Ah, home sweet home. There is nothing more lovely for a team than to play on familiar turf. If youre game is softball, then home field advantage means knowing which way the ball will bounce down the fair line and where a batted ball can take a bad hop.
For the last three seasons, the St. Johns University softball team (30-31, 8-12 in 2001) didnt know that feeling. While the University was undergoing a major facelift to its landscape, it left the Red Storm without a place to call home. Most games were played at Mitchell Field in Long Island and other college fields in the area.
Now with a field nestled nicely behind the campus resident halls, head coach Melody Cope hopes to push her team past the .500 mark and into post-season play.
Having the field will help us better deal with the wear and tear of the season,î Cope said. With a field by the dorms, we hope to get support from the student body and more parents at the game.
Parents and students will have something to cheer about, as Cope believes that the 2002 Red Storm is the deepest and most talented squad shes coached since her arrival three years ago.
This is the strongest team Ive had since Ive been here, Cope said. But staying healthy is going to be the biggest difference this season.
Like the St. Johns baseball team, Copes crew is dealing with injuries to the starting pitching staff.
Along with losing Gina Calabrese to graduation, senior Courtney Fitzgerald (16-14, 1.96 ERA in 2001) had surgery during the off-season to repair a tendon in her left wrist. The southpaw is still a couple of weeks away from picking up a ball. Sophomore Kate Cucciniello still has a sore shoulder has she recovers from surgery in the rotator cuff area.
Filling in for the two has been freshman Meghan Allman. All ready this season the San Diego native has pitched a no-hitter and will pitch the bulk of the games until Fitzgerald and Cucciniello are ready.
She was a little shaky at first, but sheís coming in to her own, Cope said. Meghanís very confident on the mound with a lot of composure.
While the pitching staff has been able to survive with injuries, the Red Storm offense is struggling as in seasons past. As of March 11, St. John's (8-13) was hitting an anemic .183, last among all Big East teams. Part of the reason for the paltry average is that senior Kelly Houghton is battling a sore shoulder that will require surgery at the end of the season. Houghton could have undergone surgery to her rotator cuff during the off- season, but she did not want to miss her senior year.
Shes a tough kid, Cope said. Shes been struggling but shes hanging in there.
Houghton broke the Red Storm record for home runs in a season with nine. She also drove in 33 runs and compiled a .461 slugging percentage.
St. Johns opens the Big East schedule on the road this weekend against Connecticut and Syracuse.
Reach Contributing Writer William Hernandez by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2002 Community News Group
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