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Veteran softball team opens 2011 season today in Florida

Bates' double-play combination of last year, Lauren Dobish '12 (background) and Mary Lewis '13 (foreground), may be two keys to what Bates hopes will be a potent offense in 2011.

CLERMONT, Fla. -- The Bates College softball team is set to open the 2011 season today at the National Training Center Tournament in central Florida. The Bobcats have six games scheduled against six different opponents in the next three days.

Bates opens today in Clermont, Fla., with games against Macalester College (3:30 p.m.) and Berry College (7:30 p.m.). Friday's opponents are Transylvania University at 2:45 and Knox College, head coach Gwen Lexow's alma mater, at 5:30 p.m. Bates wraps up the trip on Saturday with a morning doubleheader against Western Connecticut State (9:30 a.m.) and Elmhurst College (11:30 a.m.).

The Bobcats are a veteran group eager to return to the NESCAC Softball Championship, which the Bobcats made for the first time in 2009 but missed last year.

Bates' team captains are a pair of juniors: catcher Leah Maciejewski (Tewksbury, Mass.) and 2010 All-NESCAC selection Lauren Dobish (Chambersburg, Pa.), who is listed as an outfielder but made the all-conference team at second base in 2010. Maciejewski batted .279 last year and was second on the team in runs batted in with 18, but Bates hopes to see a return to the more productive form of her rookie season, when she hit .370

Dobish had an outstanding 2010 marked by significant improvement from her rookie year. After batting .247 with nine RBIs last season, Dobish hit .402 in 2010 and led the team, or shared the team lead, in a slew of offensive categories, including hits (41), doubles (15), home runs (2), RBIs (24) and slugging (.608). She set a team record for doubles, with 15.

Junior outfielder Karen Ullmann (Ramsey, N.J.; .351, team-high 25 runs, 10-for-11 in stolen base attempts) and sophomore shortstop Mary Lewis (Gardiner, Maine; .423 batting average, .477 on-base percentage, 13-15 on steal attempts) will be looked upon to set the table for Dobish, Maciejewski, and other veteran hitters like junior Monica Berube (Plaistow, N.H.; .253, 2 HR, 14 RBI), junior Libby King (South Portland, Maine; .306, 7 RBI), junior Courtney Talcott (Sutton, Mass.; .279, 12 RBI) and junior Kelly McManus (Plymouth, N.H.; .247, 14 RBI).

In the pitching circle, Bates will rely heavily for the second straight year on the righthanded duo of sophomore Caroline Gattuso (North Reading, Mass.) and junior Kristen Finn (Winthrop, Mass.). Gattuso had an impressive rookie season in 2010, going 4-13 with a solid 4.12 earned run average and setting the team's single-season strikeout record with 69. Finn will look to return to, or surpass, her rookie form: she went 7-9 with a 4.78 ERA in 2009.

Bates has only one first-year on its roster, infielder Alayna Garbarino (Reading, Mass.), who was Gattuso's teammate at Phillips Andover.