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St. John’s softball team hoping for improvement

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If the St. John’s softball team’s early season results are any indication, then third-year coach Melody Cope has good reason to be optimistic heading into the Big East season.

The Red Storm led No. 4 Florida State until the sixth inning before falling 7-4 and then dropped a 2-1 decision to No. 10 Louisiana-Lafayette, 2-1, on the following day.

“We’re stepping up against bigger competition,” Cope said. “We don’t seem to be intimidated by better teams despite being young. Usually young teams play to the name on the front of the shirt.”

St. John’s, picked to finish fifth in the Big East by the conference coaches, is 9-13 overall and lost four games in the last at-bat.

But with fifth-year senior Courtney Fitzgerald — the team’s lone senior — still recovering from last year’s rib injury, St. John’s should be in pretty good shape when the Big East season opens April 4 at Providence.

Fitzgerald, a former Mary Louis Academy standout, is 3-1 with a 1.88 earned run average but has been on a strict pitch court in the early season.

When healthy, she combines with fellow lefty Meghan Allman (3-4, 2.58 ERA) to make one of the top 1-2 punches from the circle in the Big East.

Because both pitchers have been felled by injury, Cope brought in three additional pitchers to add depth to the staff, including offspeed righty Katie Watson, who will be the team’s closer.

“The nice thing is that Katie complements the other pitchers well,” Cope said of Watson, a transfer from Paradise Valley Community College in Arizona. “With her, it’s just throwing the batters’ timing off. It’s hard for them to make the adjustment.”

Sophomore centerfielder Jo Sherlock (.382, 3 HR and 19 RBIs) leads an improved lineup this year that is collectively hitting .274. Also back for the Red Storm is first baseman Allina Sainz, Jillian Sandoval, who moves to third base after catching last year, designated player Megan Oliver and rightfield­er/shortstop Jessica Marcial.

Leading a talented group of freshmen is second baseman Tami Hill, who is second on the team with a .316 batting average, catcher Christina Tucker, who leads the team with four home runs, and shortstop Loren Anguiano, who has missed the last four games with a concussion.

After playing at Providence April 4, the Red Storm plays its next eight Big East games on the road before finishing the season with eight consecutive conference games at home, starting with a doubleheader against Villanova May 1.

“We tend to play better at home,” Cope said. “Hopefully we’re still in the (hunt for a Big East tournament berth) by that point.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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