PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Brittney Mendoza, Delaware
Senior | Second Base | Chula Vista, Calif. / Bonita Vista
Mendoza hit .563 (9-16) to lead the Delaware lineup in a 4-1 weekend for the Blue Hens. The senior second baseman reached base safely in all five games while recording five RBIs and three runs. In the opening game of the weekend, Mendoza went 4-for-4 from the plate with a double, RBI and run scored as Delaware topped SIUE 7-3. It was the first of two multi-hit games in the tournament as she went 3-for-4 in the nightcap against FAU on Saturday. Mendoza hit a home run and recorded a double, tallying three RBIs and two runs scored in the victory.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Emily Winstead, UNCW
Freshman | Bunn, N.C. / Rocky Mount Academy
Winstead tossed a complete-game shutout in UNCW’s series opener against St. Bonaventure. The Seahawks won the game 2-0 before sweeping the three-game series against the Bonnies. The freshman right-hander allowed just one hit while striking out 13 in the ball game. The 13 K’s are the most in a single-game by a CAA pitcher this season and rank second all-time in UNCW program history.
ROOKIE OF THE WEEK
Taylor Cherry, Elon
Freshman | Pitcher | Suffolk, Va. / Nansemond River
Cherry pitched the third perfect game in Elon program history against East Carolina on Sunday. The freshman from Suffolk, Va. added her first double-digit strikeout performance to her resume, adding 10 K’s to her flawless sheet against the Pirates. Cherry made two additional appearances throughout the week, pitching 2.0 innings of relief against Michigan State on Saturday after 1.2 against Michigan on Monday. Against the Spartans, she collected three strikeouts and allowed just one hit in her work.
Charleston (5-15, 0-0 CAA): The Cougars played five competitive games at the Purple & gold Classic hosted by Lipscomb, but came up winless. All five games were decided by two runs or less and three games went into extra innings. At the plate, Mia Dittoe had four hits, ending the weekend on a three-game hitting streak. Dittoe hit her first home run of the season and picked up three RBIs and two runs scored. Carsten Puckett recorded hits in three games while also hitting her first home run of the season. In the circle, Carlie McCants was on the wrong end of a pair of losing decisions despite posting a 1.02 ERA in 13.2 innings of work. She also recorded eight strikeouts over the weekend. Charleston will have the week off after its mid-week double-double was moved to later in the season. The Cougars’ next contest will be Wednesday, March 16 at South Carolina.
Delaware (12-6, 0-0 CAA): The Blue Hens went 4-1 at the FAU Tournament last weekend. Delaware has now won seven of its last eight games. Brittney Mendoza led the way at the plate, hitting .563 (9-16) for the weekend. Mendoza recorded one home run, five RBIs and three runs scored while reaching base safely in all five contests. Hanna Garber and Brooke Glanden tallied seven hits each in a solid weekend for the Blue Hens’ lineup. Glanden recorded hits in all five games with two home runs, three RBIs and three runs scored while Garber scored five runs and picked up three RBIs. In the circle, Emily Winburn posted a 2-1 record with a 2.74 ERA in 15.1 innings of work. The junior righty collected 17 strikeouts, including a career-high 10 in the weekend finale. Delaware will play on its home field for the first time this season as the Blue Hens welcome Penn State and Canisius for a tournament Friday through Sunday.
Drexel (5-5, 0-0 CAA): Drexel went 4-1 at the Pirate invitational hosted by Hampton. After dropping the first game by one run, the Dragons rattled off four wins to conclude the weekend. Kristi DiMeo hit .467 for the tournament, recording hits and RBIs in all five games. She totaled six RBIs and added four runs scored over the weekend. DiMeo now has recorded a hit in seven straight games. Jackie Masone and Sarah Clinton picked up six hits apiece. They both scored seven runs and recorded one RBI over the tournament. Lindsay Nelson went 2-0 in the circle posting a 0.65 ERA with five strikeouts in 10.2 innings of work. Drexel remains on the road, visiting Coppin State for a three-game series this weekend.
