DEARBORN, Mich. – The University of Michigan-Dearborn softball team looks to return to the top of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference with an influx of new talent, filling out a roster led by Wolverines with championship experience.
"We always want to get better from the year before," head coach Vince Alessandrini said, as he enters his third year leading UM-Dearborn. "But we definitely want to make it to the national tournament. That's always the goal."
Last year's senior class of Gina Verduzco, Jordan Ewald, Ellie Kauten and Riley Miller graduated as the winningest class in UM-Dearborn softball history with 107 victories over four seasons.
"We had some outstanding players," Alessandrini said. "Gina (starting pitcher) was amazing and I enjoyed coaching her and the rest of the graduating seniors."
The 2019 roster includes four returning seniors, Julie St. John, Sarah Prashad, Rachel Clem, and Leah Oldham, who will be looked to for leadership with 13 newcomers on the team, which finished 20-18 overall and 10-10 in the WHAC a year ago. Prashad was named to the All-WHAC Second Team after a breakout junior season.
"Honestly, Sarah should've been First-Team last year," Alessandrini said about his starting centerfielder.
The 2019 junior class is filled with talented returners, several having played a part as freshmen in the program's 2017 regular season championship. The returning junior class includes Kayla Laquiere, Ashlynn Henderson, Amy Jarrett, Olivia Cottom, and Samantha Torongeau. Sophomores Kaylie McConnell and Megan Lohner also return and will look to expand their roles with the team in 2019.
UM-Dearborn returns assistant coaches Heather Scott (pitching coach) and Amanda Tackaberry, while Lanny Hall joins the coaching staff for the first time in 2019.
What You Need to Know
- UM-Dearborn will begin the season in February, playing six games at the Ballpark in Rosemont, just outside Chicago, from Feb. 1-3.
- In his first two seasons as head coach, Alessandrini has led the Wolverines to a combined 51-28 record, including its first regular-season WHAC title in 2017.
- The Wolverines play five doubleheaders at home, four at Alumni Field in Ann Arbor, Mich.
- UM-Dearborn's roster includes 11 returners and 13 newcomers, including four transfers.
- Rachel Clem: A shortstop from Stevensville, Mich., returns as a four-year starter. Alessandrini expects Clem to take on a bigger role and finish her college career with a strong season in the field and at the plate.
- Sarah Prashad: The starting outfielder is coming off a season where she recorded a career-high 37 hits while adding 18 runs and 12 RBIs.
- Leah Oldham: Credited was by her coach for her leadership qualities, the returning senior catcher will look to lead the young Wolverines to another successful season.
- Samantha Torongeau: The junior from Shelby Township, Mich., is expected to take the ace role as the Wolverines on the mound.
- Julie St. John: Alessandrini expects St. John to be a consistent presence on the mound this season, adding that his entire senior class will play a large role in UM-Dearborn's success in 2019.
Returning Statistical Leaders
- Prashad led the Wolverines in 2018 with 113 at-bats, 37 hits, eight doubles, 10 walks and tied for the lead with 18 runs scored.
- Clem leads returners with five home runs, 22 RBIs and tied for team lead with 18 runs scored.
- McConnell led returners last season with .417 batting average and .604 slugging percentage.
- Lohner recorded a team-high four stolen bases in 2018.
- Torongeau leads returning pitchers with 39 innings pitched and 26 strikeouts in 2018
- Henderson had the most appearances last season among returners with 12.
- Madeline Skene: "She throws harder than Gina and we're hoping Madeline matures as she did as well," Alessandrini said about his incoming freshman. "She's a phenomenal athlete with a great attitude and personality."
- Aspen Starr: The native of Shelby Township, Mich., will have an opportunity to step in and make an impact in her first year with the Wolverines.
- Makenna Millhorn: The Riverview, Mich., native had a strong fall at the plate and will be counted on to provide depth to the Wolverine lineup.
- Erin McCune: "She's mature enough, like many of our other freshmen, to come in and start right away," Alessandrini said about the true freshman from Rockwood, Mich.
Schedule at a Glace
The Wolverines open their third season under Alessandrini on Friday, traveling to Chicago to play six games, starting with its season opener against Judson University at 9 am at the Ballpark at Rosemont.
UM-Dearborn will continue its season by participating in the Fastpitch Dreams Spring Classic for a second straight season in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., beginning with a matchup against Ferrum College at 11:30 am on Mar. 2.
The WHAC season opens against Lourdes University on Mar. 27.
The WHAC tournament is set to begin on May 1.