Point Park University Softball -- 2013 Season Outlook & Head Coach Interview
March 14, 2013 at 10:00 p.m. ET
Point Park softball head coach Michelle Coultas discussing the Pioneers in a 2013 preseason interview.
PITTSBURGH -- The Point Park University softball team begins the northern portion of its schedule when it hosts Geneva on March 16 at 1 p.m. The Pioneers went 6-4 on their season-opening trip to Florida last week. The following is a Season Outlook on the 2013 Pioneers.
Point Park has a group of six seniors who seventh-year head coach Michelle Coultas will rely on to lead the Pioneers through their first year in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Point Park has reached the finals of the American Mideast Conference Tournament each of the last two years, but both years it came up short in its hopes to make the NAIA national tournament for the first time in program history.
The AMC disbanded after the 2012 season, and now the Pioneers are new members of the KIAC. An experienced Point Park roster that has 6 of 9 position starters and 3 of 4 pitchers returning from last year will have to adjust to the new surroundings of the KIAC, and the several seniors in the starting lineup will look to finish their careers on a high note.
Point Park was picked second of eight teams in the KIAC Softball Preseason Coaches Poll (Jan. 28). Although new to the league, the coaches in the conference feel that Point Park has what it takes to be one of the better teams in the KIAC. The Pioneers have had their share of playoff success the last few years with the only thing left to accomplish being winning a conference championship.
The Pioneers have several multi-year starters returning, and with proven players around most of the diamond, Point Park had a just a few holes to fill in the lineup. On the mound, Point Park has two seniors at the front end of the rotation in Kelsey Robertson and Kristen Zelenka, but the depth is all freshmen and sophomores.
“The six seniors have been with me for four years,” said coach Coultas. “I’m excited to have Kristen Zelenka back, and her and Kelsey Robertson give us two former conference pitchers of the year. The other seniors all have a chance to start, and they’re proven players. Last year was a sting losing in the conference finals, but I know our seniors are ready to show what they can do.”
Probably the Pioneers’ best player is junior second baseman Ashley Morran (Washington, Pa./Trinity HS), who was NAIA Honorable Mention All-American last year with a .402 average, 10 HRs and 45 RBIs. And with her in the lineup are four seniors who have all started for three years.
Senior catcher Sara Guffey (Washington, Pa./Trinity HS) was All-AMC First Team last year after hitting .276 with 4 HRs and 19 RBIs. Guffey gives Point Park another run producer behind Morran. Also on the All-AMC First Team in 2012 was senior shortstop Olivia Sorce (Verona, Pa./Penn Hills, Pa.), who hit .306 on the year as the No. 2 hitter in the lineup.
Senior left fielder Amanda Ardinger (Moon Twp., Pa./Moon Area HS) has earned All-AMC honors all three years, including last year when she hit .310 with 24 RBIs as All-AMC Honorable Mention. She will probably hit third for the Pioneers. The final senior in the field is third baseman Danielle Dorunda (Warren, Pa./Warren HS), who provides power with a .294 average and 14 homers in her career. Dorunda was second on the Pioneers with six home runs last year.
Senior pitchers Kelsey Robertson (Frostburg, Md./Mountain Ridge HS) and Kristen Zelenka (Washington, Pa./Trinity) give the Pioneers experience on the mound as the 2010 and 2011 AMC Pitchers of the Year, respectively. Robertson was All-AMC First Team last year with a 13-10 record and a 3.16 ERA. She set career highs for wins (13), innings pitched (139.2) and strikeouts (134) and had to carry a lot of the load with nothing but first-year pitchers joining her on the staff last year. Robertson has been one of the Pioneers’ top pitchers her entire career.
But back this year to help out is Zelenka, who last pitched for the Pioneers in 2011 when she was 7-2 with a 2.51 ERA as the top pitcher in the AMC. She took last year off, but has returned as a graduate student. Coultas would like Zelenka and Robertson to be at the front end of the rotation, but various things may limit their availability — Zelenka has weekend obligations for graduate school and Robertson has been hampered in the preseason with a shoulder injury.
That’s why the Pioneers will need big contributions from young pitchers on the rest of the staff. Sophomore Kate Reese (Cresson, Pa./Penn Cambria HS) made the All-AMC Freshman Team last year with a 6-5 record and a 4.20 ERA. She got a lot of work as a freshman with the second-most starts to Robertson. Sophomore Audrey Eisentrout was 3-2 in 11 appearances last year but missed the second half of the season with a knee injury.
Point Park has a total of seven pitchers with the rest being freshmen — Hannah Harley (Indiana, Pa.), Sarah Urchek (Andover, Ohio) and Rachel Hopfer (Upper St. Clair, Pa.), all of whom Coultas is comfortable with putting in the game.
Aside from the four seniors returning in the field, the Pioneers had holes to fill with the graduated Zoe Hughes (CF), Nichelle Navarro (RF) and Julie Campbell (1B). Newcomer LeAnne Blaeser, a junior-college transfer, has the early lock on starting in center field while right field could be one of few players in returners Abby Mathieu, Destiny James or Gabi Vogt or freshman Taylor Geary, depending what Coultas wants to do with the lineup.
First base has two capable players in juniors Courtney Manovich and Brea Magnone. Manovich hit .350 last year, and both have been backups the last two years at first base. Manovich is a fourth-year player who came in the same recruiting class as this year's seniors but took an injury redshirt her first year on campus.
Follow the Pioners all season long on the Point Park Sports Network on iHigh.com, the online home of Live & On-Demand Video for Pioneers athletics. Tune in at www.iHigh.com/PointParkSportsNetwork or by clicking WATCH LIVE on the Point Park athletic Web site.