ETSU Softball opens season Saturday at Furman
Friday, February 8, 2008

GREENVILLE, S.C. (Feb. 8, 2008) - Coming off its best offensive season in school history, the ETSU softball program will open its 2008 schedule this Saturday afternoon when the Lady Bucs take on the Furman Paladins. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. at Pepsi Stadium.


ETSU, who was selected fifth in the Preseason Atlantic Sun Coaches Poll, swept Furman a year ago in Greenville. The Lady Bucs hope to repeat history as they carry their offensive explosion into the upcoming campaign.


Like ETSU, the Lady Paladins were also picked fifth in the Preseason SoCon Coaches Poll. Furman went 21-34-1 in 2007, but the Lady Paladins shocked the conference as they won the postseason tournament and earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.


Fans unable to make the trip to Pepsi Stadium can view all the action via GameTracker by visiting or by clicking the link above.


Below is a preview of the 2008 ETSU Lady Buccaneer Softball program.


Coming off one its best seasons in ETSU history, the Lady Buccaneer softball team will look to claim their first Atlantic Sun championship crown this May.


The Lady Bucs enjoyed their best offensive season in program history in 2007, and will look to build off that success this upcoming season. As a team, ETSU set school records in batting average (.280), runs (247), RBI (213), slugging percentage (.401), on-base percentage (.340), and sacrifice hits (54). The Lady Buccaneers bats were also on fire during their 18 conference games. ETSU led the A-Sun in every offensive statistical category in 2007. 


"Coach Roberts has done a tremendous job with our hitters and making ETSU one of the best offensive teams in the conference," said head ETSU softball coach Andrea Mangrum. "She has played a vital role in teaching our players how to be great hitters and played a huge part in our offensive success last year."


Mangrum's club will be tested early as ETSU opens the season with 22 straight games on the road. The Lady Buccaneer schedule also includes 10 participants from the 2007 NCAA Tournament; including Baylor who made it to the Women's College World Series and the national runner-up Tennessee. After playing only a handful of games at Metro-Kiwanis Park a year ago, ETSU will have 11 home doubleheaders on deck in 2008.


The Lady Bucs' season-opening road trip features four tournaments beginning with the Cox Communications Classic in Gainesville, Fla. Following the Florida tournament, ETSU will head back to its home state and compete in the Chattanooga Challenge, followed by the College of Charleston Tournament. Rounding out the four tournaments will be the prestigious and highly touted Under Armour Invitational in Clearwater, Fla., where only the top teams are invited to play in the three-day tournament. In Clearwater, ETSU will face perennial powerhouse Baylor (Big 12), Big Ten foe Michigan State, UIC (one of the Horizon League favorites), and Hofstra who has won 10 consecutive conference championships (six with the Colonial Athletic Association and four in the America East Conference).


"I have learned in order to be successful you have to play a strong schedule early," said Mangrum. "This will show our true strength as a team and give us a clear direction for the remainder of our season."


ETSU will finally play its first game in Johnson City when Tennessee Tech comes to Metro-Kiwanis Park on March 12. The Lady Bucs will host six conference twin bills this season as newcomer Florida Gulf Coast (Mar. 16), Gardner-Webb (Mar. 21), UNF (Mar. 28), Jacksonville (Mar. 30), conference tournament champion Stetson (April 14), and Campbell (Apr. 17) all visit ETSU's home facility. The good news is the Lady Bucs will only have to hit the road for five conference match-ups during the season (Kennesaw State, Mercer, USC Upstate, Lipscomb and Belmont).


Following the rigorous schedule, the top-six teams will advance to the Atlantic Sun Tournament. The three-day double-elimination tournament begins May 8 in DeLand, Fla., hosted by Stetson.


Below is a breakdown of the 2008 ETSU softball team (broken up by infield, outfield and pitcher/catcher)�


Lady Buccaneer Infield

Beginning at the corners, the Lady Bucs will feature sophomore Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.) at first and junior slugger Jessie Hackworth (Clinton, Tenn.) at third. Hackworth started all 55 games at third and led the team with a .325 (53-163) batting average a year ago. The Tenn. native also committed only eight errors in 165 chances (.952). Hardy made 32 starts (23 at first) and will also see some action in the circle.


The tandem of senior Briana Knight (Brier, Wash.) and sophomore Cheniece Cason (Moreno Valley, Calif.) will plug up the middle. Like Hackworth, Knight was the other ETSU player to start all 55 contests. Knight will be used for her defensive skills at second, where she posted a .952 fielding percentage, and faced a team-high 271 chances. Cason, who spent the majority of the time in the outfield (43 starts), will take over for the showstopper Stephanie Gaynord (2004-07). Gaynord, who graduated last May, made 47 starts at short; while Cason made eight appearances at the slot. Cason was one of four Lady Buccaneer players to receive postseason conference honors as she was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Freshmen Team.


Newcomer Ashley Boyd (Chattanooga, Tenn.) will also be called upon to play first. When Boyd is not playing first, she will also be used as the Lady Bucs' designated player or pitcher. Boyd played her high school ball at Dade County High School, where she hit .378, with 42 doubles, 13 triples, 25 home runs and 142 RBI for the Wolverines.


"We return just about our entire infield from last season," commented Mangrum. "Stephanie Gaynord will always be considered one of the greatest players to come through our program, but Cheniece has worked hard to fill those shoes this season. Cheniece is the only new face to the infield and we are already seeing what a smooth transition it has been this off-season. The remaining infielders along with the newcomers have great chemistry. They each understand their roles and responsibilities which are vital with the speed of the game and the small ball defense we will have to play."


