Hempstead, N.Y. - Hofstra will be aiming for its first undefeated conference regular season in 15 years when the Pride hosts UNC Wilmington in a three-game Colonial Athletic Association series starting with a Friday doubleheader at noon.
The Pride (32-13 overall) has won 30 of the last 32 and is 16-0 in conference play. Hofstra has already clinched the regular season title and the right to host the CAA Tournament but will be looking to secure its first undefeated CAA season since joining the league in time for the 2002 season. The school last finished a regular season undefeated in conference play when it went 12-0 against the America East in 1997.
Hofstra has now won either a regular season or a postseason conference title for 21 straight years dating to the 1992 season. All the championships during that span have come under head coach Bill Edwards.
UNCW (9-42, 4-14) will be attempting to enter next season with momentum and spoil Hofstra's bid to go undefeated. Senior Amanda Davenport has pitched to a 3.08 ERA in 35 appearances. UNCW has struggled to provide quality run support, leading to Davenport's 8-20 record despite her 20 complete games and three shutouts.
The Seahawks' lineup features some potent threats. Junior Lauryn Buckworth is pacing the team with a .290 batting average and .387 slugging percentage. Senior Ashley Shingleton enters with a UNCW-leading four home runs.
Saturday's finale versus the Seahawks will be Senior Day, where five Hofstra players will be honored for their contributions to the program. Courtney Crews, Jess Hirschbuhl, Michelle Lavagnino, Krista Thorn and Erin Wade will all be recognized in a pregame ceremony. Please note that the start time for the game has been moved to 11 a.m.
Thorn is enjoying a career-best season, setting personal highs in batting average (.313), home runs (6) RBIs (33) and runs scored (25). After earning a spot on the second-team All-CAA team as a junior, Thorn has a chance to make another postseason team as a third baseman this season. A sure-handed fielder at the hot corner, Thorn has helped lead a Pride defensive unit that has committed 20 fewer errors than their opponents.
Crews has been one of the squad's most dependable players this season. Like Thorn, Crews has started all 45 games. As the team's primary catcher, Crews has helped the Hofstra pitching staff post a collective 1.68 ERA. At the plate, the Stafford, Va. native has endured bumps and bruises to get on base. She has been hit by pitches 24 times this year, which led Division I entering the week. Crews has a .445 on-base percentage and has already hit two home runs this season after going her first three seasons without a homer. With 32 runs scored, Crews is one of five Hofstra players to score 30-plus times.
Lavagnino's under-the-radar contributions were epitomized last week with a terrific running catch against Towson in which she held on to the ball despite crashing into the leftfield wall at Towson Center Field to save a potential extra-base hit. The veteran outfielder has played solid defense all season and has brought balance to the bottom of Hofstra's lineup in batting .271 with six extra-base hits in 96 at-bats. She is 8-for-8 in stolen base attempts while converting all 38 chances in the field for a perfect fielding percentage.
Wade has proved to be a valuable starter, picking up seven wins with a 3.01 ERA this season with 64 strikeouts in 93 innings. Wade has eight complete games, including a four-hit shutout at Big East-member Rutgers on April 3. The Taunton, Ma. Native has won 42 career games, including an 18-5 sophomore season in 2010 that led to her selection to the first-team All-CAA. Wade is just one of seven players in program history to strike out more than 300 career batters (310 entering the UNCW series).
Hirschbuhl was adjusting well to her new position as a first baseman before an arm injury shortened her season. The Jamison, Pa. product posted a .455 on-base percentage in starting the first 13 games before the injury. A consummate team player, Hirschbuhl moved to first base this season despite a junior season in which she batted .311 and scored 31 runs as a second baseman. Her offensive production (a 14-game hitting streak) and her defensive ability (.970 fielding percentage helped Hofstra lead the nation in team fielding percentage) led to her pick as a first-team All-CAA member. This came after a sophomore season in which she hit a game-winning grand slam for a 7-3 win over Towson in the CAA Tournament first round. That blast helped her garner a spot on the CAA All-Tournament team that season.
Hofstra has also been led by its non-seniors. Junior Olivia Galati (25-5) is on a school-record 23-game winning streak. In her last game at Towson, Galati struck out nine against one walk in the complete-game win in lowering her league-leading ERA to 1.03 with 271 strikeouts in 197 2/3 innings. She is 14-0 in CAA play this season with a 0.74 ERA.