The beat rolls on for Rhode Island College softball

The Rhode Island College softball team has had their share of success over past three years and the 2009 edition is doing their best to carry on that standard of excellence.

From 2006-08, RIC softball has a 112-24-1 overall record. During that span, the Anchorwomen have won three consecutive Little East Conference regular season and tournament championships, made three straight appearances in the NCAA Div. III Tournament, winning the New England Region twice and advancing to the National Championship Round.

“It’s a tradition,” head coach Maria Morin says. “We are getting all the good athletes from good schools to keep the tradition alive. I have a great coaching staff that helps me find kids who buy in to what we want to achieve.”

Over the past two years, RIC has had some of the greatest players in program history help establish the Anchorwomen as a perennial national power. All-Americans, pitcher Nicole Riley (’07) and first baseman Christie Lotti (’08), have re-written the school’s record books and All-Conference catcher Kristyn Alexander (’07) and third baseman Krystal Bilek (’08) were two of the most efficient run producers RIC has ever known.

With Morin and her staff knowing that recruiting plays such a central roll in a program’s success, they’ve been able to fill the voids left by graduation with student-athletes who can thrive in a championship environment.

This year has been no different as RIC is poised for another run at the NCAA Tournament. A doubleheader sweep of UMass Boston on April 19 raised the team’s record to 30-3-1 overall and the club remains unbeaten with a 9-0-1 mark in LEC play with one week remaining in the regular season. The program has also achieved 30 wins for the fourth consecutive year.

The core of the 2009 Anchorwomen is their sophomore class that includes ’08 LEC Rookie of the Year in 2008 and a preseason All-American second baseman Amanda Perry, All-LEC utility player Kayla Jandreau and pitcher Melanie Neece, along with shortstop Donielle Mattoon and catcher Laura Kostenblatt.

Perry had in outstanding freshman season and played a mammoth role for the Anchorwomen. The New Bedford, Mass., native batted .394 and established a RIC single season record with 35 RBI. She is currently hitting .416 to go along with 29 RBI on the season.

Mattoon came on to the team as a walk-on 2008 to play the outfield for the Anchorwomen. This season, she became the starting shortstop, found herself leading the team in batting from the ninth spot in the order (.487) and has established herself as a leading candidate for the conference’s Player of the Year Award. The ninth spot for Morin has been something special that started with Casey Lyons who finished her senior year batting at .347 and was continued by Kelsey Souza a year ago. The head coach loves to see a player in the ninth spot that can get things started for the top of the order, currently occupied by the talented Perry.

The pitching has been amazing for the Anchorwomen in 2009. “I have three aces on my team who I can throw at anytime with all the confidence in the world in them,” Morin said about a pitching staff that is boasting a 1.08 ERA. The Anchorwomen saw a Division I player come in and play, as Amanda Berard left Iona to become an Anchorwoman. Berard has a team low ERA of 0.52 and leads the league in saves with eight.

“It was easy to fit in right away,” Jandreau said about her freshman year. “All of the girls were really nice and talked to me a lot. They made sure that I knew what was going on in practices, especially when I was learning the plays from the previous years.”

Laura Kostenblatt who played a small role in her freshman year has stepped up in her sophomore year to become a big part to the Anchorwomen’s lineup. Kostenblatt finds herself batting cleanup for the squad and batting at .434 with a team-high 30 RBI – six shy of Perry’s record from a year ago.

The 2009 team is a young team with seven freshman, nine sophomores, four juniors and one senior. Junior outfielder Michelle Perrin commented on the difference from her freshman year to the current campaign: “The team is younger, so the girls have to step up with their leadership because we only have one senior on the team. It really helps the team in the long run.”

Morin said of her young team, “Our leaders are leaders by committee. The most important thing is you got to keep the fun in the game.”

Fun is something the Anchorwomen are sure to have as they eye another conference championship with hopes of returning to the National Championship Round.

Stay tuned to to follow the softball team and all of the RIC spring sports during the conference playoffs.