Full of youth, Buccaneers head into 2013
AUBURN, Ala. (Feb. 7, 2013) – Six weeks of fall ball and four weeks of spring practices are finally complete, as the ETSU softball team opens a new chapter this weekend at Jane B. Moore Field in Auburn, Ala., competing in four games as part of the Plainsmen Invitational.
ETSU barrels full steam ahead into the 2013 campaign, beginning the year against 2012 NCAA Regional participant and host Auburn at 4 p.m. Shortly after the conclusion of that game, the Buccaneers end their first day against a strong Kent State squad around 6:30 p.m.
Day two of the Plainsmen Invitational gets underway for the Bucs at 11 a.m., as they take on Austin Peay State University. ETSU’s final game of the invitational comes later that night in a dual with Army scheduled for 9 p.m. All times listed are Eastern.
In tune with the new season, the four opponents are almost as new as can be to ETSU’s 12-year program history. In total, the Bucs have played just one game amongst the quartet of schools. That matchup came in March of 2006 in the form of a, 7-6, win over Austin Peay. The other three teams will add three new lines to the all-time series records page, all of which the Bucs hope to mark in as 1-0.
Auburn returns six of its starters from a season ago. The 2012 Tigers went 33-23, 12-16 SEC, en route to an appearance in the NCAA Regionals. That team had an experienced pitching staff that boasted a 2.01 ERA, but the 2013 version of the Auburn staff returns just one pitcher. The Bucs will look to jump on the inexperienced staff to chalk one up in the win column to start the year.
Kent State comes off a 27-30, 11-11 MAC, season, finishing third in the Eastern Division of the conference. The Golden Flashes return six starters, including their top hitter in Dani Ramos who hit .322 and scored 24 runs in 2012. Also returning is their top pitcher, Emma Johnson, who went 16-15, boasting a team-best 2.27 ERA and throwing 22 complete games. Two of Kent State’s other three pitchers from last year’s squad also return, making it very experienced in the circle.
Austin Peay struggled last year, going 19-31 overall with a 10-20 record in the OVC. The Governors may have something to offer this season, returning their top two pitchers in Lauren de Castro and Morgan Brewer. Last season, de Castro appeared in 22 games and ended up with the team-best ERA of 2.54. Brewer was the top starter, making 21 starts and 36 appearances en route to a 3.05 ERA. de Castro is a double threat, also having led the 2012 squad with a .385 batting average, 30 runs, 12 home runs and 30 RBIs. As for the rest of the lineup, APSU will be without Paige Neely and Amy Mills, who hit .363 and .280 to rank No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in 2012.
Army’s softball team should be happy to be out of the northeast – winter storm Nemo expects to bring plenty of snow to the region over the weekend – and in Auburn for the Plainsmen Invite. The Black Knights are coming off a school-record 37 wins from a season ago, finishing the year 37-21, 14-6 Patriot League. Last year’s Army squad advanced to the Patriot League Championship finals and returns all-conference members Alex Reynolds, Amanda Nguyen and pitcher Morgan Lashley. Reynolds hit .315 with 33 runs and 30 RBIs, Nguyen had an Army season-record 70 hits to go along with a .365 average, while Lashley did little in her freshman year besides being named Patriot League Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year.
In terms of season openers, ETSU stands at 5-7 and rides a four-game losing streak heading into Friday. The Bucs last win to start the season came in 2008 in a shutout of Furman, 7-0.
Live stats for each game of the Plainsmen Invitational will be available on ETSUBucs.com.
The Buccaneers – an 11-38, 1-17 A-Sun, squad a season ago – get to wipe the slate clean and hope to put an end to their current eight-game losing streak dating back to last year. The ghosts of years past should have minimal powers against head coach Brad Irwin’s 2013 squad. Combined, the 21-man roster boasts nine newcomers, which make up roughly 43 percent of the team.
On the offensive end, ETSU’s newcomers consist of Bethany Cowart (Ringgold, Ga.), Sam Carpenter (Forest City, N.C.), Jennine Duncan (Jonesborough, Tenn.), Madison Boyd (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Emilie Hensley (Morristown, Tenn.). All five will look to make an immediate impact and boost ETSU’s offensive numbers which dipped near the program’s all-time lows in 2012.
