JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 29, 2012) – Coming off dominating pitching efforts by Katie Wolff (LaGrange, Texas) and Shelby Morris (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) on Wednesday night, the ETSU softball team looks to carry the positive momentum into Atlantic Sun Conference play as the Bucs host Kennesaw State and Mercer this weekend at Betty Basler Field.
The Bucs open conference action with a doubleheader against Kennesaw State at 4 p.m. on Friday, while Mercer comes to town Saturday for a 1 p.m. first pitch.
Wolff and Morris became the first ETSU pitchers since April 2009 to toss back-to-back shutouts as the strong duo led the Blue and Gold to a sweep over Western Carolina at Betty Basler Field. Wolff tossed a four-hit shutout in the 1-0 game one win, while Morris followed suit in the nightcap by logging her first collegiate blanking in the 7-0 victory. The Buccaneer tandem allowed six hits, while only walking one and striking out eight Catamount hitters. Wolff picked up her first win since defeating Boston U. back on March 2 in Knoxville, while Morris has yet to allow an earned run in the last 13.2 innings and has two wins along with a save during this stretch.
Meanwhile, at the plate, freshman Alex Everett (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) continues racking up the hits as she has now hit safely in 10 consecutive games and is one hit shy of tying her previous best and school record, which she accomplished in the first 11 games of the season. The Soddy Daisy, Tenn. native – who has pulled even with teammate Casey Horner (Whitesburg, Tenn.) with 31 hits – is hitting .455 (15-33) during this 10-game span. Joining Everett with the hot bat since March 6 is junior outfielder Tara Hartnett (Snellville, Ga.). Hartnett is hitting .462 (12-26) with five runs scored and six RBI in her last 11 games played.
As a team, the Blue and Gold are in the midst of a three-game winning streak and have won five of their last eight to improve to 10-16 on the season. During this run, ETSU has outscored its opponents by 16, 39-23, and have out-hit its foes by 25, 67-42.
With the Bucs gearing up for conference play this weekend, Kennesaw State (16-16, 1-1) already has a conference doubleheader under its belt as the Owls split with FGCU back on March 7 in Ft. Myers. After winning eight of its first nine games to start the 2012 season, Kennesaw State has dropped 15 of its last 23 games since Feb. 25.
The Owls – who were picked to finish fifth by the league coaches – are coming off a 9-1 setback at Georgia Tech Wednesday night. Kennesaw State was held to three hits in five innings of play against the Yellow Jackets and used three different pitchers in the single-game contest.
Despite their recent struggles, the Owls have a good mix of power hitters and pitching as three players are hitting over .340 and Kennesaw State’s pitching staff leads the A-Sun with 241 strikeouts. Kennesaw State is led by Jessica Cross, an A-Sun All-Conference performer, as she leads the team with a .366 batting average, 37 hits, and a .420 on-base percentage. In addition to her stellar numbers at the plate, the senior right-hander has tossed three of the Owls’ four shutouts and has earned five wins in the circle. Joining Cross at the plate are Lindsay Vollmer and Sharon Swanson as they have combined for 58 hits, nine doubles, 16 home runs, and 46 RBIs. In total, the trio of Cross, Vollmer, and Swanson have accounted for 95 of Kennesaw State’s 213 hits, 19 of its 25 home runs, and 61 of its 107 RBIs.
Kennesaw State has had the Bucs’ number since becoming A-Sun foes as the Owls have won nine of the 12 meetings, including five straight in the series. ETSU’s last win over the Owls was a 1-0 victory back on April 25, 2009 when Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.) allowed only five hits and struck out six in the shutout. Last season, the Bucs were swept at Kennesaw State as Cross no-hit the Blue and Gold in an 8-0 win in game one, while the Owls rallied for a 7-6 win in game two. ETSU held a 3-1 lead through four complete innings and a 5-4 advantage through five and a half innings, but with the Bucs holding a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh, Kennesaw State capped off the comeback by plating two runs to finish off the sweep.
On Saturday, the Bucs will face a Mercer team – who opens A-Sun action on Friday afternoon at USC Upstate – and brings a 19-13 record into weekend play.
The Bears were penciled to finish seventh in the preseason conference coaches poll and are led by first-year head coach James DeFeo. DeFeo’s club carries a seven-game winning streak into Spartanburg and the Bears have been fueled by the stellar play of McKenzie Woody. Woody leads the A-Sun with her .464 batting average and has recorded at least one hit during Mercer’s current winning streak. In the circle, freshman pitcher Jessica Holsinger has led the way with a 9-2 mark and a 2.00 ERA. The rookie hurler has tossed three shutouts and is holding the opposition to a .202 batting average.
Like Kennesaw State, the Bears also swept ETSU last year in Macon, Ga. and Mercer leads the all-time series, 8-5. However, the Blue and Gold swept the Bears at home in 2010.
Fans unable to make the trip to Johnson City this weekend can watch all the action on A-Sun.TV, while live stats will be available via Gametracker. Buccaneer fans can also receive updates on Twitter @ETSUAthletics and @ETSUSoftball.
For more information on Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.