By Michael Otero
Coming off a spectacular 2014 campaign, the softball team placed seventh in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Preseason Top-25 Poll, which was announced late January.
In addition to their No. 7 ranking in the NFCA, the Pioneers were also awarded the No. 1 ranking in the East Coast Conference poll in an almost unanimous decision. Senior catcher Aly Dzierzynski and sophomore pitcher Ashley Martin captured preseason accolades, as well.
This season, the Pioneers will look to senior catcher Aly Dzierzynski. In her junior year, she owned a .438 batting average to go along with a .495 on base percentage, and a .907 slugging percentage. In addition, she also smacked 25 homers and totaled 77 RBIs, which ranked third among all hitters in the country. Dzierzynski broke previous LIU single-season records with her home run and RBI totals and also set new club records for total bases, extra base hits, and slugging percentage.
In her freshman year, Martin was named ECC Rookie of the Week three times and named to the All-ECC second team. In her 29 appearances, she compiled a 16-2 record, ranking second in the conference in victories. She also finished in the top- 5 in the ECC in earned run average and strikeouts.
In addition to Martin, returning to the circle for the Pioneers is senior pitcher Megan Salcido. Last season, she appeared in 19 games, going 6-2 and pitching to an impressive 1.89-earned run average. In her 74 innings pitched, she gave up only 65 hits and struck out 43 batters. Perhaps her best performance came against Caldwell University last season, when she tossed a complete-game two- hitter in the NCAA East Super Regional finale.
The Pioneers boasted a 50-11 record last season, compiling a .335 team batting average. The high batting average lead to an awful amount of runs scored, 395 to be exact. The Pioneers totaled 570 hits, and of those, 85 went for home runs.
The Pioneers won their conference and the NCAA Division II Region, but were sent home with back- to-back losses in the National Championships.
Head Coach Jaime Apicella and the Pioneers will begin their season on Sunday, March 1, when they face the Panthers from Adelphi University at Garden City, N.Y.