LOWELL, Ma. - During the winter of 2007 the New England Riptide traded a future draft pick for Carri Martin. Martin had played 2nd base for the New York Juggernaut and Philadelphia Force during the last three years, and during her career with Northwestern she had played mostly shortstop. Martin had just received the very prestigious NPF Defensive Player of the Year honor while playing for the last place Force, committing only three errors on the year and robbing many others of hits. So it says a lot about a team who could tell Martin that she would be moving to the outfield for the 2007 season because there just isnt a spot for her in the infield.
The Riptide actually can boast their own Defensive Player of the Year in Lisa Iancin, who won the award in 2005. Not only that, but the three other infielders have received votes for the award. The Riptides infield may be the greatest defensive infield ever assembled and that includes such teams as the 2004 Team USA that took the gold medal, outscoring opponents 57-1. When a team commits only 13 errors in 46 games they are doing something right, especially when you consider they did it against some teams that do a lot of slapping, bunting and slashing. This infield managed to take teams like the Chicago Bandits and Akron Racers out of their game plans.
At first base is the incredible Lyndsey Angus, the NPF 2006 Player of the Year. Consistent at the plate, with an average of .354, Angus was the toughest player in the league to strike out last year. She is also one of the best clutch hitters in the game and seems to always come through with runners on base. Angus took over first base in 2004 when Riptide draft pick, Jackie McClain, was unable to play due to injury. Angus had never played first base before, having caught and played some second and outfield during her career at Kentucky. Within two weeks she was playing it like she had been doing it all her life, chasing foul balls and digging throws out of the dirt. In 2004 she made only one error and she repeated that feat again last year. Amazingly, the Riptide also drafted Garland Cooper who will see time at first and at DP this year. Cooper, who broke the Big Ten conference homerun record earlier this year and has a lifetime average of about .400 (Coopers school, Northwestern, will be competing in the College World Series in June), will spell Angus at first. Angus will then likely be in the outfield making the outfield a better one.
At second base is 2005 NPF Defensive Player of the Year, Iancin. Returning for her fourth NPF season, third with the Riptide, Iancin struggled a bit offensively last year but is looking to rebound to her 2005 numbers and the style that allowed her to compile a .316 lifetime average at Cal Berkeley in the difficult PAC 10 Conference.
This year marks the return of Jessica Merchant, who played with the Riptide in 2005 after winning the College World Series at Michigan. Merchant, one of the top hitters ever in the Big Ten Conference, and one of the best defensive shortstops in the game today, will add punch and power to the Riptides lineup this year.
When the Philadelphia Force released third baseman Jackie Pasquerella on one February morning she wouldnt be without a team for long. By that night the Riptide and Pasquerella had agreed on contract terms and everyone has been delighted ever since.
Pasquerella became an immediate hit with both Riptide fans and teammates, and those who sit along the third base line can hear her encouraging the team on every pitch. Pasquerella, arguably the top defensive third baseman in the league, had a breakout year at the plate with a .324 average, usually hitting in the two spot. The former Villanova star is still the only player from that school to receive All-Big East honors in all four years. She ended her career with a .405 batting average and only 35 strikeouts in 677 at bats, making her one of the most difficult to strike out in the NCAA. Pasquerella has continued that trend as a pro with a three year total of less than one strikeout per ten at bats.
Behind the plate for the Riptide will be the former UMass star, KJ Kelley. Kelley established herself as a top defensive catcher in the league at the Riptides first home series against the Chicago Bandits, when she threw out seven out of eight runners trying to steal, including speedsters Vicky Galindo and Anne Steffan who would go on to lead the league in that category. Kelleys reputation prevented other runners from even trying. Kelley struggled offensively the first month but came on strong at the end to finish the season with a .260 average, second in the league among starting catchers. If she can pick up where she left off last year she will be a big threat in the lineup.
With four out of five infielders returning and more offense in the lineup, the already strong Riptide infield has an improved look for 2007 and will be key to the Riptides chances of repeating.