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SB PREVIEW: Hofstra blends new talent with vets, aiming for CAA crown

The Hofstra Pride softball team saw their last season end two games shy of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) title. After posting an 11-8 conference record, good for second best in the CAA, the team succumbed to the Dukes of James Madison University. Hofstra is no stranger to JMU, who has won three of the last four conference championships. This season, there is just one goal in mind for the Pride: taking back the CAA.

This year’s Hofstra squad features an intriguing mix of veterans along with new faces.

The Pride return seven seniors, including Michaela Transue, who redshirted last year due to injury. With a large freshman class entering the fold, leadership will be crucial to the success of the 2018 season.

Hofstra welcomes in five new freshmen, all with differing skill sets. However, there is one trait that they all have in common.

“They’re outstanding, they are probably the hardest working freshman class that we have had,” said senior Brittany Allocca.

“They know they are just as an important component as anyone else on this team … no man left behind, it takes all of us,” added fellow senior Nikki Michalowski.

Hofstra also brings back a group of star-studded sophomores who took the CAA by storm last year. In the circle, Sarah Cornell posted a 17-12 record with a 3.28 earned run average to go along with 129 strikeouts. These numbers earned her a CAA-All Rookie Team and a National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Northeast Regional First Team selection. Anchoring the middle of the infield as well as setting the table at the top of the lineup was Kristin Hallam. The New Jersey native hit .378 with a .450 on-base percentage, landing her on the CAA second-team.

Hofstra head coach Larissa Anderson had high praise for both players.

“I have so much faith and confidence in [Cornell], she is a bulldog and if she could pitch every single game I know she would,” Anderson said. “[Hallam] is a veteran…she is a tremendous ballplayer and now she has a whole year under her belt.”

Hofstra filled their need in centerfield by bringing in Lydia Witkowski, a redshirt-junior transfer from Georgia Southern. In her sophomore season, she hit .324 and posted a .391 OBP. She possesses speed along with a solid defensive presence in the outfield.

Look for Hallam and Witkowski to provide a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup.

The Pride’s non-conference schedule is jam-packed with elite teams. Hofstra will take on seven teams that made it to the NCAA Regionals and two that advanced to the Super Regionals last season.

“We know the top-level teams will expose our weaknesses; we want them exposed right away, we don’t want them exposed when we are coming down the stretch in conference playoffs,” Anderson said.

There is one area in particular that players and coaches have raved about coming into the new season. Defense has always been a staple of Hofstra Pride softball, and this offseason it was a major focal point for the team. Anderson believes that her team looks top-10 in the nation in that department, adding that “they put on a show in practice.”

In the preseason poll, Hofstra was selected second behind JMU. The CAA looks to be a three-team race amongst Hofstra, JMU and the College of Charleston. In the last 15 (out of 16) seasons, either Hofstra or JMU have taken home the trophy.

This team has all the tools to bring the CAA Championship back to Hempstead. A balanced mix of youth and experience will carry the team a long way. Now, it is just a matter of getting onto the field and executing.

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