JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (March 28, 2013) – The ETSU softball team readies for its second road trip of the Atlantic Sun season, battling North Florida in a three-game set on Friday and Saturday from the UNF Softball Complex.
Due to the Easter weekend, ETSU (8-18, 0-8 A-Sun) and UNF (24-10, 3-3 A-Sun) begin the series Friday with a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. The series finale is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Buccaneer Breakdown
The first eight Atlantic Sun games have not ended in favor of ETSU and half of those defeats have come by just a single run. The good news is there are still 18 games left on conference slate and, with it, plenty of chances to climb the standings and get in position for the A-Sun Tournament.
The Bucs hope to start making the climb in Jacksonville against a middle-of-the-road North Florida squad which currently sits sixth in the conference standings. ETSU trails the Ospreys by four games, but a series victory would pull the Buccaneers within a game in the win column.
For the first time on the 2013 campaign, Jackie Baird (Ooltewah, Tenn.) will not enter the series with ETSU’s highest batting average. Instead, redshirt sophomore Nicole Fox (Peachtree City, Ga.) leads the offense with a .357 average, along with team-highs of 35 hits, 14 runs and 10 stolen bases. None of that means Baird should be taken lightly, as the junior is still hitting .350 and holds team-highs in home runs (4), doubles (5), RBIs (18) slugging percentage (.563) and on-base percentage (.441).
Senior Tara Hartnett (Snellville, Ga.), junior Katie Wolff (LaGrange, Texas) and sophomore Casey Horner (Whitesburg, Tenn.) remain above the .300 mark. Hartnett is quietly consistent from the leadoff spot, hitting .333 with 11 runs, eight RBIs and an OBP of .417. Wolff’s batting average is just three points behind at .330 with nine runs and 11 RBIs, while Horner carries a .304 average and shares Baird’s RBIs lead of 18.
From there, the drop off is a little steeper than the Bucs would like. Sophomore Alex Everett (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) and freshman Sam Carpenter (Forest City, N.C.) are at .260 and .250, respectively, while starting shortstop Sam Lower (Sebring, Fla.) is hitting .244. All other Bucs are hitting .222 or worse.
As a team, ETSU enters the UNF series with a .284 average to outhit its 2013 opponents’ average of .273.
In the circle, Wolff (3-9) continues to give ETSU chances to win with a 2.50 ERA. In 11 starts and 13 appearances, Wolff has thrown 78.1 innings which includes seven complete games and a shutout. She also holds the team’s strikeout lead of 41. Freshman Sam Harrell (Okeechobee, Fla.) has a 3.84 ERA in 65.2 innings of work. Harrell (4-7) has made 12 starts and appeared in 15 games, striking out 39.
The ETSU pitching staff has seen its team ERA climb to 3.81, while its 94 walks issued outweigh its 92 strikeouts.
Last Time Out
League-leading Florida Gulf Coast came to Johnson City last weekend and took both games of a rain-shortened series. Shelby Morgan pitched the Eagles to a series opening, 5-0, victory and a heartbreaking second game saw the Buccaneers take a late lead after trailing by as many as six, but lose in eight, 10-9.
Kelsey Carpenter was responsible for the majority of FGCU’s damage at the plate. The Eagle outfielder hit a three-run homer in each game, finishing the day 5-for-8 with four runs and seven RBIs. Tori Williams also had a big day, going 5-for-7 from the leadoff spot with four runs, an RBI and a stolen base.
Morgan’s five-hit shutout was the story in game one. Wolff went the distance for the fifth straight outing, but a four-run FGCU seventh inning all but closed the books on any chance of a Buccaneer comeback.
All of ETSU’s offense came in game two, highlighted by senior Whitley Hensley (Erwin, Tenn.) who went 4-for-4 in the game with three doubles, two runs and an RBI. Hensley’s three doubles tied for the most in a single game in ETSU history; Sheryl Clark is the other to accomplish the feat against NC A&T on April 9, 2002.
Trailing by six runs, 8-2, entering the bottom of the fifth, ETSU scraped out a run to cut the deficit to five. A huge six-run rally ensued in the sixth, capped off with a two-run home run from Baird to put the Buccaneers ahead, 9-8. Two outs from victory, ETSU took a big blow as Brittney Garabedian smacked a game-tying, solo home run to center. The game went to extras and FGCU scored the eventual game-winning run with two outs in the eighth, extending ETSU’s A-Sun losing streak to 12 games.
Scouting the Ospreys
UNF has won four of its last five games, including a doubleheader sweep against Monmouth and a series win over A-Sun foe, Lipscomb. The 4-1 stretch helped the Ospreys recover from a 1-4 mark in their previous five with a pair of losses to both FIU and USC Upstate, making them 5-5 in their last 10.
Offensively, Danica Mandarano’s .326 average leads the team. Manadarano is mostly a singles hitter who has scored 15 runs, driven in nine and stole six bases. Marissa Thomas, Ashley Holton and Kelly Wilson all hit between .300 and .310. Thomas ranks fourth in RBIs with 16, while Holton’s 17 rank third to go along with a team-leading 19 runs scored. Both Thomas and Wilson tie for the team-lead in stolen bases with eight. Wilson has 15 runs scored to go along with a team-high 10 doubles.
The power threats are Mariah Reynolds and Jackie Reese. Reynolds boasts the higher average at .295 with three long balls and a team-leading 19 RBIs. Reese hits .267 and has a team-high four home runs to go along with 18 driven in.
The Ospreys hit .267 as a team.
UNF’s bigger threat is in the circle. As a staff, the Ospreys hold the A-Sun’s No. 3 ERA of 1.94. The ace is Kaylie Wallace (11-4) who throws to the tune of a 1.54 ERA with 70 strikeouts and only 24 walks in 87.2 innings pitched. Kayla Goff (9-5) has been the No. 2 option, tossing 88.2 innings with a 2.37 ERA, 64 strikeouts and 30 walks. Cortney Radke (4-1) has also been known to start a few games and carries an impressive 1.91 ERA in 47.2 innings. Without a doubt, UNF’s pitching has been the key to its success, holding opponents to under three runs a game.
ETSU won the first-ever meeting between the two teams in 2006, but the Ospreys have taken all 13 since to lead 13-1. Last season, the Bucs lost two one-run games in Jacksonville, 2-1 and 1-0.
Live stats for all three games will be available through Stat Broadcast by logging onto ETSUBucs.com. ETSU’s latest partner in live statistics allows fans to access all the stats they need, keep up with the scores around the conference with a built-in scoreboard and even interact with the action. Fans who Tweet using the hashtags #ETSUsb or #BucYeah will have their Tweets shown at the bottom interface and will be able to interact with @ETSUSoftball and @ETSUAthletics.
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