New Regime, new team

2011 Softball preview

"By the time May 1, 2010, rolled around for the Oswego State softball team, the Lakers were just looking for their tumultuous season to be over. SUNY Plattsburgh sent the Lakers into the offseason with a 10- and 12-run doubleheader sweep that both ended via mercy rule. The two losses capped off a 5-29 season, including a 2-16 record in SUNYAC, capping off one of the worst seasons in Oswego State softball history.

"The athletic department made the decision to relieve former softball head coach, Chyrisse Conte, of her duties during the offseason. Conte coached seven All-SUNYAC players and set the program record for wins in a season during the 2007-08 season with 19 during her 15 years as the head coach of the softball program. Conte also led the program to its first ever bid in the SUNYAC Tournament. Assistant coach Jodi Kraeger was also dismissed from the coaching staff.

"One of the members on the interviewing committee to find a new head coach was senior shortstop and team captain Shannon Baker, who has experienced the up and down seasons that the softball program has been through during her four years at Oswego State.

""It was hard to come and want to play still, but the coaches we had last year made it so we stayed up," Baker said. "Our team chemistry was strong last season. We all had fun even though our team play wasn’t as strong."

"Although the team liked Conte as its head coach, the Lakers understood that a change had to be made. On July 2, 2010, Casey Price was named the new head coach of the softball program. Price just finished her first season at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, where she helped scout, recruit and teach pitching fundamentals. Prior to her responsibilities at Massachusetts-Lowell, Price had served as a volunteer pitching coach at Plattsburgh from 1999-2010. Price also coached the Baldwinsville Central High School varsity team during her time with the Cardinals. As a player, Price played at the University of Oklahoma from 1987-90. She was recruited as a pitcher after being named a three-time All-State high school player in Iowa before being converted into an outfielder. Price was named Freshmen Female Athlete of the Year at Oklahoma and was later inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Athletic Hall of Fame and the NCAA Hall of Fame.

""She’s very high intensity, which is good because in previous years we weren’t very intense as a team," Baker said. "She’s very into the game, which brings up our intensity for each and every game."

"One of Baker’s roles this season as the team captain has been easing the team’s transition from Conte to Price. Baker said that many of the returning players liked Conte and didn’t necessarily want a new coach. It didn’t take long for the Lakers to buy into their new coach.

""The new coach made us come together as a team," Baker said. "It was hard to come back this year and have a new outlook, but in the first week of practice we knew we were going to be a good team compared to past years," Baker said.

""It hasn’t been hard," Price said of getting the players to buy into her coaching philosophy. "I come to practice with a plan. We’re very structured. We try to make the practices difficult for the players. The players have had no problem trying to buy into what I’m doing."

"It only took the Lakers 13 games to accomplish what it took them to do all season last year: win five games. After just four conference games, the Lakers have half as many wins as they did last season in SUNYAC play. The Lakers currently sit at 5-10 on the year and Baker believes the team’s solid start to the season has begun to turn heads among other teams, especially those in the SUNYAC.

""Last year we were kind of the joke of the SUNYAC," Baker said. "We were the team that everyone knew they could play to get out of a hitting slump. We don’t want to be that team anymore. We want to come in and show them that we are here to play and stick with them."

"The Lakers have set two lofty goals amongst others this season. One is to be in every game and not have it end with the mercy rule taking affect. In NCAA softball, the mercy rule is invoked when a team is leading by at least eight runs after five innings. Last season, the Lakers fell victim to the mercy rule 10 times. This season, Oswego State has had games end with the mercy rule four times, three of which were not in their favor. The other goal set by the team was to qualify for the SUNYAC Tournament in May. In order to qualify for the SUNYAC Tournament, the Lakers will have to finish sixth or better in conference play.

""One personal goal of mine is to take one game when we have a doubleheader," Price said. "Are we there yet? No, but I’m not giving up. The players aren’t going to either. We seem to get better with time."

"The 2011 softball season got off to a rocky start down in Clermont, Fla. with a pair of lopsided losses, 17-0 in five innings to John Carroll University and 7-0 to Macalester College. However, the Lakers were able to salvage a 4-5 record during their trip to Florida, including a 7-6 victory over Macalester in their second meeting.

"A bright spot for the Lakers this season is their pitching. Oswego State has three pitchers on its roster, one sophomore and two freshmen. Sophomore pitcher Sarah Thayer currently holds the team lead in ERA at 5.45. She has appeared in nine games, starting four, and completing three. She has compiled a 2-2 record, surrendering 65 hits while striking out 27 batters and walking 20. The pitching staff tells the story of the Laker roster this season. With 13 freshmen and three sophomores making up the majority of the 18-player roster, Oswego State is loaded with young talent.

""Our inexperience is a challenge," Price said.

"Following a 10-8 loss to SUNY New Paltz in the first game of a doubleheader on April 3, Oswego State responded with an 8-0 shutout in a mercy rule-shortened, five-inning game. Freshmen pitcher Jessica Palmitesso threw a no-hitter against the Hawks, giving the Lakers their first no-hitter since 2002 and their first shutout victory since March 12, 2009. Palmitesso has appeared on the mound in 10 games this season, tossing four complete games. Opponents are batting just .287 against Palmitesso, which leads the team.

"The Lakers continue their six-game homestand when they host SUNY Fredonia on Friday, April 8.