By Jamie Reynolds
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2013 Holy Cross softball team returns 14 letterwinners and adds eight freshman as opening day in Kissimmee, Fla. at the Rebel Spring Games quickly approaches. The Crusades will be led by senior co-captain Sam Fregenti (Melville, N.Y.), who enters her final season as the all-time Holy Cross career leader in home runs with 19, and junior co-captain Alex Gustafson (Medford, Mass.). Fregenti led the 2012 team with a .307 batting average, four home runs, 18 runs batted in, 39 hits, 57 total bases, a .360 on-base percentage and a .449 slugging percentage. Gustafson finished last season second on the team with a .294 batting average, 37 hits, 12 runs batted in and 47 total bases. Both captains were named second team All-Patriot league after the 2012 campaign and have been named to the preseason All-Patriot League team this season.
Recently, sixth-year head coach Brian Claypool sat down with GoHolyCross.com to preview the 2013 season.
GoHolyCross.com: With eight newcomers this year, how did the team come together and perform during the fall season?
Brian Claypool: The team was able to come together quite quickly because we started fall practice right when we got back on campus and the newcomers were able to form friendships with their teammates almost immediately. The focus in the fall was on fundamentals and not making mistakes, and we were able to succeed on doing that on the field and it showed in us winning five games and building momentum heading into the winter.
GoHolyCross.com: Once again the team will travel to Kissimmee, Fla. to open the regular season at the Rebel Spring Games, playing 10 games against nine different opponents. What does that trip down to warmer weather do to get the team excited for a 45-game schedule?
Brian Claypool: It's Florida on spring break, that's pretty easy to get excited about on its own, but factor in getting to finally play games and being able to get on dirt and grass after this snowy winter makes it especially exciting. The big key is to not make this opening week the highlight of our season.
GoHolyCross.com: The team is relatively young with just three seniors and five juniors compared to a combined 14 freshmen and sophomores. How will the leadership skills of co-captains Fregenti and Gustafson and the other veterans on the squad help to positively influence the younger players on the roster?
Brian Claypool: You can't ask for better leaders then Sam and Alex, they are so mentally tough, have a great feel for the game and are so unselfish. Off the field they have taken on strong leadership roles and are the kind of players the younger kids can look up to. Whether it's on or off the field they just want to do whatever they can to help the ballclub. You really can't say enough about them, they are the heart and soul of the team.
GoHolyCross.com: What are your expectations for this year's freshman class, the largest you've had in your six seasons at Holy Cross?
Brian Claypool: The expectations are always high with every kid we bring in, but we want to be careful not to put too much pressure on them, especially early. We think all of them will be able to contribute in one form or another, they just have to stay within themselves and not let the highs and lows of the game get to them.
GoHolyCross.com: The team returns junior starting pitcher Julia Barrett (Gardner, Mass.), who currently ranks third all-time in career earned run average (2.52) at Holy Cross. What is your outlook on this year's pitching staff?
Brian Claypool: I like this year's staff, there is quite literally a little bit of everything in terms of what each kid throws, so we hope to be able to keep hitters off balance this year with a variety of options. Barrett is going to be our ace again this year, she has a high pitching IQ, and we are going to count on her week in and week out throughout the season.
GoHolyCross.com: What do you see as the team's biggest strengths coming into the season? How does the team look offensively and despite practicing inside and on field turf, how does the team look defensively?
Brian Claypool: Our biggest strength is our depth. We have a lot of options that we can use in a multitude of situations. The team has bought into the system and we are going to do the little things in order to win. Offensively, we expect to be vastly improved. We have a deeper lineup this year and a lot more speed and athleticism. The experience our returnees gained from last year coupled with the talented freshmen will provide a balanced lineup. Defensively, we have to limit our mistakes, and when we do make them not compound things into a big inning. The more we can limit our opponent's opportunities the better shape we will be in.
GoHolyCross.com: Looking at the conference schedule, you will play three Patriot League series at home this season, compared to two on the road. How will having 12 of 20 conference games at home benefit the team in Patriot League play?
Brian Claypool: Having those extra four games at home this season will certainly help. We are comfortable on our field and will use the dimensions to our advantage. We have to take care of business at home this year in order to get to the next level and meet our goal of competing for a Patriot League championship.
GoHolyCross.com: What are the teams overall goals for the season?
Brian Claypool: Compete for a Patriot League championship.
The softball team will begin the season this Sunday, March 3, against South Dakota (11:00 a.m.) and LaSalle (1:00 p.m.) at the Rebel Spring Games in Kissimmee, Fla. For all the latest news and results on the softball team this year, sign up for e-mail alerts by clicking here.