ETSU Softball kicks off 2009 season Friday afternoon in Charleston
After posting a school-record 19 wins in 2008, junior Marissa Hardy looks to lead ETSU in 2009.
After posting a school-record 19 wins in 2008, junior Marissa Hardy looks to lead ETSU in 2009.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Feb. 12, 2009) - Coming off a program-best 30-win campaign a year ago, the 2009 Lady Buccaneer softball team looks to carry that success into this new season, as ETSU kicks off its season-opener on Friday afternoon in Charleston, S.C.

 

The Lady Bucs will participate in the College of Charleston Tournament and play five games over the three-day span.

 

ETSU begins play on Friday afternoon when the Lady Bucs take on James Madison at noon. Following the game with the Dukes, the Lady Bucs will take on Howard at 2 p.m.

 

On Saturday morning, ETSU returns to the diamond and face the host Cougars at 10 a.m. Once again the Lady Bucs have little turn-around time in the second game, as ETSU squares off with Akron for the second straight year at noon.

 

The Lady Bucs wrap up play on Sunday morning when they tangle with BIG EAST foe Syracuse at 10 a.m.

 

Live stats will be available for all five games. Please click the link above to access live stats.

 

Below is a preview of the 2009 Lady Buccaneer season.

 

Coming off a program-best 30-win campaign a year ago, the 2009 East Tennessee State softball team will look to build off that success and claim its first-ever Atlantic Sun Championship in May.   

 

Last season ETSU used the small-ball philosophy to its advantage, as the team set new school records with 95 stolen bases and 61 sacrifice hits, but also the strong arm of Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.) helped post a solid Lady Buccaneer pitching staff. Hardy - who was the ace of ETSU's staff - set five individual records, while the team broke the single-season strikeout record with 353 punch outs.

 

"Last season was bittersweet," commented head coach Andrea Mangrum, who enters her fourth season with the Lady Bucs. "I was proud of the team for all the hard work they put in and to set the single-season wins record was rewarding. However, we feel like there is some unfinished business to take care of this season after falling one game short of the Atlantic Sun Championship game." 

 

The 2009 softball season not only brings new faces and energy to the game, but also a new home for the Lady Bucs. After playing its first eight seasons on city owned fields, ETSU moves into its brand new 500-seat stadium in 2009.

 

The 11 letterwinners from last year's record-breaking squad and eight new faces Mangrum brought in will all be expected to produce both on the field and in the classroom.

 

One of those eight new faces includes new assistant Sarah Totten - who will help the Lady Bucs with their hitting and fielding. Two of the Lady Bucs' 11 letterwinners include Katy Jett (Talbott, Tenn.)  - who was ETSU's leading offensive component - and Hardy. Jett led the Lady Bucs in all but four offensive categories in 2008, while Hardy broke five ETSU pitching records.

 

With a lot of talent returning, new energy from the eight newcomers and a place to finally call home, the 2009 Lady Buccaneer softball team looks to reach new heights this spring. 

 

LADY BUCCANEER INFIELD

The ETSU infield features both a lot of experience and talent, while also mixing in some youth as well. At the corners, senior slugger Jessie Hackworth (Clinton, Tenn.) made the move from third to first in the offseason and has adjusted nicely to the change. Hackworth played in 62 of the 63 games a year ago and started primarily all 61 games at third. The Clinton, Tenn. native had a strong finish to the season, as she received Atlantic Sun All-Tournament Team honors after posting an astonishing .500 batting averaging (6-for-12) with a home run and four RBIs. Overall, Hackworth was second on the team with her .299 average (47-157) and 31 RBIs.

 

"Jessie has adjusted nicely to her new position at first," added Mangrum. "Coach Totten has helped make that move a lot easier for her, and I see Jessie having a breakout year after finishing the season strong in 2008."

 

Looking to fill Hackworth's gap at third will be freshman Amy Campbell (Hixson, Tenn.) and sophomore Katie Henderson (Jackson, Tenn.). Henderson spent most of her time either behind the plate or being the Lady Buccaneer designated player as a freshman, but also saw limited action at third and short. Campbell is a well-rounded athlete and came out of one the most prestigious schools in the state - Girls Preparatory School. The Hixson, Tenn. native led the Bruisers to a 2007 State Championship and her toughness also showed as she won the 2007 USA Girls Wrestling State Championship as well.

