Setting the Scene
What: Campbell Invitational
Where: Amanda Littlejohn Stadium (Buies Creek, N.C.)
When: Thursday, Feb. 15-Saturday, Feb. 17
Bucknell Schedule (UPDATED DUE TO WEATHER FORECAST)
Thursday, Feb. 15
4 p.m. | Bucknell at Campbell | Watch Live | Live Stats
6 p.m. | Bucknell at Campbell | Live Stats
Friday, Feb. 16
9 a.m. | Bucknell vs. Morehead State | Live Stats
Saturday, Feb. 17
9 a.m. | Bucknell vs. Northern Kentucky | Live Stats
11:30 a.m. | Bucknell vs. James Madison | Live Stats
About the Bison
• Bucknell opens the 2018 softball season with five games at the Campbell Invitational. The three-day event begins on Thursday. The Bison will play Campbell (twice), Morehead State, Northern Kentucky, and James Madison.
• The Bison had two players named to the Preseason All-Patriot League Team. Senior Meghan Kovac (first base) earned a spot on the team for a second consecutive season, while sophomore pitcher Raeanne Geffert appeared on the team for the first time in her young career.
• Kovac enters her final season with the Bison needing just three RBIs to break the program’s career record of 106 set by Lauren Litts from 2004-07. Kovac also ranks in the top 10 in batting average (.346), doubles (37), and home runs (12).
• Kovac and Geffert are also the two returning All-Patriot League players for the Bison. Kovac made the First Team, while Geffert made the Second Team. Geffert was outstanding in her first season with the team, finishing with 117 strikeouts to just 20 walks.
• Senior Celina Antonellis, who carries a perfect 4.0 GPA, was an Academic All-Patriot League selection last season.
• Bucknell is set to begin its first season under head coach Joey Lye and assistant coaches Matt Burns and Ketarah DeVries.
• The Bison were picked fourth in the Patriot League Preseason Poll. Lehigh, Boston University, and Army West Point were picked first through third, while Holy Cross, Colgate, and Lafayette were predicted fifth through seventh. The top four teams qualify for the Patriot League Tournament.
• Bucknell returns a middle infield tandem that have started alongside each other since they were freshmen. Now juniors, Anna Gimmestad (SS) and Lauren Hadley (2B) look to again give the team stability up the middle.
Scouting the Opponents
• Campbell is 3-2 after opening the season with five games against San Diego and CSU Bakersfield at the San Diego Tournament. Madison Herring batted 7-16 at the event. The Camels went 29-29 overall and 13-8 in the Big South last season.
• Morehead State is 3-1 after opening with wins against Central Michigan (twice) and Buffalo, and a loss to Appalachian State at the Mercer Invitational. The Eagles have six home runs in the first four games. They went 26-22 overall and 6-12 in the OVC last season.
• Northern Kentucky opens the 2018 season at the Campbell Invitational. The Norse went 14-38 overall and 8-16 in the Horizon League last season.
• James Madison is 3-2 after playing five games against Nevada, Long Beach State, and Louisiana Tech in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Payton Buresch is 2-1 with a 0.71 ERA, striking out 15 batters in 19.2 innings of work.
Series History with the Opponents
• Campbell is 4-0 in the all-time series with Bucknell. The teams first played in 1995. They haven’t played since 2009.
• Morehead State won the only meeting with Bucknell in 2008.
• Northern Kentucky won the only meeting with the Bison in 2005.
• Bucknell and James Madison are tied 2-2 in a series that began in 2002. The teams last played in 2012, a 7-4 win by the Bison.
• The Bison play Maine (twice), Longwood (twice), and the host UNCW at the Seahawk Softball Classic on Feb. 23-25.
Bison Look to Get Back to Conference Tournament Under New Head Coach Joey Lye
In her first season as head coach of Bucknell softball, Joey Lye has a lot to be excited about as she looks to guide the team back to the Patriot League Tournament after a one-year hiatus. The Bison return one of the league’s best hitters, one of the league’s top pitchers, an experienced pair of middle infielders, and a talented group of outfielders in a battle for the three starting spots.
