COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With the loss of just one senior to graduation, Head Coach Marcella Vanlandingham is looking for depth and experience to be a big part of the 2014 softball campaign. Vanlandingham, entering her 19th year, is also the program's all-time winningest coach, with 539 victories.
Last year's squad finished 23-28-1 overall and 17-9 in conference action. Highlights included a two-game sweep over Tiffin for the first time in program history, a thrilling 18-17 comeback win over Concordia University (Mich.), and coach Vanlandingham's first ever career tie against Concordia in the second half of the double-header.
"I am really excited about this season," said Vanlandingham. "We have one of the best and strongest freshman class I have had in a while, and depth we haven't seen in the past couple of seasons. We have a lot of players who are interchangeable in the field and that is really exciting to see."
The Panther infield returns three starters from last season. Senior Caitlin Jividen (Wheeling, W. Va.) will occupy one half of the middle infield at shortstop. Jividen earned GLIAC Second Team honors and was selected as the conference player of the week in March. She led the team in batting average (.348), doubles (12), and stolen bases with 11. The senior was second on the team with 20 RBI and second with a slugging percentage of .481. In the field, she committed just 13 errors.
Junior Taylor Thomas (Bellville, Ohio) will make the transition from first base to third this season. She earned GLIAC Honorable Mention honors and started in 51 games. She split her time between first and third base where she posted a .977 fielding percentage. She was second on the team with a batting average of .319 and had team-highs 31 RBI, seven homeruns, and a .553 slugging percentage. She ended the season with eight doubles and two triples.
Returning to the right side of the infield is sophomore Kelsey Albanese (Westerville, Ohio). Albanese started in every game at second base in her freshman campaign where she hit two homeruns, six doubles and batted in 15 RBI. She posted a batting average of .264 and a fielding percentage of .934. For the 2014 campaign, Albanese will see a majority of the season at first base.
"There are a lot of changes this year in our infield," said Vanlandingham. "The coaching staff decided on the changes so we could have the opportunity to have the best nine hitters in our lineup play. At the anchor of our infield is Jividen. She knows the game and is a great communicator to the rest of the team."
Seeds saw some action at third, but played the majority of her games in left field. Seeds hit .240 in 146 plate appearances. She batted in 12 runners from the leadoff spot, and totaled 10 doubles last season. She ended the 2013 campaign with 70 putouts and 11 assists while committing just four errors.
Weber played in 49 games in center field where she will be expected to play again. Weber was a GLIAC Honorable Mention selection a year ago, leading all Panther freshman with a .269 batting average. She batted in 18 RBI and recorded 15 walks. Defensively, Weber committed no errors while totaling 61 putouts and two assists.
"With the return of Seeds and Lizzy, I feel we have a very strong outfield," noted Vanlandingham. "Seeds has improved since last spring in her ability to chase down balls in the gap and Lizzy has great instincts in center. Montana and Julia, along with Devan are right now in a three person race to claim the third spot in our outfield."
Juniors Rachael Stanzel (Angleton, Texas) and Brandis Fishel (Gahanna, Ohio) return as the Panthers top two pitchers. Stanzel finished with a record of 15-16 and an earned run average of 2.62 in 38 appearances with 30 starts. She posted 27 complete games with four shutouts while striking out 87 batters. Stanzel's 15 wins tied her for fifth in the GLIAC and was second in the conference in shutouts. She earned GLIAC Second Team honors and was also named GLIAC Pitcher of the Week.
Fishel ended last season with an 8-12 record and a 4.02 ERA. She had 37 strikeouts and pitched 14 complete games, including two shutouts.
"As of right now, Rachael is our number one pitcher," marked Vanlandingham. "She has great movement on her pitches, knows how to stay composed and handle herself in tough situations. Brandis is also a tough competitor who knows how to get batters out. We are excited to see her pitch this spring."
Behind the Dish
Junior Alex Cribari (Lyndhurst, Ohio) will see the majority of time behind home plate this season. The junior earned GLIAC Second Team honors while starting in every game for the Panthers. She ranked second on the team in doubles with 11 and batted in 16 RBI, while splitting time in the first two spots in the lineup. Defensively, Cribari played both third and catcher last season.
Junior Brier Sanner (Hartville, Ohio), who split time last year with Cribari, will once again split her time this season.
"We are lucky enough to have two athletes who can be interchangeable behind the plate and can call a great game," said Vanlandingham. "We are excited to see what they can do this spring on both sides of the ball."
Hinton was a three year scholar athlete at Newcomerstown High School. In 2010, she was selected to the Eastern District Second Team and the Inter Valley Conference Honorable Mention Team. In 2011, she was First Team All-Ohio Division Four, First Team Inter Valley Conference, First Team Eastern District and in 2012, she was selected to the Inter Valley Conference and Eastern District First Team and was selected to the All-Ohio Division III Second Team.
"Allie is currently the front runner to start at second base," said Vanlandingham. "She had a really great fall season and worked nicely alongside Jividen."
Scholle was selected to the "All-Ohio" All-Star Underclassman Team and in 2012 she was selected from 1400 student-athletes to attend the Greater Western Ohio Conference Student Leadership Conference. Her softball accolades include earning GWOC First Team honors, and were selected to the Dayton All-Metro Second Team as well as the All-Ohio Third Team. In 2012, she shattered the single-season hitting record for the Elks.
"Scholle is going to compete strongly against Hinton for a spot in the infield," noted Vanlandingham. "She is smart and knows the game so we are excited to see what she can bring at this level."
Mark was a three-year letterwinner for the Bulldogs as well as being a scholar athlete.
"Summer can really hit the ball, and hard," Vanlandingham said. "We are looking to use her as a designated hitter and in the field."
Murdoch was named King High School's most valuable player in 2011, 2012, and 2013. She was selected to the All-Conference First Team in 2011, 2012, and 2013 and was voted as the Athlete of the Year in 2012.
"Casey is a double threat in that she can pitch and hit the ball," said Vanlandingham. "She has the ability to strike batters out with a rise ball or with her off speed pitches. This level will be an adjustment, but we are looking forward to what she can bring."
Myers played for the East River Falcons where she was an All-Metro Pitcher of the Yea in both 2011 and 2012.
"We want to use Brooke as a relief pitcher this year," said Vanlandingham. "She has great movement and is a true lefty, which is exciting. She can also hit the ball, so we have the option to use her as a DH."
Rounding out the freshman class is Kelly Wallace (Oshkosh, Wisc.). Wallace was a three-year varsity letterwinner for the Wildcats and was selected to the All-Conference Second and Honorable Mention Teams.
"Kelly's skill set is great, she is a strong hitter and is good behind the plate," said Vanlandingham. "We want to see her adjust to this level, and can't wait to see how she grows over the course of the season."
Ohio Dominican opens the 2013 campaign with its annual trip to Huntsville, Alabama for the University of Alabama at Huntsville Ringor Charger Chillout. The Panthers will continue its tour of the South with their spring break trip in Winterhaven, Florida.
ODU's first home game will be on Wednesday, Mar. 26 as the Panthers welcome North Alabama for a doubleheader at Panther Softball Fields.
Conference play will begin the following weekend with trips to Lake Superior State and Northwood.
"We play six teams who are currently ranked in the top-25 preseason poll," said Vanlandingham. "On the first day alone at the Chillout Tournament, we face North Alabama and University Alabama Huntsville. We travel to Southern Indiana at the end of February for a tournament, which gives us a good look at the competition that is in our region."
Contact: Sarah Twiggs