JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (April 12, 2012) – After stepping out of conference play on Wednesday, the ETSU softball team returns to Atlantic Sun Conference action this weekend when the Bucs head to the River City to face North Florida on Friday evening and Jacksonville Saturday afternoon.
First pitch of the UNF doubleheader is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the UNF Softball Complex, while the Jacksonville twinbill is set for 1 p.m. inside the JU Softball Complex.
The Bucs (10-23, 0-6) are coming off a 13-9 setback in a slugfest to Appalachian State where both teams combined for 22 runs on 19 hits on Wednesday in Boone, N.C. Sophomore Jackie Baird (Ooltewah, Tenn.) paced the Buccaneer offense as she went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI, while senior outfielder Annie Martin (Centerville, Tenn.) also added a two-hit effort, marking her eighth multi-hit game of the season.
Baird – who got off to slow start in 2012 has really picked up her play over the last 16 games – as she’s hitting .419 (18-43) with three doubles, three home runs, and 15 RBI during this stretch, while Tara Hartnett (Snellville, Ga.), Casey Horner (Whitesburg, Tenn.), Alex Everett (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.), and Haley Thompson (Nicholson, Ga.) are all hitting over .300 since March 6. Hartnett is hitting .386 (17-44) with a triple, six RBI, and eight runs scored, while Horner is right behind with a .377 average (20-53) along with three doubles, four home runs, and 13 RBI. Meanwhile, the freshmen standouts of Everett and Thompson have combined for 32 hits, six doubles, 17 runs scored, and 18 RBI.
Like the Bucs, North Florida (24-19, 5-5) also played on Wednesday as the Ospreys came away with a split over Bethune-Cookman. UNF took game one, 3-2 in nine innings, before falling, 9-1, in the nightcap. The Ospreys won nine in a row in mid-March and have won 14 of their last 21 games.
UNF – who was picked to finish sixth in the preseason A-Sun coaches poll – is led by sophomore catcher/outfielder Mariah Reynolds who is hitting .321 (35-109) with seven doubles, four home runs, and 26 RBI. The Ospreys have a trio of strong pitchers as Kaylie Wallace, Ashley Brown, and Kayla Goff have earned at least five wins on the season. Wallace is the ace of the staff as she is 13-5 with a 1.50 ERA (26 ER/121. IP) and three shutouts, while Brown and Goff have also recorded a shutout and combine for 11 wins.
The Ospreys have dominated the series since joining the A-Sun as UNF is 11-1 all-time against the Bucs, with ETSU’s lone win coming in the first-ever meeting back on March 24, 2006 in Jacksonville. Of the 11 setbacks in the series, four have been decided by two runs or less.
On Saturday, the Blue and Gold will face preseason favorite and reigning regular season and tournament champion Jacksonville.
The Dolphins (23-18, 4-4) are coming off a 4-0 win over Florida A&M on Wednesday and take on USC Upstate in a doubleheader Friday evening.
Jacksonville is led by A-Sun all-conference player Kayla Ouellet at the plate and reigning A-Sun Pitcher of the Year Sarah Sigrest. Ouellet is hitting a team-leading .331 (47-142) and is 27-for-31 in stolen base opportunities, while Sigrest is 14-8 with a 2.12 ERA (47 ER/155.0 IP) and has tossed eight of the Dolphins’ 13 shutouts on the season. In addition to Ouellet and Sigrest, Preseason A-Sun Player of the Year, Sarah Simon, leads the club in home runs (6) and RBI (29). As a team, Jacksonville ranks second with a .280 batting average and fifth with a 2.25 ERA.
After winning three of the first four games in the series, the Bucs have dropped eight straight to the Dolphins and trail the all-time series, 9-3. However, ETSU is 3-3 in games played in Florida – including a sweep back in 2007 that put the Blue and Gold in first-place for the time being.
Fans unable to make the trip to Jacksonville can follow all the action on live stats via Gametracker, while live updates will also be posted on Twitter @ETSUAthletics.
For more information on Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.