Acker sets sights on regionals and beyond for softball

By Carl Stoffers

The Kean University softball team will take the field in 2014 looking to build on last season’s strong showing in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. It marked the squad’s third appearance in the tournament in the last four seasons and that success has led to high expectations in Union.

“I think right now, where the program is, we want to get into regionals,” said head coach Margie Acker. “We want to be competitive enough against all regional opponents so that, whether we win our conference or not, we will get a bid to the regionals. Getting to the conference tournament isn’t good enough anymore, the regional tournament is what we want
to get to.”

To achieve that goal, Acker will rely on a familiar face heading into this season. Junior pitcher/infielder Courtney Yard, who hit .301 while registering a stellar 1.34 ERA last year, will be counted on to turn in another outstanding season in 2014.

“Courtney Yard has been our number one pitcher since she was a freshman,” Acker said. “She’s going to be the key to our success both defensively, on the mound and offensively at the plate. She does it all.”

The Kean hurlers, who recorded an impressive 1.90 ERA last season while tossing ten shutouts (nine by Yard), return virtually the entire staff in 2014, making pitching a strength of the club.
“We’re a well-rounded, balanced team,” coach Acker said. “But I think our pitching is our strength, as it has been in the last couple years. The key will be to score some runs to back Courtney on the mound.”

Kean ranked second in the New Jersey Athletic Conference in runs scored in 2013, and Acker will look to her veterans to provide offensive production this season.

“Megan Cegielski and Sandra Binkiewicz, they play a huge part in our success,” Acker said. “Kelly Moorehead is a returning shortstop, she’ll play a key part.”
In addition to that talented group of seniors, Acker is also counting on a new addition to contribute in 2014.

“We have a freshman named Emily Sabo who we think is going to be a dynamite player in the conference,” the coach said. “She’s fast, she’s a great infielder, so she’s going to play a huge part in what we do.”

Coach Acker sees a few spots on the roster, primarily in left field or center field, that are unsettled as the team prepares to start the season. Lending credence to the old baseball adage that you can never have enough good pitching, she is also on the lookout for someone to bolster her already strong staff by the time Kean opens the 2014 campaign in Virginia Beach, Va., on Feb. 28.

“We need someone to step up and play in the outfield,” she said. “We have two returning outfielders, so we need someone to step up and take on that role, whether it is center field or left field. We’re looking for someone to help out with pitching duties, and we have some returning pitchers that we’re looking at to step up.”

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