Nashville, Tenn. - The Tennessee State softball program will open the 2013 season on Friday at the Mississippi State Bulldog Kickoff Classic. The trip to Starkville will feature four games over a three-day span against teams from the SEC, Sun Belt and Colonial conferences.
The Tigers will take to the field against 2012 NCAA tournament participant South Alabama on Friday at 4 pm before playing a doubleheader on Saturday. A game with Troy opens the day for TSU at 1 pm followed by a meeting with the host Bulldogs at 3:30. The tournament concludes for the Tigers as they square off with Georgia State at 1 pm on Sunday.
All games are available through Live Stats and can be heard on tsutigers.com.
The Tigers are coming off a 15-39 season, 5-25 in the OVC, and return eight players including two pitchers. Sophomore Shea Morris and junior Olivia Gamache will handle a majority of the time in the circle. Morris is coming off a rookie campaign where she was named to the OVC all-Newcomer team after finishing with an 11-22 record and a 3.61 ERA in 201.2 innings of work. Her 190 strikeouts was the second highest total in the conference last season.
Gamache made 26 appearances last season and compiled a record of 2-7 with one save. The Exeter, R.I. native saw an improvement from her first season with the Tigers as she dropped her ERA by 2.4 points.
Behind the plate, head coach Jeff Dabney will use a tandem of players with freshman Lindsey Burgess and sophomore Kate Morris. Burgess is an athlete that gives the staff many options position wise. The freshman is capable of playing all positions on the field, including the ability to pitch. Kate Morris returns after a season where she posted a .967 fielding percentage and finished fourth on the team with 12 RBI.
The infield is led by senior Tedra Alford who has topped the team in hitting over the past two seasons. Alford, like many others on the team, brings the ability to play multiple positions. She has seen time in the outfield, shortstop, second base and third base in her first three years in blue. When not available, coach Dabney is in the capable hands of junior Ashley Haynes and a trio of freshmen; Jayna Hanawahine, Brianna Roberts, and Audrey Sensing.
Haynes has spent a majority of her career at shortstop for the Tigers, but has also played third and second. Haynes hit .221 as a sophomore, bettering her freshman outing by over 40 points. Hanawahine and Roberts, like Alford and Haynes, have the ability to play multiple positions on the field. The two look to bring offensive help as well with their running abilities and power potential. Sensing is penciled to occupy first base for the Tigers and looks to bring power to the lineup.
Senior Jennifer Givens will anchor the outfield in center. The Kingston product set the TSU single-season stolen base record in her first year with 34. Givens hit .275 and scored 19 runs in 53 games during her first season with the Tigers. Freshman Tayler Shimizu will move to her original position of outfield after playing 37 games at second base as a freshman. First years Kacie Daugherty and Kiarra Freeman are two left-handed hitting outfielders who look to roam the Tiger outfield for years to come.
Shimizu and Daugherty, along with Burgess, could see time in the infield throughout the season, while Kate Morris could see some action in the outfield.
South Alabama (0-0)
2012 Record: 41-17
Conference: Sun Belt
Series Record: First Meeting
Last Time Played: 2011, Lost 0-10
Last Win: 2010, 6-4
The Jaguars are receiving votes in both major polls and return seven of their top nine hitters from last year's NCAA tournament team. Brittany Fowler topped USA in 2012 with a .341 average, 42 runs scored, seven home runs and team highs in doubles (14) and runs batted in (40). The defending Sun Belt champions boast three returning pitchers, led by junior workhorse Hannah Campbell who finished with a 24-12 record and a 2.03 ERA. Campbell struck out 199 batters in 224.1 innings of work.
2012 Record: 31-24
Conference: Sun Belt
Series Record: 0-17
Last Time Played: 1999, Lost 0-8
Last Win: N/A
Hannah Renn is the Trojans top returning hitter from last season as she posted a .286 average with seven homeruns and 16 RBI. Troy's top three pitchers return and are led by sophomores Ashley Rainey (17-13, 2.72) and Jaycee Affeldt (9-9, 3.81).
Mississippi State (0-0)
2012 Record: 33-24
Conference: Southeastern Conference
Series Record: 0-3
Last Time Played: 2006, Lost 1-7
Last Win: N/A
The Bulldogs start the season receiving votes in both major polls after qualifying for the NCAA tournament in 2012. Senior Jessica Cooley leads the offensive attack after a season where she hit .310 with 15 dingers and 41 RBI. Cooley was effective on the base paths as well by compiling 14 stolen bases. Stephanie Becker worked 182.2 innings and recorded a 2.49 ERA while going 18-10. The senior lefty notched 163 strikeouts a year ago. MSU will also look for added support from transfers Julia Echols and Allison Owen, who both arrive in Starkville via the University of Georgia.
Georgia State (0-0)
2012 Record: 38-18
Series Record: 2-3
Last Time Played: 2011, Won 5-0
Last Win: 2011, 5-0
All eight field starters return for GSU, including leading hitter Lauren Coleman, who finished with a .326 average and recorded 10 doubles, three round trippers, 16 runs and 22 RBI. In the circle, Kaitlyn Medlam led the Panthers with a 14-4 record and a 1.99 ERA. Medlam held opponents to a .194 average while fanning 98 batters in 105.1 innings pitched.