Elon (13-6, 0-0 CAA): The Phoenix went 4-2, dropping a mid-week contest to NC State (6-4) before a 4-1 weekend at its home invitational. Elon’s pitching staff had a pair of impressive performances as Taylor Cherry recorded the Phoenix’s third perfect game in program history. The performance came in the weekend finale as Elon defeated East Carolina 1-0. Cherry picked up 10 strikeouts in the effort, marking her first career game with double-digit strikeouts. McKenzie Webber tossed a complete game shutout against Michigan State, helping Elon to a 2-0 victory over the Spartans. Webber is the only player in the CAA that has yet to allow an earned run this season. She has pitched 24.0 innings and has a 3-0 record thus far. At the plate, Rebecca Murray hit .421 (8-19) with four runs scored and one RBI. Murray picked up hits in 5 of six games and ended the weekend on a four-game hitting streak. Elon hits the road for just the second time this season, heading to UNCG for the Spartan Classic this weekend.
Hofstra (2-12, 0-0 CAA): Hofstra earned its first two wins of the season at the Cardinal Classic. Head coach Adrienne Clark picked up her first career win with a 2-1 victory over host Louisville. The Pride also earned a victory over Western Michigan in the tournament. Julia Apsel continued to be a workhorse in the circle, pitching 18.0 innings across three games. Apsel earned both wins, going 2-1 over the weekend with a 1.56 ERA and 12 strikeouts. Angelina Ioppolo and Sam Ward each recorded five hits over the weekend. Ioppolo recorded three RBIs and two runs scored while Ward tallied three runs scored and one RBI. Hofstra will continue its road stretch with a three-game series at UMBC on Saturday and Sunday.
James Madison (4-9, 0-0 CAA): JMU snapped a six-game skid with a win over Lehigh at the Liberty Classic. The Dukes finished the weekend 1-4 overall. Hannah Shifflet and Hallie Hall each recorded four hits for the tournament. Shifflet had the only multi-hit game over the weekend while Hall recorded hits in four of the five games. Shifflet had two home runs, four RBIs, and two runs scored. Two of Hall’s hits went for extra bases, with a pair of doubles. She added two runs scored and one RBI. In the circle, Alissa Humphrey made four appearances, totaling 23.0 innings and recorded 14 strikeouts. JMU plays Thursday through Sunday this week and will play on its home diamond for the first time this season. The Dukes will host the JMU Classic March 11-13.
UNCW (15-3, 0-0 CAA): The Seahawks earned a sweep of St. Bonaventure in a three-game series last weekend. The UNCW pitching staff was lights out, not allowing a run in the series. Emily Winstead pitched a complete-game shutout in the series opener, allowing just one hit while striking out 13. Kara Hammock held the Bonnies off the scoreboard, scattering four hits and striking out seven in her 5.0 innings of work. Amberlyn Pearce capped off the weekend with a 5.0 inning performance, allowing just one hit and striking out three. At the plate, Tayler Vitola went 5-for-9 with three runs and one RBI, recording hits in all three games. After the weekend, Vitola has at least one hit in eight straight games. Anna Knox also picked up hits in all three games, going 4-for-7 with three runs and one RBI. UNCW will welcome Maryland Eastern Shore to campus for a four-game series this week.
Towson (4-12, 0-0 CAA): The Tigers went 3-1 at their home invitational, picking up wins over Coppin State and Columbia. In the circle, Melissa Abrahamian went 2-0 and posted a 1.75 ERA. She picked up seven strikeouts in 12.0 innings of work. Mackenzie Lake paced the Tigers’ lineup, hitting .462. Lake recorded three RBIs and three runs scored throughout the tournament. Briana Ramirez tallied five hits, including a three-hit performance against Providence. Ramirez recorded four runs scored and one RBI. Towson will continue an eight-game home stretch by hosting the TU Tiger Classic Friday through Sunday.
A CLASS OF HER OWN
• Drexel’s Kristi DiMeo was among the top 30 softball student-athlete candidates selected for the 2022 Senior CLASS award. The honor highlights seniors that show exemplary excellence in four categories: community, classroom, character and competition. As a top candidate, DiMeo will be eligible for the finalist ballot that narrows the pool to 10 candidates for the award’s final vote.
