2017 SEASON PREVIEW Merrimack College softball

A LOOK BACK AT 2016

After missing out on the Northeast-10 Conference Championships by just one game in 2015, the Warriors made their return to the conference tournament in 2016 after posting 24-wins on the season, including a 14-13 record in NE10 play.

After facing some stiff competition in the early months of the season, Merrimack would fire off a stretch of nine wins in 10 games to open April, finishing the month with an 18-7 record. The Warriors clinched their playoff berth on the final day of the regular season, posting a 3-0 day at Warrior Diamond to advance to the tournament. They finished the season with a 13-3 record at their home field.

Merrimack would travel to Assumption to take on the Greyhounds in the first round of the NE10 Championships. With the game maintaining a 2-2 score for the majority of the time, the Greyounds would walk-off in the bottom of the seventh as Merrimack just fell short on the road.

Three different Warriors garnered NE10 All-Conference honors for their efforts during the 2016 season, highlighted by a First Team selection for senior captain Haley Currie.

Merrimack's 2016 All-Conference selections

COACH SCHWAGER

Head coach Elaine Schwager enters the third year of her second stint at the helm of the Merrimack College softball team in 2017.

After rejoining the program to lead the way in 2015, Schwager has guided the program to significant improvements in each of her first two seasons back. After a 19-win season in 2015 that fell just one game short of an NE10 Championship berth, Schwager led the Warriors to a five-win improvement in 2016, posting 24 victories on their way to a return to the NE10 postseason. She enters the 2017 season with a career record of 291-305, needing just nine wins this season to notch career victory #300.

After being held without win over a ranked opponent for five season, Schwager has coached the Warriors to a victory over a top-20 ranked opponent in each of her seasons back in the dugout. She has coached five student-athletes to all-conference recognition in two seasons since her return, and saw Haley Currie earn All-Region First Team honors in 2016.

2017 CAPTAINS

Seniors Samantha Waskowitz and Haley Currie will return as captains for their final seasons in 2017 after registering stellar junior seasons while captaining the squad. This will mark Currie's third year as a team captain, while Waskowitz receives the honor for the second season.

Currie was dominant in her junior season, leading the way for Merrimack both at the plate and on the mound. As a pitcher, she led her team in nearly every statistical category during an impressive 2016 season. At the plate, her slash line of .394/.453/.577 and 27 RBI were all team-highs, and her five homers ranked second on the squad, while all of those numbers were career-highs for Currie. In one stretch in 2016, she strung together a 17-game hitting streak, and upon the team's return from their trip to Florida, she recorded a hit in 28 of Merrimack's final 30 games of the season. Her .394 batting average ranked seventh in the NE10, while her 27 RBI tied for 13th.

Waskowitz continued to build on her impressive career in her junior campaign, providing consistent production at the plate for Merrimack. She ranked second on the team behind Currie with a .321 batting average and a .444 on-base percentage while adding three homers and 21 RBI. She also finished third in the NE10 with 17 stolen bases. Waskowitz also put together an impressive streak of her own during the season, posting a nine-game and eight-game hit streak while registering a hit in 18 of 20 games.

THE INFIELD

Waskowitz will headline the Merrimack infield from her signature second-base position, while sophomore Nicole Nanof figures to join her in the middle infield at short stop after playing 28 games there in 2016. The freshman class will also be looked to for depth up the middle this season, as Nanof will also see time at her natural third base position.

At the corners, Currie will see some time at first base when not contributing to the team elsewhere, while Alyssa Williamson figures to make a big impact at first after a strong start to the 2016 was cut short due to injury.

Senior Kaleigh Finigan will see plenty of action at third base after playing 35 games at the position during her junior campaign. 2016 NE10 All-Rookie selection Caitlin McBride will also see time at the hot corner when not padded up behind the plate and calling signs for the pitcher. McBride finished third on the team in her rookie season with an impressive .321 average.

McBride steps to the plate during her rookie season

McBride and fellow 2016 NE10 All-Rookie selection Emily Kurkul will split time catching for the Warriors, as they were the only two to man the position for their entire freshman seasons. Kurkul was also a stud at the plate, leading all NE10 rookies with seven home runs on the season.

Kurkul behind the plate during the 2016 season

THE OUTFIELD

The Warriors enter the 2017 season with a heavy amount of experience in the outfield, highlighted by senior center fielder Tamarra Crowe (pictured) leading the way after playing 43 games at the position last season. That experience will be heightened by fellow seniors Mariah Tenney and Morgan Phipps joining her at the 7-9 positions, making for a stout Merrimack outfield in 2017. Tenney also dominated the base paths in 2016, leading the NE10 with 25 stolen bases on the year.

Tenney readies herself in the outfield last season

After a quality rookie campaign that saw her deliver her own contributions, Hannah Johnson also figures to again see time in the outfield for the Warriors in her sophomore season. When not on the mound, Megan Cook will also filter into the outfield after seeing her bat come alive late last season, providing tremendous depth to the Merrimack outfield.

ON THE MOUND

Currie will be headlining the Warriors pitching rotation for her senior season in 2017 after leading Merrimack in wins (8), complete games (8), ERA (3.52), strikeouts (45) and innings pitched in 2016. She finished the season third in the NE10 with a staggering 119.1 innings pitched during the year, all while being Merrimack's top performer at the plate.

Junior Megan Cook will look to make a big impact on the mound in 2017 after a breakout season as a sophomore, pitching 63.0 innings in 20 appearances and posting a 3.56 ERA and allowed just a .273 opponent average. Junior Courtney Zambello will look to deliver a strong third season for Merrimack after making 11 starts as a sophomore. She posted a winning record of 6-4 in 2016 with a 3.67 ERA.

Megan Cook delivers a pitch at Warrior Softball Diamond

Junior Brooke Bogacz will provide relief out of the bullpen after making 16 appearances in relief last season, while sophomore Melanie DeAlmeida also figures to contribute on the hill in her second season. Though she made just four appearances last season prior to her injury, Alyssa Williamson is also one who could shine for the Warriors on the mound in 2017.

NEWCOMERS

The Warriors welcome three new faces to the roster in 2017, two of which hail from New Hampshire while the third comes to Merrimack by way of Connecticut. The Navy and Gold add a little bit of everything with the small class, as the newcomers have infield and outfield experience, as well as a catcher and a pitcher being added to the fray.

SEASON OUTLOOK

Returning all but two players from the 2016 squad that brought Merrimack back to the Northeast-10 Conference Championship last year with a 24-win season, the Warriors were tabbed third in the Northeast Division in the NE10 Preseason Coaches' Poll, including receiving a first-place vote.

The Warriors begin their season on Friday, February 17 when they head down to Myrtle Beach for six games across three days in the Snowbird Freeze Out Tournament. They will then travel down to Florida in mid-March to compete in the Dot Richardson Spring Games before returning to the Northeast to begin conference action. Merrimack's weekend and season kicks off with a 12:00 p.m. contest with Winston-Salem.

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