Nashville --- The Tennessee State University softball team was selected to finish the 2011 Ohio Valley Conference race in eleventh place as voted on by the league's head coaches.
"I anticipated being picked last in the OVC this year, considering it's our first year here at TSU," commented head coach Jeff Dabney. "Some of the other picks in the league were surprising. But, it's an opinion, not fact. And we have to look at it that way."
Tennessee State returns nine letterwinners from last year's team that finished 11-34 (6-16 OVC). The Tigers have also added seven newcomers to the squad.
Among the key returners include seniors Caitlin Eaton and Brittany Webb. Eaton and Webb were the offensive leaders for the Tigers for the majority of last season. They led TSU in the categories of batting average, hits, doubles and runs batted in.
Eaton led the team with a .302 batting average and turned in 32 hits while recording eight doubles and three homeruns. She had 22 RBI and a slugging percentage of .462. Defensively she tallied 70 putouts to go along with 30 assists and only two fielding errors. The Baltic, Conn. native had nine multi-hit games and notched at least three hits on three occasions.
Webb finished the season with an OVC leading 12 doubles in addition to a team best 38 hits and three homeruns. She registered 59 total bases and 21 RBI with a .461 slugging percentage. Webb was third on the team in putouts with 114 and had a fielding percentage of .979. The Knoxville, Tenn. native had a multi-hit game ten times this season.
Jacksonville State was predicted to win the 2011 crown. The Gamecocks, who won their second tournament title last year, earned eight first-place votes and 97 points. Tennessee Tech picked up two first-place votes and 80 points for a second-place predicted finish. Last year's regular-season champion UT Martin is picked to place third with 78 points while SIU Edwardsville, which is eligible for conference play for the first time since joining the league in 2008, is selected to finish fourth. Eastern Illinois earned the remaining first-place vote and is picked to finish in a tie with Morehead State for fifth-place with 63 points. Rounding out the poll are Murray State (54), Southeast Missouri (40), Eastern Kentucky (32), Austin Peay (16) and Tennessee State (14).
"Unlike everyone else in the league, no one knows how we will play. Our style of play has changed. We are an unknown at this point to the rest of the league. So, we are looking forward to seeing the standings in May, not January!"
Tennessee State will officially kick-off the 2011 campaign in February when the Tigers travel to Conyers, Ga. to participate in the Tiny Lasiter tournament. TSU will host Belmont on Wednesday, Feb.23 in the first home game of the season. The first game of the double-header is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at Tiger Field.