BIG WINS FOR THE BIRDS
• Delaware and Elon have picked up two wins over Power Five opponents early this season.
• On Feb. 16, the Phoenix earned a walk-off win over in-state, ACC foe North Carolina, defeating the Tar Heels 4-3. Last week, Elon earned a 2-0 win over Michigan State out of the Big Ten.
• The Blue Hens defeated Big Ten adversary Purdue 6-5 in extra innings on Feb. 19 and earned a convincing 12-4 win over NC State on Feb. 26.
HOT STARTS DOWN SOUTH
• UNCW and Elon have jumped out to impressive starts in 2022, ranking first and second in the conference standings.
• UNCW has posted an 8-1 record through its first nine games, marking the best start for the Seahawks in program history. The Seahawks sit 15-3 after four weeks of the season.
• Elon went 7-2 record through the first two weeks of the season for the second time in the past three years. The Phoenix also started the 2020 season 7-2 before it was shut down. The Phoenix currently maintains a 13-6 record heading into this week’s competition.
NEW FACES AROUND THE LEAGUE
• Three CAA teams enter 2022 under new leadership in their head coach position.
• Tracey Lynch takes over at Charleston, where she was an assistant coach during the 2013 season. For the past six years, Lynch served as an Assistant Coach at UNCG.
• The Katie Jansson era of Drexel softball starts in 2022. Jansson arrives at Drexel after three seasons of head coaching duties at her alma matter Iona.
• Adrienne Clark returns to Hofstra after an illustrious career as a student-athlete and assistant coach. During her time as a player and Assistant Coach, Clark won five CAA Championships and 14 NCAA Tournament games.
NEW MEMBERS COMING 2023
• The Colonial Athletic Association announced Hampton, Monmouth, and Stony Brook will join the conference as full members in 2023. Subsequently, CAA Softball will grow from eight teams to ten.
• Half the league will get a 2023 preview facing the newest members of the CAA this spring. Drexel will face Hampton twice at Hampton’s Pirate Invitational, and see Stony Brook at the Rutgers tournament. Towson will host Monmouth for a pair of games at Towson’s TU Tiger Clash. Hofstra will face Long Island rival Stony Brook in a home-and-home, while Delaware will host Monmouth in a mid-week non-conference matchup.
2021 SEASON IN REVIEW
• 2021 was a historic year in CAA Softball as James Madison become the first team in conference history to win an NCAA Super Regional, advance to the WCWS and win a game at the WCWS.
• JMU won its second consecutive CAA Tournament title following a 17-1 CAA regular season.
• James Madison’s Odicci Alexander was named the Softball America Player of the Year, in addition to the D1 Softball Women of the Year and was a second-team All-American.
• The JMU coaching staff earned NFCA and D1 Softball Coaching Staff of the Year accolades, while Associate Head Coach Jennifer Herzig was named NFCA Assistant Coach of the Year.
YEAR FOR THE RECORDS
• Two of the most storied athletes in CAA Softball history battled each other in the CAA record books throughout the 2021 season.
• Drexel’s Linda Rush finished her career ranked first in the CAA record books in batting average (.426), runs scored (210) and RBIs (245), while she was second in home runs (68) and hits (269).
• JMU’s Kate Gordan, a three-time conference champion, ended her career as the conference’s all-time leader in home runs (71). Additionally, Gordon ranks second in CAA history in batting average (.407), runs scored (201) and RBIs (200).
• Rush and Gordon are the only two players in CAA history that have recorded over 200 runs scored, 200 RBIs and 65 home runs.
2022 PRESEASON RUNDOWN
• We return to a traditional 21-game round-robin format in conference play, with each team playing one three-game series against all conferences teams throughout the season.
• James Madison was picked atop the CAA preseason poll with six first-place votes and 48 total points. Delaware received one first-place vote and 42 points, while Elon collected the final first-place vote and 35 points to finish second and third, respectively. Fourth through sixth were separated by just six points, as Hofstra tallied 28, Drexel totaled 24, and UNCW accumulated 22. Charleston and Towson rounded out the field with 14 and 11 points, respectively.
• The 2022 CAA Softball Championship is set to take place May 12-14 at Hunt Softball Park on the campus of Elon.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism