Talented And Experienced Bulldogs Ready To Kick Off 2013 Season

Christy Nelson. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Christy Nelson. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Yale Returns 12 Letterwinners And Three All-Ivy Players

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The 2013 season begins a new era of Yale softball. Jen Goodwin, who spent the last two years as the Assistant Executive Director for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, has taken over as the head coach of the Bulldogs. Goodwin has brought energy and a passion for the game to the program.

Goodwin inherits a team with talent and experience. Yale returns 12 letterwinners, including three players who earned All-Ivy recognition last year. The Bulldogs are scheduled to kick off the season on Mar. 5 with a doubleheader at Central Connecticut. Yale then heads to Seattle to compete in the University of Washington's Tournament starting on Mar. 8.

"Our expectations for this season are high," Goodwin said. "We are starting off against some very tough competition out in Seattle, so we will be tested right when we step on the field. This team is up for the challenge and understands you have to play the best, in order to be the best.  The experience we'll gain early will become our foundation as we move into league play.  This team has worked hard throughout the off-season in the weight room, made some tweaks in other areas, and we are all eager to get out and compete against someone other than ourselves.  I believe it will be an exciting season for Yale Softball."

The Bulldogs will feature one of the most experienced infields in the Ivy League. First baseman Kelsey Warkentine, second baseman Jennifer Ong and third baseman Christy Nelson are all seniors who have been regulars in the lineup. Warkentine has appeared in 99 games in her career and has four home runs. Last year, she ended the season by batting .375 over her last four games. Ong was the first team All-Ivy second baseman last year and also earned NFCA first team All-Northeast Region honors. She finished third in the Ivy League in hits (54), fifth in batting average (.351), sixth in on base percentage (.409) and fifth in total plate appearances (171). Her 28 career doubles are the fifth most in school history. Nelson is fourth all-time at Yale with 29 career doubles and has 14 career home runs, only three shy of the school record. She earned second team All-Ivy recognition last spring after leading the team with 22 RBI and tying for third in the league with 12 doubles.  Nelson, the team captain for the second straight year, has played in 124 games in her career.

There will be a new face at shortstop. Meg Johnson '12, a four-year starter who finished her career with the fourth highest batting averaging in school history, has graduated. Freshman Brittany Labbadia and sophomore Riley Hughes are candidates to replace Johnson. Labbadia was a three-time first team all-state shortstop at Berlin (Conn.) High School. As a senior, she led her team in batting average (.530), hits (35), doubles (3), triples (6), home runs (4), RBI (18), runs (31) and stolen bases (15). Hughes started 43 games in the outfield for the Bulldogs last spring but has considerable experience in the infield. She tied for fifth on the team with 11 runs scored last year.

There will be plenty of depth on the infield. Sophomore Hannah Brennan can play both corner positions. Brennan started 33 games as a rookie, mostly as the designated player, and was sixth on the team with four doubles and eight RBI.

The infield also will be bolstered by the return of senior third baseman Liz Tutino, who missed all of last season with an injury. Tutino has played 38 games in her career.

Sophomore catcher Sarah Onorato had a strong rookie season. She started 35 games and was fourth on the team in batting (.255), tied for fourth in doubles (5) and fifth in RBI (12). Freshman Lauren Delgadillo also will see time behind the plate. Delgadillo, who can also play first and third, was the Sea View League most valuable player as a senior at San Clemente (Calif.) High School. She batted .453 with a team-best eight home runs last spring.

Two-year starter Tori Balta returns to anchor the Yale outfield. Balta earned honorable mention All-Ivy recognition in each of her first two years. Last spring, she led the Ivy League with 11 sacrifice bunts and tied for 10th with 24 runs scored. She has started 83 games in the outfield in her career. Freshman Allie Souza should see considerable time in the outfield as well. She was a two-time first team all-league selection at Westhill (Conn.) High School. As a senior, she batted .426 with 14 stolen bases, 18 runs scored and 10 RBI.

Hughes and Warkentine also will see time in the outfield.

Yale has a deep pitching staff. Chelsey Dunham is the most experienced returner. She begins her junior year sixth all-time at Yale with 35 career complete games and eighth with 163 career strikeouts. Last spring she was fifth in the Ivy League in innings pitched (144.2), fourth in starts (23) and sixth in wins (8). In addition, she completed 19 of the 23 games she started.

Junior Kristen Leung was the recipient of the team's most improved player award last year after finishing second on the staff in ERA, wins, innings and strikeouts, all despite having major back surgery in the offseason. Sophomore Kylie Williamson, who can also play first base, pitched 67 innings last year and gained valuable experience. Junior Alex Lucas also will see time in the circle.

Freshman Rhydian Glass could make an immediate impact. She holds virtually every pitching record at the Taft (Conn.) School. She was a three-time all-league selection and helped Taft to its first undefeated season in school history as a senior.

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Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity