WALTHAM, Mass. – For the first time in school history, the Brandeis softball team has earned a preseason national ranking, claiming the 25th spot in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association's Division III rankings.
Brandeis is coming off one of the most successful seasons in school history in which they went 29-9-1 and reached the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time. The Judges went 5-3 in the University Athletic Association, tying for second place, and were ranked as high as 14th in the nation last season. They finished third at the NCAA New England regional. In 2010, the Judges were 10th nationally in Division III in home runs per game, 16th in scoring and 18th in stolen bases per game and slugging percentage.
In head coach Jessica Johnson's sixth season at the helm, Brandeis returns four All-New England members, including a pair of first-team All-Region selections in junior IF/OF Marianne Specker of South Windsor, Conn., (.416 BA, 13 2B, 35 RBI) and junior OF Brittany Grimm of Perkiomenville, Pa., (.400 BA, 10 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 31 RBI, 41 R). Sophomore C/DP Stacy Berg of Owings Mills, Md., (.373 BA, .718 SLG, 10 HR, 43 RBI) was a second-team selection and senior 2B Melisa Cagar of Ridgewood, N.J. (.341 BA, 11 2B, 4 HR, 44 R, 30 SB) was on the third team. The Judges will have to replace graduated second-team All-Region pitcher Emily Vaillette of Milford, N.H., the program's all-time leader in wins and shutouts.
Brandeis is one of three New England schools in the Top 25 (No. 2 Eastern Connecticut, No. 18 Coast Guard) and one of two UAA schools (No. 14 Washington University). The Judges will face Washington twice in the UAA tournament, March 11 and 14 in Altamonte Springs, Fla., and Eastern Conn. at home on April 17. The Judges open their season at the National Training Center in Clermont, Fla., on March 7 against DeSales University. Their home opener is scheduled for March 23 against Rhode Island College.