Lady Buccaneer Outfield

The ETSU outfield will feature a lot speed and some pop on the offensive end. The trio of Katy Jett (Talbot, Tenn.), Kate Powell (Johnson City, Tenn.), and Vicki McCoy (Ringgold, Ga.) all provide coach Mangrum with blazing speed that will be used to cover ground in the field and on the base paths.


During her rookie season, Jett led the team in hits (54) and posted a .305 batting average (54-177) with eight doubles, one triple, five home runs and 32 RBI. Jett joined Cason on the All-Freshmen Team as well as receiving Second Team All-Atlantic Sun accolades. Powell, who was forced to sit out part of the season with a concussion, will primarily play center and left. The slap hitter will cause a lot of havoc on the opposing pitcher/catcher duo, as she will look to use her quickness to a lot steal bases. McCoy transferred to ETSU from Chattanooga State CC, and like Powell her speed will help position herself into scoring position when she reaches. She was only caught four times in 78 attempts while playing for the Lady Tigers, and as a slap hitter she hit .429 (157-366) with nine doubles, six triples, one home run, 64 RBI and 112 runs scored.


Also looking to help in the outfield as well as behind the plate will be junior Caitlin Zyskowski (Grand Rapids, Mich.). Zyskowski played a vital role as she filled in for Powell in left when she went down with a concussion and for Trisha Massenzo (Russellville, Tenn.) behind the plate when she faced a serious facial injury. The Michigan native set a new career high in almost every statistical category, including a personal-best four home runs a year ago.


"Outfield is a position that is often underestimated, because they are the second line of defense," said Mangrum. "We will see some of the best hitters in the country this year and the outfield must be prepared to think a step ahead at all times. We have great speed along with strong arms, so I believe we will throw out a lot of runners on the bases this spring."


Lady Buccaneer Pitching/Catching

The Lady Buccaneer pitching staff will be led by sophomores Darci Gilbert (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and (Marissa) Hardy. Gilbert and Hardy combined for 16 of ETSU's 26 victories; while Hardy made a splash for the Lady Buccaneer rotation late in the season. Hardy only made 16 appearances (six starts), but one of those starts was most memorable as she recorded ETSU's first-ever no-hitter on Apr. 17 vs. Virginia Intermont. Hardy was also the most dominant hurler last season, as she almost posted one strikeout an inning (58K's/62.0IP).


Gilbert, on the other hand, was the most durable Lady Buccaneer pitcher. The Murfreesboro, Tenn. native led the team in IP at 148.2 and tied for the team-lead with 10 victories, which leads her into the number one slot as a starter. With the transfer of MC Vercoe, senior Amanda Haverman (Kirkwood, Mo.) and freshman (Ashley) Boyd will be counted on to replace her.  Haverman made a few relief appearances in her first two seasons at ETSU; however, she will primarily be used as ETSU's designated player. The Missouri native has one of the most explosive bats on the team as she hit .305 and belted six home runs. Haverman also set a new program-record with her 37 RBI last season. She was one of two Lady Buccaneer players to be selected to the First Team All-Atlantic Sun list last year (with Gaynord).


"Coach Beus has brought more to our pitching staff than I ever imagined," added Mangrum. "The pitchers feel as though they are getting a private lesson everyday at practice. Each pitcher on our staff has a different strength and that is what makes the entire staff so strong. It will be a great tool to keep our opponents off balanced this season and that is the depth we have been missing in the past."


The battery partners include (Trisha) Massenzo, Katie Henderson (Jackson, Tenn.) and Kaela Jackson (Morristown, Tenn.). Massenzo is the number one catcher as she is the one with the most collegiate experience under her belt (33 starts). At the plate, Massenzo drove in 10 runs and recorded 24 hits in 89 at-bats.


The freshmen combo of Henderson and Jackson can also expect to see some time at the catcher slot. Being behind the plate is like another home for Henderson as she caught every game for Trinity Christian Academy going into her senior year (184 games). Also, she guided the Lady Lions to back-to-back TSSAA Class A State Championships in 2006 and 2007, marking the first time in school history TCA has ever won a championship. Jackson was a four-year letterwinner at Morristown-Hamblen High School West, where she helped lead the Trojans to a 27-6 mark in 2007. During her senior year, Jackson hit .520, with 39 hits and 30 RBI, and posted a .425 average with 17 RBI in her junior season.


"With Coach Beus taking over the pitching reigns it has allowed me to be more interactive with our catchers. A catcher is the cornerstone of a defense and it is vital that a catching staff be prepared to handle their responsibilities behind the plate. We have spent a lot of time preparing them in practice to handle all the little things that take place in a game setting. This was something we did not get to do enough of last year and I believe we will see a big turn around with their defensive skills this season."


Lady Bucs in the Atlantic Sun

After leading the league in offence during the conference season and earning its highest seed in the Atlantic Sun Tournament (third seed), ETSU was picked to finish fifth in the Preseason Coaches Poll. Along with the fifth-place ranking, the Lady Buccaneers saw two of their players named to the Preseason All-Conference Team as (Amanda)  Haverman and Katy (Jett) were recognized for their hard work. Stetson, last year's tournament champion, was picked to finish first; while Kennesaw State (135 votes), UNF (99) votes and Gardner-Webb (91 votes) were picked above ETSU.