Last season went off the rails down the closing stretch, but a lot of positivez can be taken from it, as well. The Bison return most of their lineup from a squad that went 23-20, including 14 losses by two runs or less. The team excelled during its non-conference schedule, but went into a slump at the wrong time during league play.
To remedy that this season, Bucknell will face a more challenging non-conference schedule so it can prepare for what expects to be a wide open field in the Patriot League. Included in that schedule are three teams – James Madison, Longwood, and Georgia – that played in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, as well as Big East regular season champion St. John’s.
The Bison were picked to finish fourth in the seven-team Patriot League, coming in behind Lehigh, Boston University, and Army West Point. That would get the team back in the conference tournament, but Lye has higher hopes for the team than just qualifying.
“The poll came out and we were predicted fourth. I’m fine with that. Hopefully we will be underestimated and we can prove what we are all about on the field,” Lye said.
Part of the reason she has high expectations for the team is because of how the players immediately responded in a positive manner to having a new coaching staff.
“When you take over a team, you never know what you’re getting into,” Lye said. “After working with the players for a couple of weeks, I got the full picture of how great they actually are. Not having to deal with any team culture issues allows the coaches to focus on getting better at softball. The team that we saw in the fall is night and day different than the team we have now. It’s exciting because they are buying in to everything.”
The following is a closer look at each position group...
The Bison appear to be in good shape here with sophomore Raeanne Geffert leading the staff. She was great in her first season, earning Second Team All-Patriot League recognition after going 14-9 with a 2.20 ERA. She showed great command with 117 strikeouts and just 20 walks, and didn’t back down from the pressure of league play, going 4-4 with a 1.81 ERA in 13 appearances.
A trio of pitchers will join Geffert on the staff, including the return of Taylor Langtry. The senior hopes to pitch for the first time since early on in her freshman season due to injuries. Sophomore Lauren Licthenwalner was solid last season, posting a 2.39 ERA in 19 appearances, and Sarah Magro joins the team after an illustrious high school career in Massachusetts.
“I think all of our pitchers bring something different, which is great,” Lye said. “It can help us keep lineups off balance.”
This is where the Bison suffered the biggest loss to graduation, losing a three-year starter in Christina Martinez that helped a young pitching staff last season. Freshman Taylor Wolfgang, an all-state player from Connecticut, looks to step in and build on her rapport with Geffert. The two are already familiar with each other while playing high school and AAU in Connecticut. Senior Celina Antonellis, primarily an outfielder, will also see time at the position.
“Taylor has stepped in seamlessly so far,” Lye said. “We played a couple of games in the fall and she got to show what she is made of. She works well with our pitchers. She will get the majority of the innings this year, but we will have to be aware of how much work we are putting on her.”
Bucknell is loaded with experience in the infield, starting with senior Meghan Kovac at first base. Kovac is a Preseason All-Patriot League selection for the second straight year, and was a First Team All-Patriot League honoree at the end of last season. She needs just three RBIs to set the program’s career record, and also ranks in the top 10 in batting average, doubles, and home runs.
Up the middle, juniors Anna Gimmestad (shortstop) and Lauren Hadley (second base) have been starters since the first game of their freshman season, coincidentally a game that was against Saint Francis starting pitcher Ketarah DeVries, who is now an assistant for the Bison.
Sophomore Marisa Alemany began her freshman season as the starter at third base, but suffered a season-ending injury before league play. She will be in the running to retake that position, as will freshman Jazmyn Stokes.
“Even players that have started in the past know nothing is being handed to them. They will have to earn their spot,” Lye said of the veteran infielders. “There is a good competitive nature within every position. Everyone has an opportunity to push for time.”
The Bison have a logjam of talent with six or seven players battling for playing time in the outfield. Senior Paulina Gutkin started 42 games last season, while junior Ryanne Rokos started 30. Antonellis and Maddie Minneci also saw time, starting 19 and one game, respectively. Gutkin put up the best offensive numbers of the group, hitting .291 with four doubles, a triple, and 17 RBIs.
Also vying for time are Tara Baglivo, Hom, and Mariano.
“These are the most up in the air positions for us,” Lye said. “There will be some movement out there, and will be exciting to see who steps up and earns more playing time.”