 

Up the middle, junior Cheniece Cason (Moreno Valley, Calif.) will be the starting shortstop for ETSU, while freshman Chelsea O'Connor (Knoxville, Tenn.) and junior Katy Jett (Talbott, Tenn.) will each spend time at second. Jett - who played 17 games at second last season - will also see significant starts in the outfield. Like Jett, Cason can also help the Lady Bucs in the outfield, while O'Connor would move to short when the junior speedster in covering the ground in either center or left. The speed of Jett and Cason helped ETSU out a year ago, as the junior duo combined for 33 stolen bases and were only caught twice. Cason was a perfect 14-of-14 in the department, while Jett finished 19-for-21.

 

"We bring back a lot of experience with our infielders, but we are also relying on some of our freshmen to step in right away and contribute," added Mangrum. "Cheniece worked hard this summer and showed us in the fall that she should be the starting shortstop. Chelsea and Katy will split time at second, but Chelsea is more of a natural middle infielder. Katy has given us a boost wherever we plug her in and can also be an asset in the outfield."  

 

LADY BUCCANEER OUTFIELD

Once again ETSU's outfield will consist of solid defense and blazing speed. The Lady Bucs return all three starters from last season, with senior Kate Powell (Johnson City) covering ground in left, (Katy) Jett in center and Vicki McCoy (Ringgold, Ga.) in right. All three players also have strong and accurate arms, with Jett showing the most range.

 

Jett and McCoy split time in center and right, while Powell started 44 games in left and 15 in center. Jett made 22 starts in center (25 in right), and 26 of McCoy's 55 starts came in center.

 

McCoy led the club with 21 stolen bases, which ranks third on the ETSU single-season list, and the Ringgold, Ga. native also led the team in hitting during the 22 conference games. McCoy posted a team-high .353 batting average (18-51) in A-Sun play and she also tied Hackworth for the longest hitting streak of the year at 10 games.

 

Jett, who posted the most multiple hit (19) and RBI (9) games last season, compiled the Lady Bucs' best fielding percentage as well (.990). The junior Preseason All-Conference selection recorded 18 assists and committed only one error in 96 total chances.

 

Powell, who also takes great pride in her defense, was one of four Lady Buccaneer players to post 10+ stolen bases. The senior stole 13 bases and led the team with 10 sacrifice hits.

 

Fellow senior Cat Zyskowski (Grand Rapids, Mich.) is currently rehabbing from shoulder surgery and hopes to join the team midway through the season. The Lady Bucs hope to have her return, as not only does she give the team more depth in the outfield, but also has some pop in her bat at the plate.

 

Joining these returners will be freshman Annie Martin (Centerville, Tenn.). Since joining the team in August, Martin has continued to improve all aspects of her game and has been very coachable, according to Mangrum. During her first three seasons at Hickman County High School, Martin mounted a .428 batting average (89-208) with three homeruns and 49 RBI. In addition to being a four-year letterwinner for the Bulldogs, Martin also won numerous awards during her playing days, as she was named District 11AAA Defensive MVP in 2006 and 2007.

 

"Our outfield play is one of strengths as we head into our season-opener," said Mangrum. "We have a lot depth, experience and speed at all three positions and everyone has been looking strong in preseason workouts."

 

LADY BUCCANEER PITCHING/CATCHING

With Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.) coming off a break-through season in the circle, the junior right-hander looks to be the ace of the staff. Meanwhile, with Hardy pitching, junior Trisha Massenzo (Russellville, Tenn.) looks to be her number one battery mate. Massenzo started all 63 games a year ago (with 46 of them coming behind the dish) and her strong and reliable arm always has the opposition on guard when it comes to their running game. The Russellville, Tenn. native also has a potent bat, as Massenzo led the team in home runs (7) and doubles (12), ranked second in runs scored (30) and tied for third in hits (47).

