(March 22, 2005) - The Lady Bucs softball squad will host Morehead State in the home opener at Metro Kiwanis Park on Wednesday entering the non-conference match-up with a 10-17 record thus far in 2005. Led by third-year head coach Amy Fuller, the Bucs enter their final season competing for the Southern Conference crown in 2005.
The 2004 season proved to be a great leap in the short history of the Lady Bucs softball program. Finishing with a 29-34 overall record, including an 8-13 Southern Conference slate, ETSU posted big wins against not only conference competitors, but national powerhouses as well. A win over Virginia Tech competing at the State-Line Classic in late April gave the Bucs heightened confidence heading into the heart of the SoCon season. Winning seven out of nine games including a seven-game winning streak during a nine-day stretch in early March, also set the tone for the Lady Bucs season to come.
Janine Sprague (Hillsborough, N.C.) shattered numerous batting records including batting average (.348) and hits (70) while her .557 slugging percentage also ranks her top on the ETSU all-time charts. With her success at the plate, Sprague, along with shortstop Mary Beth Hazelwood (Knoxville, Tenn.) garnered spots on the All-Southern Conference second team for the 2004 season. Third baseman Lindsay Lane (Irwin, Tenn.) tallied 60 hits, including 15 doubles and five home runs, propelling her to a team-leading 36 RBI for the year.
From the pitching mound, Tiffany McVay tallied a 14-11 record equaling her mark at the top of the ETSU record books. Belinda Barrera (Fayetteville, N.C.) posted a solid performance on the mound, her .212 opponent batting average mark ranks her atop the Lady Bucs softball record books, while her impressive 164 strikeouts places her in first place as well.
Head Coach Fuller led ETSU into one of the most successful seasons in the short history of the program, while the strength of the first-ever Lady Bucs softball graduating class led with determination and an undying will to win. In the final rally of the 2004 season, ETSU posted a strong win over Georgia Southern in the first round of the Southern Conference championship tournament held in Chattanooga in late May. College of Charleston and Appalachian State both took late-round victories over the Bucs however, ending the 2004 season.
The Bucs return six starters and eight total letterwinners from the 2004 squad including All-Southern Conference honorees Hazelwood and Sprague who look to lead ETSU in its final season as a member of the Southern Conference. After finishing sixth in 2004 league standings (8-13), ETSU looks to improve that mark in the season ahead. Fuller has hired Blake Miller as her assistant coach for the 2005 campaign, welcoming volunteer assistant coach Renee Heitbrink and former Lady Bucs catcher Sheryl Clark as the student assistant coach this season. Returning for the Bucs will be a strong veteran class led by senior third baseman Lane, shortstop Hazelwood and outfielder Danielle Spetar (Knoxville, Tenn.). The trio each started all 63 games for ETSU in 2004, while ranking among team leaders in numerous offensive and defensive categories. Lane finished 2004 with 71 putouts at third base, hitting .308 for the year. Her 60 hits, including 15 doubles and five home runs led Lane to a team-best 36 RBI last season. Hazelwood, a mainstay in the Bucs starting lineup throughout her career at the shortstop position, posted a .333 average from the plate last season including 58 hits, 12 doubles and four homeruns for the year. Her 12 stolen bases tied her with Spetar for a team-lead, while her fielding percentage of .912 was among the best on the Lady Bucs squad. The final senior looking to propel the 2005 squad is the everyday center fielder for the Bucs, Spetar. Spetar posted a .279 average with 57 hits in 2004, while posting three doubles, six home runs and a team-second best 33 RBI. With 61 putouts, 58 assists and just four errors in 63 games, Spetar is a solid performer that coach Fuller knows will prove an important member of the 2005 campaign. "The seniors are very committed to a successful 2005 season," Fuller said. "They love to compete and they are extremely focused about leading this team to win our first Southern Conference title."
With three strong leaders in the senior class, the junior class boasts just the same. Sprague, Barrera, Courtney Jenkins (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Jessica Longsinger (Dale City, Va.) will also play important roles in the season ahead. Sprague, an All-Southern Conference Second Team honoree, shattered numerous ETSU offensive records in 2004. Her 70 hits are a new all-time high in the Lady Buc record books, while she posted 18 doubles, six triples, four home runs and a career-best 24 RBI for the year. Both her .348 batting average and .557 slugging percentage rank atop the ETSU all-time charts, while her leadership and tireless desire bring excitement to the field.<p>Fuller is excited to see what Sprague will do in 2005. "Janine is an amazing competitor, she is a lot of fun to watch because you can see the intensity in her face. She brings great versatility to our lineup.
"Barrera, a right-handed pitcher who posted a 3.27 earned run average a year ago, will be an important aspect of the strong ETSU pitching staff. Making 33 appearances last season posting a 10-15 record, Barrera allowed just 120 hits in 156.2 innings. Also an important member of the Lady Bucs pitching staff with 23 appearances for the Bucs, Jenkins posted a 3.39 ERA and a 4-8 record in 2004. In 82.1 innings pitched, Jenkins allowed just 83 hits while opponents hit just .261 for the year. Longsinger will compete behind the plate for the Bucs this season. A catcher who garnered All-Southern Conference honors in 2003, she tallied 15 hits and 187 putouts in 36 appearances for the Bucs in 2004. A veteran member of the squad, Longsinger brings leadership and competitiveness to the field for ETSU in 2005.
Stephanie Gaynord (Manassas, Va.) is the only sophomore returning for ETSU this season. With 49 starts, mainly at the second base position in 2004, Gaynord tallied 30 hits finishing her rookie campaign with a .201 batting average and an impressive .978 fielding percentage. With 111 putouts, 71 assists and just four errors last season, head coach Fuller will look for Gaynord to continue her stellar career into her sophomore season with the Lady Bucs.
Behind a great returning veteran class, the Bucs welcome eight newcomers to the 2005 squad. Stephanie Cope (Maryville, Tenn.), Briana Knight (Brier, Wash.), Amanda Haverman (Kirkwood, Mo.), Jessica Payne (Maryville, Tenn.), Brittney Lehrschall (Leland, N.C.), Melissa McCall (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Brittany Richardson (Knoxville, Tenn.) round out the 2005 ETSU roster. A strong and experienced incoming class, ETSU welcomes local competitors in McCall and Richardson, while Knight comes to ETSU from the west coast, and Haverman hails from the Midwest. Haverman will add a strong arm to the ETSU pitching staff in 2005 while Richardson, one of the top-ranked catchers in the state of Tennessee, and Knight will bring added depth to the infield. Cope adds to the ETSU outfield on the defensive side, while McCall and Payne bring experience at multiple positions to the plate in 2005. Burnette heads to ETSU after one season at Chattanooga State playing mainly first base; she posted a .250 batting average and a .471 on base percentage during her freshman campaign.
"This talented group of freshmen has worked extremely hard to become everyday contributors to this team. They will be an influential and important aspect of our success this year," Fuller said.
"We are looking forward to the 2005 season; we have eight new players so it will be interesting to see how the positions pan out. We still have people battling for three different positions. I believe that our pitching staff is our big strength right now because we have four effectively different pitching styles in Belinda, Courtney, Brittney, and Amanda. Our hitters worked extremely hard in the fall offseason and I expect us to come out swinging the bats with confidence this spring. Lady Bucs softball will be a treat to watch this season."
Game time is set for a 2:00 p.m. start for the first game of the doubleheader versus Morehead State, game two will begin immediately after the finish of game one.