Following the most successful season in the program's history, the Case Western Reserve University softball team will enter the 2019 season looking to claim the University Athletic Association Championship, and make a second-straight appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
The Spartans qualified for the NCAA Division III Tournament for only the second time in program history last season, and made its' first-ever appearance in the finals round of the NCAA Championships. CWRU finished the campaign with a program-best 38-12 overall record and finished tied for fifth at the championships, which was the highest national finish for any team in Case Western Reserve University athletics history.
Case Western Reserve ended last year ranked sixth in the final National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III Top-25 poll, which was the highest the team has ever been ranked in the NFCA's final poll of the year.
The Spartans will be returning a number of pieces from a team that hit .322 and slugged 29 home runs, with the pitching staff notching a 2.17 team ERA.
CWRU will begin the 2019 campaign ranked ninth in the NFCA Top-25 poll, which once again is the highest the team has ever been ranked in the NFCA's first poll of the year.
"We have set out for a sole UAA championship and return trip to the NCAA tournament with our ultimate goal to be part of the final eight," said Head Coach Josie Henry.
Case Western Reserve will return 16 players and add an additional seven newcomers to the lineup.
Sophomore Arisa Cleaveland will look to lead the Spartans in the outfield this season. Last season, Cleaveland batted .278 (47-for-169) with two doubles and 20 runs batted in. She ranked tied for fourth on the team with 29 runs scored and ranked second with nine stolen bases.
Also returning for the Spartans is sophomore Sydney Wagner. Last season, Wagner appeared in 38 games and scored eight runs. Sophomores Hope Yashnik and Gretchen Weiss will look to make an impact in the outfield during their second year.
Doyle finished her junior season ranked second among CWRU players with a .362 batting average. She finished tied for second on the team with five home runs, while also collecting a team-high 19 doubles, 33 RBI's and 37 runs scored. Doyle earned UAA Hitter of the Week honors on April 30th and May 14th.
"Doyle has continued to improve and is our leader this year," said Henry. "She has done a great job creating a positive culture with our team and I am expecting her to have outstanding defensive play at shortstop as well as score runs for us offensively."
Miller had strong freshman campaign, as she batted .293 (41-for-140) with four home runs, 10 doubles, five triples and 26 runs batted in. She also scored 24 runs and registered eight stolen bases.
Also returning for the Spartans are juniors Nicole Carty, Melissa Cuellar and Caitlin Smith. Carty appeared in all 50 games and finished tied for second on the team with five home runs, while also tallying 12 doubles and driving in 31 runs. Cuellar appeared in 21 games and batted .303 (10-for-33) with three home runs and 10 runs batted in. Smith appeared in 28 games and scored 14 runs. Sophomores Megan Buford and Marlo Robinson will also look to make an impact in the infield during their second year.
Sophomore Dusstyn Reynolds returns behind the plate for the Spartans, as she batted .293 (36-for-123) with seven doubles and 22 runs batted in 48 games played last season. Sophomores Jordan Gross and Richmond Garcia will also be options behind the plate for the Spartans in 2019.
Hamilton led the conference last season with 21 wins (21-8 overall) and 184 strikeouts in her first year as a Spartan. She set the school's new single-season record in both wins and strikeouts, as she surpassed former Spartan Rebecca Taylor in both categories. Hamilton totaled a team-high 19 complete games, as she allowed 68 earned runs on 153 hits for a 2.57 ERA. In addition to her work on the mound, Hamilton batted .282 (35-for-124) with one home run, eight doubles, 12 RBI's and 24 runs scored. She was named UAA Pitcher of the Week on five different occasions during the season.
"This will be her second year with our program and she gained many valuable lessons in pressure situations during our National Championship run last season," said Henry. "I expect her to start the year more consistently and help lead our program to victories as we will face strong competition early in the season. We have had a repeat tournament mentality in our workouts throughout the year."
Brannam finished last year ranked third in the UAA with 15 wins (15-4 overall) and third with a 1.81 earned run average. She led the team in earned run average and ranked second in wins as she totaled 116.1 innings pitched. Brannam allowed 30 earned runs over 116.1 innings pitched on 125 hits, while striking out 54 batters. She earned UAA Pitcher of the Week honors twice during her freshman campaign.
"Sid will bring a strong one-two punch on the mound as we start the season," said Henry. "She gained valuable experience as a freshmen last year and I am excited for her to continue to grow in her sophomore campaign."
Henry will begin her ninth year with the program in 2019, during which she has compiled a 205-127 (.617) overall record in her eighth years. Last season, she led a group that was named the UAA Coaching Staff of the Year and earned the 2018 NFCA NCAA Division III Central Regional Coaching Staff of the Year honors.
Henry will be assisted by Andrea Nagy, Ashley Parello, Katelyn Gibson and Hannah Mehrle.
"It has been a huge advantage to add Andrea as a full-time coach because she has been with our program, understands our culture and has a rapport with the players," said Henry. "We have high expectations for the program and Andrea has helped us put in the work needed to put together another strong run this year."
CWRU is slated to open the season with four games in Lexington, Kentucky with a doubleheader on Saturday, March 2nd versus Thomas More College and Transylvania University (11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.) followed by a second doubleheader on Sunday, March 3rd against DePauw University and Transylvania (11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.)
From there, CWRU will head to Tucson, Arizona from March 11th-15th, where they will play eight games in five days. Case Western Reserve will return home and host three-straight non-conference doubleheaders against Baldwin Wallace, Kenyon and Mount Union, before playing at John Carroll on March 26th.
"Our schedule is stacked to start the year," said Henry. "Eight of our first 12 games are against teams who participated in the 2018 NCAA Championship. We will be tested early and this will prepare us for our strong UAA opponents."
Starting on Friday March 29th, the Spartans will begin their University Athletic Association schedule. Like last season, the conference championship will now be determined by a round robin, with four games against each of the UAA schools. The Spartans will begin conference play at home against New York University from March 29th through March 30th.
From there, they will welcome Carnegie Mellon University to Mather Park for a four-game set from April 5th through April 6th. CWRU then hits the road for a four-game conference series at Brandeis University (April 12th-13th).
The Spartans will wrap-up their regular season with a four-game set at home against Emory University (April 19th-20th) and their final four game-conference series at Washington University in St. Louis (April 26th-27th).
"We are looking forward to adding Carnegie Mellon for the first time this season and all 16 UAA games will be opportunities to work towards our ultimate goal," said Henry. "Our focus is on growth and striving for greatness!"