CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton University softball team begins its first season as a member of the Little East Conference with a 10-game swing at the Fastpitch Dreams Spring Classic in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. All 10 games will take place at the North Myrtle Beach Sports Complex.
The Spartans will enter the 2019 season with 10 new faces to complement the fleet of six returners. Castleton will look to returning seniors – all field players - seniors Micaela Madigan and Tori Swaine, junior Calli Van Gorden, and sophomores Devin Millerick, Jayna Ryan, and Cassidy Otis to lead the team.
Head coach, Eric Ramey, is set to begin his eighth season at the helm of the Spartan softball program. Ramey will rely on his veterans as the rookies mature. "We're looking for the kids who have been there before to keep us steady until we grow up," Ramey said.
Swaine and Van Gorden are expected to be big producers for the Spartans at the plate. Swaine hit .378 in 2018 and slugged a team-leading four home runs and 21 RBI in 2018 to earn North Atlantic Conference (NAC) Second Team All-Conference honors. Van Gorden earned First Team All-Conference recognition after leading the squad with 36 hits and a .400 batting average. She also led the team in slugging percentage (.611) with nine doubles, two triples, two homers, and 18 RBI.
"Those two will be the catalysts for us," Ramey said. "I'm going to lean on them a lot to provide leadership to our young group. They are both phenomenal players and leaders that the younger players are already gravitating towards."
The coaching staff is pleased with the early development of the recent recruits. "One through 16, everybody on this roster can play," Ramey said. "We have depth at every single position. This recruiting class is a neat group of kids and they all come to practice every day ready to work."
Castleton will open the season in Myrtle Beach on Thursday, a trip Ramey and the team are excited for. "The trip is a great opportunity to learn about ourselves and find out what we have and see what we have to work on." Still, Ramey is pleased with the effort and camaraderie the squad has put together thus far. "Without a doubt, this has been the easiest preseason I've had here."
Castleton will open its season with a doubleheader versus Lehman College (NY) on Thursday, Feb. 28. The Spartans will play single games versus Coe College (IA) on March 1 and 4. In between, the Spartans will play Eastern Mennonite University (VA) and Cedar Crest College (PA) on March 2 before a tripleheader with NAIA Penn. State – Schuylkill, Hilbert College (NY), and Wentworth Institute of Technology (MA) on March 3. On the final day of competition on March 4, Castleton will take on Penn. State – Harrisburg in the morning before closing against Coe.
Castleton was ranked tied with Keene State for seventh in the Little East Softball Preseason Coaches Poll. The coaches chose Eastern Connecticut State as the preseason favorite, followed by Plymouth State, UMass Boston, WestConn, Southern Maine, and UMass Dartmouth. Rhode Island College was picked to finish ninth.
The team looks forward to the new challenges that come with conference play. "Every team in the LEC is good," Ramey said. "There will be no easy wins and we will have to show up twice a week and compete every pitch to be successful in this league....we know we aren't going to surprise anyone."
Castleton will begin conference play on Saturday, March 23 at UMass Dartmouth. The Spartans are scheduled to host Skidmore on Saturday, March 30 for their home opener. Full schedule