June 1-7, 2006
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) submitted
The Le Moyne softball team weathered numerous challenges in 2006
With freshmen in several key positions and host of injuries afflicting the Le Moyne softball team, coach Ken King must have thought he was putting together a puzzle with several pieces missing.
Returning senior pitcher Erin Phaneuf underwent shoulder surgery in the preseason and was unable to play. Then, returning third-team All-America shortstop Lindsay Spaziani broke her leg and missed the team’s first 22 games. Two days after Spaziani returned, Jennifer Winters, who had been a freshman All-America in 2003, broke two of her fingers. Two other injuries forced the Dolphins to further juggle their lineup.
“There was injury after injury and I thought either I’m on America’s Funniest Home Videos or some sit com or someone is playing a joke on me,” King said. Despite the myriad challenges facing the Dolphins, they finally pulled things together and earned a spot in the College World Series for the fourth time in five years. The Dolphins won two games in the Northeast-10 Conference tournament before being eliminated by Southern Connecticut University but won the Northeast Regional Tournament to advance to the World Series. The injuries not only produced holes in Le Moyne’s lineup, they destabilized defensive positions. For example, Kristin DesLauriers entered the season having been selected to the Northeast-10 All-Conference team as a catcher following her freshman year and then as a third baseman her sophomore year. An injury, however, forced her to move to third base, then back to catcher, then to shortstop. Finally, freshman shortstop Lyndsey Balinskas recovered from an injury, allowing DeLauriers to return to her natural position behind the plate.
The youth of the team didn’t help early on as players attempted to adjust to the game at the college level. “The kids put a lot of pressure on themselves,” King said. “They had to adjust to playing at the college level. It’s a lot more intense.” The coach challenged several veteran players in the preseason, telling them that Le Moyne’s success would depend quite a bit on their improved performance.
According to King, the play of senior Ashley Anderson was a key ingredient for the team. “She probably stepped it up the most,” King said. “And she became one of the best defensive midfielders in the conference.” A Liverpool High School graduate, Anderson had been playing behind exceptional starters for the first three years of her career. But she remained committed to the program and improved during those years. “She just kept working hard for three years behind very good players and then she was finally able to reap the reward,” the coach said.
“It was a team thing,” Anderson said. “The team was supportive of me and kept me going. They kept saying, ‘It’s a long season and you’ll get your chance.’” Although she didn’t necessarily bat for average, King noted that Anderson was able to come up with hits at critical junctures during the course of the season.
Moreover, with an inexperienced outfield, Anderson was a stabilizing influence. “You want to set an example,” Anderson said. “We had a very young outfield and I tried to lead by example.” With veteran leadership in place, the team came together when Balinskas returned to the diamond and positions were solidified.
Right after Balinskas returned, the Dolphins swept Stonehill, winning the doubleheader 9-1 and 7-6. Two days later, Le Moyne swept St. Michael’s 10-6 and 4-2.
The team also settled into the season.
“I think the team just realized that they’re here to play ball,” the coach said. Often, the team’s inconsistency worked to its advantage. The coaching staff was often uncertain who would produce on any given day. However, opponents were equally uncertain and sometimes had trouble determining which batter to key on.
“Teams couldn’t predict what we could do any more than myself or my assistant Ed Mahar could,” King said. Having a terrific pitcher didn’t hurt the Dolphins. Jamesville-DeWitt product Sarah Reed occupied a place within the top five of most of the Northeast-10’s statistical categories. Reed was the Dolphins’ lone first team all-conference selection. “Pitching makes or breaks any team in college softball,” King said. “Sarah is just a winner.” Along with Reed’s first team selection, Emma Murphy and Winters were selected for second team honors and Spaziani made the third team.