fall season. We have a lot of returners back, so having depth at each position is something that not only makes everyone better individually but makes us a better team."
Dadzaa, an All-AMCC First Team selection last season, played in all 39 games and led the AMCC with 25 stolen bases and 41 runs scored. She finished third in the conference with a .410 batting average, a .448 on-base percentage and 55 hits. On defense, she was a regular in the outfield and made just one error.
East, an All-AMCC Second Team selection, also played in all 39 games during her freshman campaign. She was the Panthers' top run producer with 32 RBIs with a .569 slugging percentage while hitting all three of the team's total home runs. Her nine doubles and three triples also led the Panthers.
Betty Fratercangelo earned a spot on the All-AMCC Third Team during her freshman campaign, dropping in 21 hits for a .309 batting average. She led the team with 14 walks and posted an on-base percentage of .447. She also scored 14 runs – tied for the third-most on the team.
Harding played in 20 games last season and saw time as the Panther catcher while Dzurisin pitched 46.2 innings in the circle while also posting a .282 batting average in 103 at-bats.
"As my only senior, Natalie is going to provide a lot of leadership, both on and off the field," Phillips said. "And Liz saw a lot of innings for us last year and will play a lot of different positions for us this year."
"At this point, a lot of our players have seen a lot of time on the field, so that should be resulting in more victories in the win column," Phillips said.
Freshmen newcomers Chandler White (Pittsburgh, Pa.) comes in as a power bat for the Panthers and will see time at first base. Gabby Carpenter (Olean, N.Y.) and Jessica Millron (Morrisdale, Pa.) will aid the Panthers' depth in both the outfield and infield.
In the circle for the Panthers, Morgan Bellush leads all returners with 79.2 innings pitched last season. She posted a 3.08 ERA in 18 appearances while striking out a team-leading 27 batters.
Also back from last season's pitching staff is Dzurisin (4-4, four complete games) and Hribal (4-4, 42.2 innings).
Kerrigan Hoffmann (Gillett, Pa.) and Jordan Uhing (Aliquippa, Pa.) will provide pitching depth, while Kendra Colegrove (Elkland, Pa.) and Emily McIntosh (Cheektowaga, N.Y.) will join them as battery mates behind the plate.
Last season, Pitt-Bradford finished 7-11 in AMCC play and seventh in the conference, just one game back from Mount Aloysius and Franciscan which both took the last two playoff spots at 8-10. AMCC coaches selected the Panthers to finish sixth in this year's Preseason Coaches Poll.
"Our theme this year is 'one'," Phillips said. "We missed the playoffs by just one game. We lost six games by one run last season. One pitch. One family. One game at a time."
After opening up its season in Florida, the Panthers will travel to Virginia for four games on March 17 and 18.
The first home action is scheduled for March 24 against Westminster.
The Panthers' home schedule is highlighted by eight games against conference opponents, hosting Hilbert (March 28), Pitt-Greensburg (April 7), Mount Aloysius (April 14) and Penn State-Altoona (April 21).
"Every conference game is going to be huge for us," Phillips said. "We can't take anyone lightly. Our conference has improved so much over the years across the board. If our pitching can be consistent and if we can get the power to match the athleticism we had last year, I think we'll have a lot of success."