 

The addition of pitching coach Ariel Beus paid huge dividends in year one as Hardy broke five ETSU pitching records - including the single-game strikeout mark with 16K's vs. Presbyterian. The reliable right-hander also set new Lady Buccaneer records in wins (19), IP (229.1), appearances (41) and strikeouts (261). Also, as a team, ETSU broke the single-season strikeout record with 353.

 

"Coach Beus really had a positive influence on our pitchers and catchers last season," added Mangrum. "Once again we expect big things out of Marissa, and Trisha has consistently gotten stronger behind the plate."

 

Joining Hardy in the rotation will be junior Darci Gilbert (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), sophomore Ashley Boyd (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and freshman Shelby Morris (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.).

 

Both Gilbert and Boyd each made 24 appearances a year ago, but after struggling in the circle as a sophomore, Gilbert has looked a lot stronger during the fall and winter practices. Gilbert, who tied the team lead with 10 wins as a freshman, has been battling Hardy for the top spot in the rotation this season.

 

With a year under her belt, Boyd looks to build off her 7-win season and give the Lady Bucs some valuable innings as a sophomore. The Chattanooga, Tenn. native tossed 109.0 innings as a rookie and posted two shutouts.

 

"Darci is coming off a strong fall season and that helped build her confidence back up," added Mangrum. "Right now she and Marissa are the only upperclassman and both have been battling neck-and-neck for the number one slot."

 

"Ashley was injured this fall, but she laid a solid foundation as freshman and we expect her to have a strong sophomore year," said Mangrum.

 

Shelby Morris was the lone pitcher in this signing class and was a four-year letterwinner in both softball and volleyball at Mt. Juliet High School. In her first three seasons with the Bears, Morris posted an impressive record of 51-13 in the circle, and helped guide her team to back-to-back appearances in the state championship.

 

"Shelby had a stellar high school career and we hope those successes and confidence carry over to the collegiate level," added Mangrum.

 

Joining Massenzo behind the dish will be (Katie) Henderson and freshman Marlina Delisa (Tucson, Ariz.). Henderson made 17 starts as a catcher during her rookie year and is one of many Lady Buccaneer players that had a great fall season.

 

Delisa also had a solid fall and if her bat continues to remain hot, she can spend time either catching or filling the designated player slot. The Tucson, Ariz. native comes from a softball hotbed, as she was a multi-sport athlete at Marana High School. Delisa hit .412 her junior season as well as posting a perfect fielding percentage, and hit a team-leading .391 in 2008. In 2007, she was named Second Team All-Southern Arizona from the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen and Honorable Mention from the Arizona Republic.

 

"Marlina and Katie are strong players and can help us many ways," commented Mangrum. "Both of them are sound behind the plate and can also help us with their bat. If they are not catching or playing elsewhere, both can be used at the designated player slot."

 

 

LADY BUCCANEER SCHEUDLE

Following a season-opening trip to South Carolina for the College of Charleston Tournament (Feb. 13-15), the Lady Buccaneers will finally open the gates to their new stadium when the Furman Paladins come calling on Feb. 18. Then, ETSU will host Milligan on Feb. 21.

 

"Typically we are on the road until mid-March, but with the new stadium we thought it would give us some momentum early on to play a few home games in February," said Mangrum.

 

At the conclusion of a brief four-game homestand, ETSU hits the road for nearly a three week stretch where they play in two tournaments and a pair of road series in South Carolina. The Lady Bucs begin the road trip in Chattanooga, where they take on Boston College, Toledo, Morehead State, Rhode Island and Princeton at the UTC Tournament (Feb. 27-March 1). From there, the Lady Bucs play road series at Coastal Carolina (March 7) and Charleston Southern (March 9); before heading down to Clearwater, Fla. to compete in the prestigious Under Armour Invitational. While in Florida the Lady Bucs will be guaranteed three games, beginning with Michigan State on March 13.

 

After a 20-day hiatus from Johnson City, the Lady Buccaneers finally return home for their conference opener. ETSU opens Atlantic Sun play against North Florida on March 18. The Lady Bucs remain home for a critical series with 2008 A-Sun Tournament Champion, Campbell (March 21), and close out the season-long, six-game homestand with co-regular season champion USC Upstate on March 22.