The first-year outfielders are Cowart, Duncan and Boyd. Cowart compiled 146 runs, 119 RBIs, 180 hits and 72 stolen bases over her four-year prep career at Grace Baptist Academy. She had a career .420 batting average with a .585 slugging percentage and a .543 on-base percentage. Duncan compiled 300 career hits at Daniel Boone High School. Her senior year, she batted .550 with 98 hits and 59 stolen bases. If that was not enough, Boyd posted a career .358 batting average with 111 runs, 85 RBIs, 32 doubles and 45 stolen bases in her career at Girls Preparatory School. As a senior, Boyd slugged .634 with a .407 batting average.
In the infield are Carpenter and Hensley. Carpenter enters her first collegiate season having batted .532 with an on-base percentage of .597 and a slugging percentage of 1.113 to help her garner her second straight all-conference, all-district and all-state honors at Chase High School. Carpenter also posted a .529 batting average in 2011 with 26 runs scored while driving in 19 and recording a .914 slugging percentage en route to being named South Mountain Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Hensley hit .382 with five home runs and 37 RBIs to be named All-Northeast Tennessee as a sophomore in 2010 at Morristown East High School. Hensley also batted .420, with 15 doubles, five home runs and 35 RBIs as a junior, while also showing off her talents behind the plate by picking off 12 runners.
The Bucs also have quite a number of pitchers joining the team for 2013. Freshmen Sam Harrell (Okeechobee, Fla.) and Kendra Roberts (Marietta, S.C.) enter the team alongside incoming sophomore transfer Shaylyn Wood (Beacon, N.Y.) and junior transfer Elliana Cabrera (Hayden, Ariz.).
Harrell holds the Okeechobee High School record with 709 career strikeouts while posting an astounding 0.093 ERA. She set the single-season strikeout record with 229, earned all-conference honors and was named conference player of the year. Roberts was a two-time all-region selection and was named team MVP in 2011 at Greenville County High School. In both 2011 and ’12, she helped guide her team to a regional championship.
The transfer pitchers, Wood and Cabrera, bring some prior collegiate experience to a youth-laden roster. Wood pitched at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania last season, earning 15 appearances while pitching two complete games. Prior to that, Wood was a standout at Beacon High School in Beacon, N.Y., where she was an all-league and all-section selection while captaining the Bulldogs. Cabrera comes from Eastern Arizona College, where she appeared in 63 games with 120.1 innings of work. Her final season, she posted a 7-3 record with a 2.98 earned run average and 47 strikeouts. Prior to Eastern Arizona, she was a standout pitcher at Hayden Winkleman High School.
As for the returners, the Buccaneers will look toward Casey Horner (Whitesburg, Tenn.) to deliver at the plate. Last year, Horner led ETSU with a .316 batting average, driving in a team-high 24 RBIs to go along with her team-highs of seven home runs, a slugging percentage of .537 and an on-base percentage of .411. Those numbers, along with her 136 at bats, place Horner second in the ETSU career record books in batting average, first all-time in slugging percentage and first in OBP.
Another top returning hitter is senior Tara Hartnett (Snellville, Ga.). The upperclassman hit .315 in 2012, driving in 10 runs and scoring 11 while stealing two bases. Sophomore Alex Everett (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) will also look to repeat as a top-three hitter for the Bucs after compiling a .299 average with 13 runs and 20 RBIs last year.
Of last year’s starting lineup, the 2013 Buccaneers will have the experience of sophomore Haley Thompson (Nicholson, Ga.) and junior Jackie Baird (Ooltewah, Tenn.). Thompson hit .250 and ranked second on the team with 22 runs scored. The infielder also had 12 RBIs and currently holds the ETSU record for hits in a single game with five last year against Western Carolina. Baird spent a majority of the 2012 season behind the plate, throwing out 12 runners, hitting .237 with 10 runs and 18 RBIs. Baird also slugged .381 to rank second on the team.
In the circle, ETSU has the experience of junior Katie Wolff (LaGrange, Texas) and sophomore Whitney Leon (Dandridge, Tenn.). Wolff had a 3.68 ERA and pitched 15 complete games last year, getting in 140.2 innings of work which helped her gain valuable experience heading into the upcoming season. Leon got 46.0 innings in last year, boasting a 4-1 record in 14 appearances. The two returning pitchers hope to mesh well with the large incoming staff in order to get the Bucs back on track in the circle.
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