Fastball Mountaineers target ninth podium visit

OCAA women’s fastball opens this week as the 2007 season kicks off with a slew of action. Conestoga is set to host the Mohawk Mountaineers today (Tuesday) at 5 p.m. In a rematch of the past two seasons gold medal games, the St. Clair Saints will travel to Oshawa to face the 2006 defending champion Durham Lords in a weekend two-game series. Meanwhile, Cambrian will make the road trip down to Hamilton to battle Mohawk on Friday and Saturday in a two-game series. Seneca will open on the road as they are set to face Conestoga in a double header on Saturday afternoon in Kitchener.

Here is a look at the teams.

Mohawk College
2006 regular season record: 6-6; 2006 playoff record: 1-2 (Bronze). Championships: 1

The Mohawk Mountaineers will look to their young guns in 2007 if they hope to build off their eighth consecutive medal at the OCAA Championship. Jenny “K” Koschanow will be one of the four veterans returning to the Mountaineers lineup. The Mountaineer ace continued to baffle OCAA hitters, posting a 2.88 ERA. In her first two seasons of play, Koschanow has 123 strikeouts, including a league record 16 Ks in her 2005 OCAA debut.

Last season, run support was a problem for the Mountaineers. Shortstop Samantha Tubman will look for help from her teammates, as she posted a team high .344 average with 11 hits and 3 RBI. Head coach Brian Weller hopes the addition of freshman catcher Michelle James will help the Mountaineer bats. The rookie loaded lineup will have to mesh quickly if the Mountaineers want to qualify for the OCAA championship and keep their consecutive medal streak alive.

Durham College
2006 regular season record: 11-1; 2006 Playoff Record: 3-0 (Gold). Championships: 13.

In 2006, the youthful Durham Lords managed to recapture the OCAA Championship after a 5-3 win over the defending champion St. Clair Saints. In his 18th year as head coach of the Lords, Jim Nemish will field a veteran line-up on opening day as seven players return to the team. After cleaning up at the awards banquet in 2006, standout pitcher Danielle Smith will make her return. Smith hopes to have a repeat of her rookie season as she was named the Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, League/Championship Top Pitcher and League All-Star.

Amanda Ellison will also be making her return to the Lord’s lineup. In her rookie campaign, Ellison batted .452 while knocking in 16 RBI. Other key returning veterans include catcher Vanessa Chaborek, Amanda McArthur, Jen Degrace and Amanda Advidchuck.

St. Clair College
2006 regular season record: 9-3; 2006 playoff record: 2-2 (Silver). Championships: 1.

After winning their first championship title in 2005, the St. Clair Saints had continued success last season, finishing the regular season 9-3 and were narrowly defeated at the OCAA championship in the gold medal game 5-3 by the Durham Lords. St. Clair will hope to get back to the top of the podium this season as they field a lineup mixed with veteran leadership and youthful potential.

At the UWO Mustang Challenge preseason tournament this past weekend, St. Clair had a good showing against tough competition and posted a 2-2 record, winning their last two games including a 2-0 win over Palmerston (Eastern Canadian Champions). The veteran pitching duo of Kandice Bagley and Candice Gatecliffe will be the featured starters for the Saints. Both pitchers picked up wins this weekend, including a complete game, two-hit shutout by Gatecliffe on Saturday.

Scoring will not be problem for the Saints as infielder Trisha Whaley returns to the lineup. Whaley was the Saint’s most consistent hitter last season batting an impressive .432 while scoring a team-high 13 runs. New to the lineup this season will be Ashley Vincent. Vincent was impressive in her Saint’s debut as she went 3-for-3 at the plate against Palmerston while scoring the winning run against Byron.

Cambrian College
2006 regular season record: 4-8; 2006 playoff record: DNQ. Championships: 0.

The Cambrian Golden Shield hope 2007 is the year the college medals at the championship in October. Last season, Cambrian had trouble on defense allowing an average of 7.6 runs per game. Fastball fans in Sudbury will hope the 2007 freshman class will fill some of the gaps that were prevalent last season.

Despite the losing record, there were some bright spots in 2006 for the Golden Shield squad as they picked up wins against the Seneca Sting and Mohawk Mountaineers, both of whom qualified for the OCAA championship last season.

Conestoga College
2006 regular season record: 5-7; 2006 playoff record: DNQ. Championships: 5.

Just missing out on post-season play in 2006, the Condors look to bounce back. Under the leadership of Fawn Day (2006 Coach of the Year), Conestoga increased its win total after going 2-10 in 2005 and 5-7 in 2006. If the Condors hope to reach the .500 mark, they will need more consistent pitching. Conestoga allowed 92 runs in 12 games, the second most in the league. Despite that defense, the Condor bats were alive in 2006 scoring a total of 58 runs. With the emergence of a young lineup, Condor fans are hoping for a better ending to the season, as they lost their final four games and fell to Seneca in the standings due to tie breaking procedures.

Seneca College
2006 regular season record: 5-7; 2006 playoff record: 0-2 (Fourth). Championships: 6.

Rick Finlay, the longest serving coach in OCAA Women’s Fastball, intends to continue Seneca’s momentum from the final games of 2006 when the Sting won three of their last four games to squeak into the OCAA Championships with a 5-7 record. With 11 freshmen on the roster last season, Sting fans anticipate that a year of experience will bring a winning season and jump back onto the medal podium (Seneca won back-to-back silver medals in 2003-2004).

The Sting must have consistent run production in order to make an impact in the standings. In their final four games of the regular season, the Sting scored an average of 5.75 RPG, the driving force behind their final push towards the post season. One thing that is for sure, Seneca has proved they can perform in pressure situations as they beat Cambrian 10-1, despite terrible weather conditions in the final game of the regular to clinch the final spot in the OCAA Championship.