Softball Preview

Trevi Alickolli, Sports Editor

After winning just 17 games a year ago, Central Connecticut State softball is hoping that a year of experience will prove valuable and that their young guns can take a step in the right direction and improve as a team, despite losing their second-best hitter via transfer this offseason.

Last season, the Blue Devils finished last in the Northeast Conference with a 4-12 record and a 17-24 overall record. However, they did so by being led by freshmen players who were getting their first taste of the collegiate level.

Three of the top four hitters were freshmen a year ago for the Blue Devils. Rian Eigenmann, Alexa Milius and Carli Backlund were first, third and fourth respectively.

Eigenmann led the team with 48 total hits a year ago which includes three home runs and 22 runs batted in (RBI).

Millius was third on the team with a total of 40 hits, one home run and 18 RBI’s. She also led the team with a .374 batting average (minimum 10 at-bats) and was near the top in slug percentage with .505.

Backlund rounded out the dynamic freshmen trio with 33 total hits, four home runs and 18 RBI’s.

Eigenmann and Milius both made the NEC All-Rookie Team last season.

While Central is moving forward hoping that those three take the next step in the right direction, they will be moving forward as a team without their best hitter from a season ago, Sydney Bolan.

Bolan finished her sophomore season with 44 total hits, a team-leading 10 home runs, team-high 39 RBI’s and a slugging percentage of .623, also best on the team. She earned NEC All-First Team honors after her spectacular season.

Bolan turned her Central Connecticut State Blue Devil horns into Duke University Blue Devil horns this offseason when she transferred after a career year with the Blue Devils.

“We’re also thrilled to welcome Sydney to the Duke softball family. She comes to us after two good years of offense production and we look for her to add some power to our lineup. Sydney brings a hunger to compete at a high level and we excited to make her a Blue Devil,” Duke’s head coach Marissa Young said to Duke Athletics.

In addition to being young in the hitting department, the Blue Devils are also young at the pitcher position.

Ashley Antonazzo is the veteran in the room while Carley Stoker and Kari Marks head into their sophomore seasons.

Last season, Stoker led the team with 111.1 innings pitched, followed by Antonazzo (90.1) then Marks (77.2). As a collective, the Blue Devils pitchers allowed 327 hits, 17 home runs and finished with an earned run average of 4.49.

Heading into the season, the Blue Devils are projected to finish better than last season. The only way to go is up when you finish last in the conference.

Central is projected to finish in seventh place out of ten teams in the NEC this season according to the preseason poll, beating out Fairleigh Dickinson, Wagner and Merrimack.

The Long Island University Sharks are projected to finish first, followed by Saint Francis and Sacred Heart.

Central will kick off their season this Friday, Feb. 21-23 in the Tennesse State Tiger Classic Tournament where they will face four different opponents in Bowling Green, Rider, Tennessee St. and Craighton.

Their first home game is a double-header on March 11, against Manhattan College.

With a year under their belts, the Blue Devils’ young core has an opportunity to shine and improve this season, while trying to finish higher in the standings than projected and potentially compete for a conference championship.