Sailfish Postseason Preview: PBA Softball

Written by: Michael Brown, Palm Beach Atlantic University SID

Sophomore Ashley Jones Will Look to Lead to Sailfish to the NCCAA TitleSophomore Ashley Jones Will Look to Lead to Sailfish to the NCCAA Title

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.- Over the next few weeks, the Palm Beach Atlantic University spring sports teams will begin play in postseason competition and we here at pbasailfish.com plan to preview the road ahead for each team in the NCCAA as well as PBA’s first chance at competing in a NCAA Regional. We begin with coverage of the Sailfish softball team.

Turning around what was a sinking program, second-year head softball coach Kimmy Bloemers has done what many believed she could do when she was hired to lead the Sailfish two years ago. Inheriting a program that went 8-39 in 2006, Bloemers has helped establish a winning attitude since day one as the Fish enter play in the NCCAA National Tournament with a 29-22 record in 2008.

With victories over the likes of such perennial softball powers as Lynn University, Nova Southeastern University, Florida Southern College, Florida Tech, and Saint Leo University among others, the Fish have quickly become a team not only to not be taken lightly but a real contender in every game they play.

Led by their dominant pitching and stellar defense all season long, the Sailfish will look to bring home their first-ever NCCAA National Championship in softball as they host the National Tournament for the first time beginning Thursday, April 24th.

PBA will begin tournament play as the number six seed as they play number seven-seeded Judson University on Thursday at 4 pm. The winner of that ballgame will take on number one seeded Mount Vernon Nazarene University at 6 pm Thursday night.

Helping lead the Sailfish from the pitching circle is the dynamic sophomore duo of Ashley Jones and Heather Laird. Jones enters play as the clear-cut ace of the staff after taking over that role during her first season as a Fish last year. While small in stature out of Jensen Beach, Florida, Jones has proven big from the pitching rubber as she has gone 15-7 on the season with a microscopic 0.87 ERA.

Known as a big strikeout threat, Jones has tallied 168 strikeouts in 153 innings pitched this season while totaling three games this season with at least 14 strikeouts.

Complimenting Jones ability is the talented right-arm of first-year hurler Heather Laird. Laird provides Bloemers with a solid second option as either a starter or a reliever. Laird has registered 10 wins this season with a solid if not spectacular 1.65 earned run average. Adding even more depth to the Sailfish pitching staff is senior Andrea Fugate who is available to provide assurance as she has given the Fish four victories this season.

From an offensive standpoint, the Sailfish will count heavily on the top of their order to get on base and give their run-producers a chance to score early and often. Left-handers Rebecca Bolinger and Katie Medder have established themselves of late as the table-setters for the Sailfish as both present problems for opposing teams on the base-paths. Medder in particular has been electric as the two-sport standout has stolen 25 bases in 27 tries this season.

The middle of the PBA lineup features the sweet-swinging stroke of sophomore outfielder Chelsea Gravini and freshman standout Caitlin Bouschet leading the way.

Gravini leads the Sailfish with three triples while also blasting three homeruns and driving in 20 runs. Bouschet has put together a fantastic season at the plate doing most of her damage from the cleanup spot. She paces the Fish in eight major offensive categories including a .394 batting average, 11 doubles, 24 walks, and over a .500 on-base-percentage.

Other players looking to make an impact offensively include senior infielder Holly Elliott who leads the team with five homeruns as well as third-baseman Danielle Perrotti, catcher Candace Horton, and first-baseman Cheryl Stephens. Senior center-fielder Casey Gibson will look to make her presence known on the bases as well as her unbelievable play in centerfield.

PBA will also hopefully welcome back the services of freshman utility player Abbey Shipman from a thumb injury that has sidelined the Orlando, Florida native for the past month.

Regardless of the outcome of the NCCAA tournament, the Sailfish are well positioned to continue their development as a team in the coming years as they will return all but three starters next season.

Stay tuned to pbasailfish.com for up-to-date scores and complete game recaps of the postseason run for the PBA Softball team.

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