JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 20, 2008) - Head ETSU softball coach Andrea Mangrum announced Thursday afternoon that four student-athletes have signed their national letters of intent to play with the Lady Buccaneers next season.
The group of Tara Hartnett (Snellville, Ga.), Whitley Hensley (Erwin, Tenn.), Arielle Garner (Buchanan, Ga.) and Sammie Lower (Sebring, Fla.) will all bring new energy and a winning attitude to the Lady Bucs starting in 2008-09.
"All four players are very solid athletically and academically," commented Mangrum. "They all establish the character and work ethic we desire in our program. Each year it becomes harder to replace the talent we are losing in our senior class. We lose a lot of talent from this years' senior class and we believe this recruiting class will continue to add the depth and strength our program needs. All four of them will make our program, university, and community proud because they are ladies who will succeed in life."
Hartnett brings a lot of speed to the Lady Bucs and is a four-year letterwinner at South Gwinnett High School. The senior captain for the Comets has been a starting outfielder since her freshman year, and led the team in every offensive category a year ago. As a leadoff hitter in 2008, she hit .372 with a .476 on-base percentage and .488 slugging percentage - en route to being named 2008 Offensive Player of the Year. Hartnett helped guide the Comets to a 2005 Regional Championship as well as leading her team to sectionals in 2005 and 2008. Last year she was also named First Team all-Region and First Team all-County.
"Tara's speed is what attracted me to her initially," said Mangrum. "I love speed and know we are losing that in our senior class. She packs a big punch in a small package. Her energy on the field will keep the enthusiasm we play with as a team. She is an exciting player and a great fit for our program."
Joining Hartnett is (Whitley) Hensley - a local standout from Unicoi County High School in Erwin. Hensley is a 5-6 utility player and hit .396 with two home runs for the Blue Devils in 2008. As a junior she was named all-Conference, all-State, and all-District as a catcher. In addition, she was named the Most Promising Underclassman by the Johnson City Press.
"Whitley is a player who has attended our camps since I arrived at ETSU," commented Mangrum. "I love how she is a leader on the field with her aggressive style of play and vocal leadership. Hard work and high standards are something she has committed to over the years and it has paid off for her game."
Garner is a player who can step in and help ETSU is many areas as she has played third, short, first and pitcher at both Bremen and Central High Schools. Last season the Buchanan, Ga. native hit .422 and posted a perfect fielding percentage, along with going 22-3 with a 1.78 ERA in the circle. During her freshman year at Bremen High School, Garner was the Blue Devils' starting shortstop and number two pitcher. After her sophomore season she was named Most Valuable Offensive Player, and at the end of her junior year she was tabbed First Team all-Region, West Georgia Newcomer of the Year, and Second Team all-State.
"Arielle is an all-around solid player," said Mangrum. "She has a very strong foundation with her mechanics, both defensively as an infielder and offensively at the plate. She is consistent and plays with passion. I love her leadership on the field and hope she brings that early on in her career here at ETSU."
Rounding out Mangrum's recruiting class is a 5-4 middle infielder/third baseman, Sammie Lower. Lower is a talented four-sport athlete out of Sebring High School, where she lettered in volleyball, cross country, soccer and softball. Lower is a consistent hitter as she has mounted a .500-or better batting average in her first three seasons, and is also a three-year Offensive Player of the Year and all-County Team selection. She has also been apart of a very successful travel team - the Tampa Mustangs - as she led them to a 2008 ASA State Championship and came in the top-20 at the ASA Nationals.
"Sammie really takes pride in everything she sets out to accomplish," said Mangrum. "She pays attention to detail and wants to do the little things right on and off the field. Also, she is another hard worker who has paid the price to get to this level. She is solid on the field and has been around great coaching for many years."
For more information on Lady Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com