SB | Versatile Infield Set for Big Year
The Gaels possess a strong balance of veteran leadership and youthful talent in the infield leading up to the 2018 season.
MORAGA, Calif. -- Saint Mary’s softball opens 2018 this Friday at the Kajikawa Tournament in Tempe, Ariz., and will face several powerhouse opponents throughout the three-day invitational. Now just two days away from the season’s first pitch, we will take a deeper look into the infielders.
ANCHOR THE DEFENSE
The Gaels possess a strong defensive presence in the infield highlighted by Hailey Sparacino and junior Bailey Lotz.
“We will definitely look to Hailey and Bailey to anchor and lead the defense,” stated Saint Mary’s head coach Jessica Rodgers. “They are great examples of hard work and leadership for not only the freshman but for the rest of the team.”
Strong in the field and at the plate, Sparacino played in all 48 games her junior season and was third with a .285 batting average. The senior out of Martinez, Calif. was second on the team with 41 hits in 2017 and led the squad with 28 RBIs. A key piece at shortstop, Sparacino had 62 putouts and a .936 fielding percentage.
Lotz enters her junior campaign after starting in 44 games. Playing at first base in 2017, Lotz led SMC with 305 putouts and was second on the team with her .988 fielding percentage.
Along with their performance on the field, Sparacino and Lotz continue to improve every player with their valuable leadership.
READY FOR ANOTHER BIG YEAR
After starting in all 48 games and named First Team All West Coast Conference, Nikki Alexander headlines the young players in the infield.
“Nikki had a great freshman year,” stated Rodgers. “But, knowing Nikki, she always wants to get better.”
The second year player ranked fifth in the WCC in batting average (.355) and ranked third in on-base percentage (.452). Alongside her excellence at the plate, Alexander offered strong play at second base with a .955 fielding percentage.
“Nikki works hard on and off the field and it shows in her play,” said Rodgers. “She will continue to keep getting better.”
The Gaels have a strong crop of youthful talent with seven players in the infield who are either first or second year players.
Following the leadership of the veterans, the new players have continued to make strides leading into the season’s opening weekend.
“The most impressive part of this group going into the season has been their continuous improvements and versatility,” said Rodgers.
Halle Sullivan, Jaymee Campbell and Leilani Huey have proven to be valuable, versatile players for the team as the trio continues to be key pieces with sacrifice hits and strong defense. Kenedi Lopes and Julia McCormack are two first year players that continue to impress leading up to the first pitch.
Lopes hails from Honolulu and was selected as a First Team All League and Second Team All State during her time at ‘Iolani high school. McCormack hails from Elk Grove, Calif., and was a First Team All Conference as a senior at Pleasant Grove High. The freshman was voted Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.
Saint Mary’s will have a doubleheader on Friday, Feb. 9 to open the Kajikawa Tournament. The Gaels will first battle New Mexico at 11:45 a.m. PT and Notre Dame at 5:15 p.m.
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