STEUBENVILLE, Ohio – Despite the Lady Barons not recording a victory all season, Franciscan University's second-year head softball coach Terry Leighty noted that 2012 was, "a very important season for us in many ways."
In Coach Leighty's opinion, one of the ways was the invaluable collegiate softball experience each one of his players gained this season. After losing six crucial players following last year's season, Leighty stressed the importance of keeping his core group of returners together in 2013.
"I'm happy to report that nine or ten of our girls will be returning next season," Leighty said. "We need to keep this roster intact and excited about being a part of this program (along) with our new recruits."
One of the key Lady Baron returners will be Mallori Linscomb, who was recently named to the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Third Team All-Conference—the only Lady Baron to get all-conference recognition.
Linscomb, whose natural position is catcher, was forced to play mostly third base and some shortstop for the Lady Barons this season. Leighty hopes to put her back behind the plate next year where she is more comfortable, and he expects her offensive numbers to continue to improve as well.
"She has the ability to inspire others through her work ethic and love of the game," Leighty said. "She will continue to hit for an average and increase her power numbers, especially in the home run category. I was so proud she made the third team all-conference this year."
Linscomb led the team in almost every offensive category, setting school records in batting average (.362), hits (21), doubles (11), RBIs (16), total bases (32), and slugging percentage (.552).
One of the biggest surprises for Coach Leighty this season was the play of freshman Rosemary Cassidy. Leighty said he was not sure how much playing time Cassidy was going to get toward the beginning of the season, but she ended up setting school records in runs (17), triples (2), walks (8), total steals (8) and steal percentage (73).
"(Rosemary Cassidy) ended up being our lead-off hitter, and she also made some great plays for us defensively," Leighty noted.
Pitcher Amelia Gallagher is the only Lady Baron graduating this season. Leighty praised Gallagher for her determination to fight through injuries and continue to go out to the mound.
"I thought Amelia (Gallagher) did a wonderful job considering her (injuries) and the fact that she has been out of the game so long," said Leighty. "She got better as the season went on."
Gallagher was four years removed from the sport, transferring into FUS as a senior who had not played competitive softball since high school.
Leighty also noted that the inexperience at most defensive positions did not help Gallagher's numbers.
"Frankly, if we had been able to make some (defensive) plays behind her, she may have had some outstanding numbers."
That troublesome defense is what plagued the Lady Barons all season. Franciscan led the AMCC with 133 errors, over 30 more than anyone else in conference.
"Much of (the reason for our defensive struggles) was inexperience at the college level and (individual players) not having played games for a number of years," Leighty said. "It was certainly not from a lack of trying, but the inexperience coupled with the repetition of making plays was evident."
Leighty still believes that the future of Franciscan softball is bright. With a solid number of players returning next season— along with the school's first ever recruited class—he has high hopes for next season.
"Some people say we took a step backwards this season, but I don't think that's necessarily so," he said. "I've talked to many coaches in our conference who said it took five to six years to become a competitive program, so we know it's not a quick fix.
"As long as we keep improving individually and keep girls in the program—along with active recruiting—we should be able to field a competitive team as early as next season."