 

The schedule does not get any easier for the Lady Bucs as they hit the road for a conference swing, starting at Stetson on March 26. ETSU wraps up the short stint in the Sunshine State, when they take on 2008 regular season conference champion, Florida Gulf Coast, the following day.

 

ETSU closes out the month of March with a bang, as 2008 Women's College World Series participant, Virginia Tech, visits Johnson City for a single-game under the lights on March 31 at 5 p.m.

 

"The home game against Virginia Tech will be our premier game this season," commented Mangrum. "It will be an exciting game for our community to come out and watch in our new stadium. The Hokies were the only collegiate team to beat Team USA last year on the Bound for Beijing Tour, and they made their first appearance in the Women's College World Series as well. Also, Tech's head coach, Scot Thomas, is an ETSU alum, so it will be a homecoming for him as well."

 

The Lady Bucs remain out of conference to begin the month of April, as they host former SoCon rival Appalachian State on April 1, and close out the home series against North Carolina Central on April 4.

 

Following a road trip to Longwood, ETSU returns home for a critical conference battle with Lipscomb (April 10) and Belmont (April 11). Since joining the A-Sun, the Lady Bucs have won 12 of the 13 meetings between the two schools from the Music City.

 

Other notable games include a home match-up versus conference foe Jacksonville (April 18), and road games at Mercer (April 24) and Kennesaw State (April 25).

 

Once again the Atlantic Sun Conference champion will be crowned at Stetson's Patricia Wilson Field. The double-elimination tournament begins on May 7, and the championship game will be played on May 9. The top six teams eligible for postseason play make the trip to DeLand, Fla.

 

A-SUN BREAKDOWN  

For the second straight season, junior Katy Jett received Preseason All-Conference accolades, while the Lady Bucs were pegged ninth in the coaches' poll. After earning a share of the 2008 regular season title, USC Upstate was voted number one. The Spartans received six first place votes and edged out Florida Gulf Coast - another team who earned a share of the regular season title - by five votes. The Spartans finished with 112 tallies, while the Eagles - who received four first place votes - ended with 107. Stetson finished out the top three teams and the Hatters were also pegged as the favorites to win the tournament championship as well.

 

Campbell, last season's tournament champion, was picked sixth (64 votes); while Kennesaw State (77 votes), Lipscomb (75 votes) and Mercer (66 votes) are all expected to finish higher. Mercer was the other team to receive a first place selection. Meanwhile, UNF was selected seventh right above the Lady Bucs with 53 votes.

 

For more information on Lady Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.

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MBB Virginia-Wise 66 F
Nov 18 ETSU 111
WBB Appalachian State University 76 Final
Nov 19 ETSU 70
WBB ETSU 79 Final
Nov 21 Saint Francis University 63
VB ETSU Greensboro, N.C.
Nov 22, 12:00 p.m. No. 5 Western Carolina (SoCon Quarterfinal)
MBB UNC Asheville 87 F
Nov 22, 12:00 p.m. ETSU 98
MBB ETSU 69 F
Nov 24, 12:00 p.m. Winthrop 64
WBB ETSU 69 Final
Nov 24, 12:00 p.m. Indiana State University 76
WBB ETSU 69 Final
Nov 26, 12:00 p.m. Indiana University 97
WBB ETSU Blacksburg, Va.
Nov 29, 5:00 p.m. Virginia Tech University
MBB ETSU Morehead, Ky.
Dec 1, 7:00 p.m. Morehead State
WBB ETSU Fairfax, Va.
Dec 3, 5:00 p.m. George Mason University
MBB Western Carolina Freedom Hall
Dec 3, 8:00 p.m. ETSU
WBB ETSU Huntsville, Ala.
Dec 6, 6:00 p.m. Alabama A&M University
MBB UNC Greensboro Freedom Hall
Dec 13, 4:00 p.m. ETSU
WBB Eastern Kentucky University Johnson City, Tenn.
Dec 13, 7:00 p.m. ETSU
WBB ETSU Morehead, Ky.
Dec 15, 12:00 p.m. Morehead State University
MBB ETSU Richmond, Ky.
Dec 16, 7:00 p.m. Eastern Kentucky
WBB ETSU Wilmington, N.C.
Dec 19, 11:30 a.m. University of North Carolina Wilmington