PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Feb. 13, 2013) – After qualifying for its third consecutive BIG EAST Tournament for the first time in program history, the Rutgers softball team heads into the 2013 season ready to take its achievements to the next level. Head coach Jay Nelson, entering his seventh season at the helm of the Scarlet Knights, returns 10 letterwinners from last year’s 26-28 squad, six of which were either freshmen or sophomores in 2012.
The Scarlet Knights also welcome back seven position starters to Piscataway, as the roster combines a balanced mix of freshmen (five) and seniors (four) to keep the program moving forward.
Returning to Nelson’s staff for their seventh and third seasons, respectively, are assistant coaches Misty Beaver and Ryan (Realmuto) Mcmullen. Mark Lawrence rounds out the staff, and will return as the squad’s volunteer assistant for the coming season.
The Scarlet Knights boast a formidable pitching staff heading into 2013. Sophomore lefthander and 2012 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Alyssa Landrith (Vacaville, Calif.) spearheaded RU from the circle last season, and looks to continue her torrid pace during her sophomore campaign.
She posted an 18-12 record, with 202 innings pitched and a 2.28 ERA. Landrith and senior Abbey Houston (New Egypt, N.J.) will serve as the primary starters for RU, as both carry a wealth of experience shutting down opposing lineups.
Houston has appeared in 75 games and rung up 130 batters throughout her career as a Scarlet Knight, while Landrith fanned 113 hitters in her first season “On the Banks.”
Joining the duo in the rotation will be freshman Dresden Maddox (Kennesaw, Ga.). The righthander was a four-year varsity letter winner at Harrison and is expected by the coaching staff to mesh well with the starting rotation.
Three starters from RU’s 2012 infield will once again take their positions for Nelson in 2013. Seniors Ashley Bragg (Middletown, Del.) and Jennifer Harebedian (Flemington, N.J.) will take up shortstop and second base, respectively, after combining for a .944 fielding percentage last season. Harabedian’s bat is a big returning factor, as the senior finished third on the squad in RBIs (19) and fourth in homeruns (three) in 2012.
Returning to play third base is sophomore Ashley Alden (Ivyland, Pa.), who finished the season second among RU starters with a .992 fielding percentage while scoring the fourth most runs (17) on the team. She replaces four-year starter Brittney Lindley, who set single season school records in RBIs (47) and home runs (13), and etched her name into many all-time hitting categories.
Junior Alexis Durando (Oakland, N.J.) will serve as the Scarlet Knights’ starting first baseman after recording a stellar .994 fielding percentage last season for RU.
Freshmen Jordan Whitley (Clayton, Del.) and Melanie Slowinski (Severn, Md.), who both served in utility roles throughout their high school careers, will factor into the infield mix in 2013.
RU welcomes back an experienced outfield corps this season, featuring the squad’s leading returning hitter in sophomore Chandler Howard (Wilmington, Del.). Howard started 45 games last season and hit .279, earning her a spot on the All-BIG EAST Third Team.
Sophomore Jackie Bates (Lincroft, N.J.) and junior Loren Williams (Los Angeles, Calif.) made 50 starts each last season in the outfield, combining for just four errors.
Senior Kaci Madden (Saratoga, N.Y.) will resume her duties as the squad’s starting catcher in 2013. Madden was sidelined for much of last season due to injury, but the coaching staff expects her to seamlessly return to her 2011 form, when she hit .273, slugged .374 and notched 25 RBIs.
Joining her behind the dish are a pair of newcomers in freshman Elizabeth Adams (Crystal Lake, Ill.) and junior transfer Emma Woo (Santa Monica, Calif.).
Nelson is eager for his team to meet the challenges that await in 2013, especially in the Scarlet Knights’ opening weekend at the University of Texas at San Antonio Classic. Contests against Boise State and Oklahoma State highlight RU’s preconference schedule, before Nelson leads his squad into its opening BIG EAST series against No. 12 USF on March 23.
USF, picked No. 1 in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll, is one of two BIG EAST teams ranked nationally in the NFCA/ USA Today Preseason Poll, the other being No. 17 Louisville. Notre Dame (43) and Syracuse (27) both received votes.
The Scarlet Knights will also travel to take on a ranked opponent on Wed. April 3, when RU visits No. 20 Hofstra for a midweek doubleheader.
The team hosts its first home contest on March 27 against Hartford, and will play 18 of its final 31 games at the RU Softball Complex. Nelson looks to lead RU to its fourth consecutive BIG EAST Tournament appearance.
Follow Rutgers Athletics on Facebook (www.facebook.com/RutgersAthletics) and Twitter (@RUAthletics) for all of the latest news and updates. For specific updates regarding Rutgers softball, follow the program on Twitter (@RUSoftball). Fans can receive timely information, including special offers and giveaways throughout the year on our social media outlets along with www.ScarletKnights.com.