Schumann hopes to fill holes by opening day

Beacon File Photo

Anthony Guivas/Staff Writer

Beacon File Photo

After a season that saw the Panthers go 31-27 finishing third in the Sun Belt Conference, FIU leads into a third consecutive Conference tournament appearance.  After finishing third in the Sun Belt Conference, the Panthers’ softball team enters the 2012 season with a bit of a new look as this season marks the start for new head coach Jake Schumann.

Jake Schumann takes over as the skipper, inheriting a team that went 31-27 in 2011. Schumann is in charge of a program that has developed into a legitimate contender under the tenure of Beth Torina for the past four seasons.  While Torina has left some big shoes to fill, Schumann’s track record may show that he seems willing and able to continue FIU’s recent success.

Schumann previously coached at Texas A&M Corpus-Christi for the past four seasons, where he amassed a total record of 120-104. Just last season Schumann guided the Islanders to an overall record of 41-19, good enough to earn the Southland Conference regular season crown and the conference Coach of the Year award.

“I loved everything about [Texas A&M Corpus-Christi], it’s just that it’s not a priority [athletics] and I’ve always wanted to climb the ladder,” Schumann said.

Now with a new skipper comes new recruits in Marisa McGregor, Aleima Lopez and Corinne Jenkins. McGregor, an outfielder, seems to fit the mold of a lead-off hitter for FIU and will compete for a starting spot in the outfield.

Lopez is a versatile catcher that can be utilized in the infield if necessary. She will be looked upon this year to stop opposing runners.
Although these players signed their letter of intent, they will not be available to play until the Fall semester.

Jenkins, the sole pitcher of the group, has been clocked constantly in the low 60’s (miles per hour) with great movement and looks to give a boost to an already strong rotation.
Along with the new faces come many players that made last season a success. Key players included Mariah Dawson, Jenn Gniadek, Brie Rojas and Kayla Burri.

“There are a couple of holes that we have but for the most part we know who’s going to start at third, shortstop, second, center and right field,” Schumann said.

But as the season nears there are some positions that are still for the taking.

“At catcher we are looking at a couple of kids, left field is still a tossup and first base we are trying to groom a freshman from California, Shelby Graves,” Schumann said.

But the one player who became the team’s catalyst for the past three seasons is Ashley McClain, who batted an astounding .409 average to go along with 12 homers and 44 runs batted in this past season. McClain, a senior, will return for one more go-around with hopes of FIU finally becoming Sun Belt Champions.

“Ashley is a special player without a doubt,” Schumann said. “Ashley [McClain] is going to be a mainstay, a spark plug for us. She is a special player and I am ecstatic to have her and get to coach her for one year.”

With fresh new faces joining an already talented group of experienced starters, the club seems prone to make some noise in 2012 and prove that the program’s recent success is no fluke.

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