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Stony Brook softball preview

Stony Brook’s softball team is looking to play the upcoming season with high levels of “G.R.I.T.”

The Seawolves create a new acronym each season, and “G.R.I.T.” is the motto for 2016. The acronym stands for “greatness requires IT,” with “IT” referring to the intangible quality that encourages players to improve at least one percent each day and play hard for the betterment of the team, coach Megan Bryant said.

Bryant has high hopes for this group, thanks to a balanced lineup that should produce one through nine. Still, the 2015 lineup featured big-time power hitters Bria Green (19 home runs) and Shayla Giosia (12). Both have graduated, making this an interesting transition year.

“We all know our roles,” said senior catcher Allie Pisciotta, a Kellenberg graduate and the only Long Islander on the roster. “People in the past have been more powerful, but I think as a lineup we’ll be stronger. We’re just focusing on getting on base and moving runners.”

Pisciotta, a career .343 hitter, went 5-for-9 with two home runs and five RBIs in last year’s America East tournament and was named to the all-tournament team.

Another dangerous hitter is junior infielder Lexie Shue. She hit seven home runs last season, the most of any returning player. Her responsibilities surely will grow in 2016 as one of the team’s primary power threats, though she complements her pop with a contact approach that resulted in 35 hits last spring.

Starting at shortstop should be Chelsea Evans, a sophomore who figures to be one of the best players in the conference. Evans earned All-Conference recognition during her freshman year with a slash line of .330/.450/.435 with 38 hits and 30 runs scored. She is also sound defensively.

Seniors Diane Caruso, Melissa Phelan, Patty Borges, Kellie Reynolds and Kim Ragazzo all figure to be major contributors for Bryant, who said that the Seawolves will go as far as their seniors take them.

“This team has a really good approach every day,” Bryant said. “They understand that we have to put the work in to be able to be ready and open the season. A lot of this points to the team leadership taking ownership.”

Showing leadership and poise from the circle will be pitcher Jane Sallen. Also a senior, Sallen is coming off a breakout year in which she tied for the America East lead with 15 wins. Her 15-10 record and 2.59 ERA earned her a second team All-Conference nod.

“Every year you want to be better than the year before,” Sallen said. “So consistently throwing hard and getting ahead of batters is my main focus.”

Sallen will throw the bulk of the team’s innings with sophomore Maddy Neales and senior Alex Petrolia — a transfer from UNLV — expected to contribute.

The Seawolves have won at least 30 games each of the last four seasons, establishing themselves as a perennial northeast power. A preseason coaches’ poll pegged them as the second-best team in the conference behind Binghamton, with Albany also expected to contend.

Despite a difficult schedule — which begins Friday at the Charlotte 49er Invitational — Sallen’s goals for 2016 are straightforward: “To win our conference,” she said. “That’s our goal and that’s what we work for every day.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jane Sallen, 5-10, P, Senior

A 15-10 record and 2.59 ERA propelled her to 2nd Team All-Conference. She’s expected to throw the bulk of the team’s innings this year.

Allie Pisciotta, 5-4, C, Senior

A career .343 hitter, Pisciotta went 5-for-9 with two home runs and five RBIs in the America East tournament last season, earning All-Tournament recognition. She finished third on the team with a career-high 54 hits last season.

Chelsea Evans, 5-9, IF, Sophomore

Evans was named to the All-Conference first team as a freshman last season, and the expectation is that she’ll start at shortstop in 2016. Her slash line: .330/.450/.435 with 38 hits and 30 runs scored.

Diane Caruso, 5-4, OF, Senior

Started for the first time last season and hit six home runs — good for fourth on the team. She was third on the team with 29 RBIs.

Lexie Shue, 5-9, IF, Junior

Hit seven home runs last season, the most of all returning players. She’ll take on more responsibility as one of the Seawolves’ primary power threats.

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