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AU softball team ranked 23rd in national preseason poll
2/03/11

ALFRED, NY — The Alfred University softball team, on the heels of its most successful year ever, is ranked in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) national Division III preseason poll.

AU is ranked 23rd in the NFCA poll, which is voted on by eight Division III coaches representing the eight NCAA regions.

The Saxons won a share of the Empire 8 Conference regular season title last year, earning an at-large berth to the team’s first-ever NCAA championship tournament. AU went 3-2 in the NCAA regional tournament to finish the season 37-8. The team set new school records for victories (37) and consecutive wins (21).

Alfred returns seven starters from a season ago, including junior All-American utility player Nicole Hedrick (Albany, NY/Catholic Central), senior pitcher Chelsey Cary (Corfu, NY/Pembroke), sophomore catcher Emily Fenton (West Deptford, NJ/West Deptford) and junior outfielder Angela Netta (Rahway, NJ/Mother Seton Regional).

Hedrick had a 19-4 pitching record — the 19 wins set a new school single-season record — with a 1.32 ERA. She led the team with a .429 batting average and .721 slugging percentage and hit a team-best nine homeruns while driving in 32 runs and stealing a school-record 25 bases. She was named Empire 8 Player of the Year, an NFCA First Team Northeast Region all-star and an NFCA Second Team All-American.

Cary, the school’s career leader in pitching wins and shutouts, went 18-3 with a 1.09 ERA and a school-record 138 strikeouts, and was named an Empire 8 First Team all-star and an NFCA Second Team Northeast Region all-star.

Fenton, the Empire 8 Rookie of the Year, batted .328 with 22 runs and 28 RBIs and Netta batted .378 with 45 hits and 25 runs scored. Both were named NFCA First Team Northeast Region all-stars; Fenton was a Second Team Empire 8 all-star and Netta was a First Team all-conference selection.

Hedrick, Cary and Netta were named ECAC Upstate First Team all-stars.

Other returning starters are: senior first baseman Ashley Passaro (Long Beach, NY/Long Beach), who hit .320 with a team-leading 32 RBIs and was given Empire 8 honorable mention; junior third baseman Molly Shepherd (Camillus, NY/West Genesee), an NFCA Second Team Northeast Region all-star and Empire 8 honorable mention pick who batted .359 with 52 hits, 38 runs and 26 RBIs; and senior designated player Shanna Ewoldt (Tuscon, AZ/Waubansie Valley), who hit .274 with 23 runs scored and 20 RBIs.

Four other players return from last season and will be joined on the 2011 squad by 11 new recruits.

The Saxons are led by sixth-year head coach Gino Olivieri, the school career leader in coaching victories (121) and a two-time Empire 8 Coach of the Year. In 2010, he earned top coaching honors from the Empire 8 and for ECAC Upstate.

Alfred opens its season with the team’s spring trip to Cocoa Beach, FL, March 7-12.