JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 13, 2017) – Coming off its first Southern Conference Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, the ETSU softball team has begun preparing for its title defense as the Buccaneers held their first practice of fall season last Friday at Betty Basler Field.
The Bucs are coming off a historic season, which saw the Blue and Gold run through the conference tournament with a perfect 4-0 mark to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. After playing against two of the top programs – in Auburn and Notre Dame at the Auburn Regional – ETSU wrapped up its season with a 29-26 record, marking the highest single-season winning percentage in program history. In addition, the 29 wins were the second-most by any Buccaneer team, while 2017 marked just the second winning season in school history.
With 2017 behind them, the Bucs hit the ground running last Friday, and head coach Brad Irwin is pleased with what he has seen from the Blue and Gold over the first few days of practice.
“The first few days of practice have started off really well,” said Irwin. “We were excited to get back to work and start building for the 2018 season. The energy level has been very high and everyone is eager to get better each day.”
ETSU returns 13 players from last year’s championship squad, which includes junior outfielder Tiffany Laughren (Erwin, Tenn.), sophomore infielder Nikki Grupp (Jacksonville, Fla.) and sophomore catcher Kylie Toler (Bradenton, Fla.) – who all earned SoCon honors last season. Laughren earned second team all-conference honors, and Grupp and Toler were both placed on the all-freshman team. Grupp also was named to the SoCon All-Tournament Team, along with senior pitcher Madison Ogle (Maryville, Tenn.).
After losing seven seniors to graduation, Coach Irwin and his staff added 14 new faces to the roster in 2018. Of the 14, three are transfers, while seven can play the infield or outfield slots, four outfielders, one infielder, one catcher and one pitcher.
“The make up of this year’s team is different from last year as we have more speed and versatility,” said Irwin. “We are excited to see how the newcomers mesh with our veterans as we start playing fall games.”
ETSU’s fall schedule gets underway this Sunday, Sept. 17 as the Bucs take on Anderson (1 p.m.) and Montreat (5 p.m.) in Milligan’s Fall Tournament at Winged Deer Park. The Bucs’ remaining fall games will be played at Betty Basler Field, beginning on Sunday, Sept. 24 when ETSU hosts Lees McRae at 1 p.m., followed by taking Milligan on Friday, Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. From there, the Blue and Gold face Tusculum at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1 and Roane State on Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. ETSU wraps up its fall season with Walters State on Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 5 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 17 (Winged Deer Park – Johnson City, Tenn.)
Anderson, 1 p.m.
Montreat, 3 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 24
Lees McRae, 1 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 29
Milligan, 5 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 1
Tusculum, 1 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 8
Roane State, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 12
Walters State, 5 p.m.
For more information on Buccaneer softball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the softball page.