ETSU softball opens 2010 season Saturday in Charlotte
Senior Marissa Hardy has been ETSU's number one pitcher over the last two seasons.
Senior Marissa Hardy has been ETSU's number one pitcher over the last two seasons.

Friday, February 12, 2010

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Feb. 12, 2010) - After putting in numerous hours of practice during the fall and now the last few weeks leading up to the start of the season, the ETSU softball team is set to hit the diamond and kick off the 2010 season when the Lady Bucs head to Charlotte for the 49er Round Robin on Saturday.

 

The Lady Bucs, who raced out of the gates and posted their best 20-game start in program history a year ago, finished the season on a sour note to end up 27-28, 6-14 in Atlantic Sun action.

 

ETSU kicks off the season with an 11 a.m. first pitch against BIG EAST foe St. John's on Saturday. The Red Storm finished 2009 with a 24-26 record and was picked to finish sixth in the conference this upcoming season. Following their morning affair with St. John's, the Lady Bucs return to the field at 5 p.m. with a showdown against Liberty. On Sunday, ETSU wraps up round robin play with host Charlotte at noon. After taking on the 49ers, the teams will then be seeded as the top two teams play for the championship and the bottom two teams will play the third-place game.

 

Fans unable to make the trip to the D.L. Phillips Softball complex can catch all the action via live stats courtesy of the Charlotte Media Relations Department. To access live stats visit http://www.charlotte49ers.com/ or click on the link above.

 

For more information regarding the 2010 Lady Buccaneer softball program, check out the season preview below.  

 

Building confidence and staying focused

 

Those are two things the ETSU softball team has worked on this preseason. Those two goals were lost a year ago after jumping out to their best start in school history (15-5), but at the end the Lady Bucs finished 27-28.

 

However, a new season is upon the Lady Bucs, and they will be led by their five senior leaders both on and off the field. The class of Cheniece Cason (Moreno Valley, Calif.), Darci Gilbert (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.), Katy Jett (Talbott, Tenn.) and Trisha Massenzo (Russellville, Tenn.) has meant so much to this program since arriving in Johnson City three years ago; however, this strong group wants to go out on top and lay the foundation for years to come. 

 

"I have been telling the seniors throughout the preseason that this is their team," commented head coach Andrea Mangrum. "These five ladies have the opportunity to go out on top and have everyone remember how they laid the foundation of a winning program."

 

Along with the five key seniors, ETSU returns six total starters and 11 letterwinners from a year ago. Joining the five are Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team selection Amy Campbell (Chattanooga, Tenn.), freshman outfielder Annie Martin (Centerville, Tenn.) and catcher/third baseman Katie Henderson (Jackson, Tenn.).

 

The Lady Bucs lost key components in Jessie Hackworth (Clinton, Tenn.), Kate Powell (Johnson City), Cat Zyskowski (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and Vicki McCoy (Ringgold, Ga.), but ETSU filled the void by bringing in seven fresh faces in 2010.

 

"We lost a lot of power and speed with our senior class a year ago, but I felt my staff and I did a great job bringing in players to fill in those gaps," commented Mangrum. "Overall this freshman class will have a chance to fight for starting positions and playing time when the preseason begins in January."

 

With the Lady Bucs playing their second season in the newly constructed stadium, having key senior leadership and a deep bench, the sky is the limit for ETSU in 2010.

"Our team has one goal and one goal only - win a conference championship," said Mangrum. "The road getting there won't be an easy one; however, if we play fundamentally sound ball and stay focused as a team we are capable of making anything happen."

 

Pitchers and Catchers

The one area ETSU has strength and numbers is with its battery of pitchers and catchers. Seniors Marissa Hardy and Darci Gilbert are the catalysts in the circle while Trisha Massenzo hasn't lost a step with the play calling behind the plate. Over the last two years Hardy has combined for 36 of ETSU's 57 wins and Massenzo has started 147 of the 173 games over the last three years. Hardy, who holds the Lady Bucs' single season record for wins (19) and strikeouts (255), also fanned a program-best 16 batters against Presbyterian as a sophomore in 2008. Meanwhile, Massenzo led the club with 10 doubles and 28 RBIs in 2009 and has only missed four games in the last two years.

Joining Hardy in the circle is Gilbert, a right-handed hurler out of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Gilbert was on pace to have her best season in 2009, but shoulder injuries placed her on the disabled list throughout the major part of the conference race. The Murfreesboro native jumped out to a quick 6-2 start, but finished the year 8-7 however, she recorded a stellar 2.06 ERA (33 ER/112.0 IP). After having successful shoulder surgery in the off-season, Gilbert looks to bounce back and finish her Lady Buccaneer career on a positive note in '10.

 

"Marissa and Darci are the go-to pitchers on our staff this season," commented Mangrum. "They have the most D-I experience and their mental toughness will come into play when we face some strong competition. We expect both of these senior pitchers to produce in their final year and help this team win ballgames."

Junior Katie Henderson will also share duties with Massenzo behind the plate. Henderson enters her third year with the Lady Bucs and will also be counted on to play third.

 

Back in the circle the Lady Bucs can also call to junior newcomer Jessica Duncan (Ooltewah, Tenn.) and second-year player Shelby Morris (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.). Duncan gives ETSU some experience as she helped guide Chattanooga State to its first-ever #1 ranking in the NJCAA Poll, an FCCJ Tournament title, and a 60-win campaign in 2009. The Ooltewah native also posted a perfect season in the circle - going 13-0 with a 1.32 ERA (20 ER/105.2 IP). Meanwhile, after gaining a year of Division I experience, Morris hopes to battle for more innings as a sophomore. The Mt. Juliet native made six appearances (one start) and tossed 8.1 innings as a rookie in 2009.

 

"Both Jessica and Shelby bring a different style of pitching to the team," added Mangrum. "They pitched a lot of innings for us in the fall, and that added experience will pay off once the season begins in February. We look to use both of them in certain game situations to keep the opposition off balance."

 

Infield

The Lady Buccaneer infield consists of a solid mixture of veterans and rookies. The middle infield slots will be filled by senior Cheniece Cason at short and sophomore Amy Campbell (Chattanooga, Tenn.) at second. Cason has been one of the most reliable players for the Lady Bucs since arriving in 2007 - making 118 consecutive starts and playing in 172 of the 173 games over the last three seasons. In addition, Cason is coming off her best season in an ETSU uniform in 2009 - hitting a team best .345 (57-165). Campbell, meanwhile, can also see time at third, as she will share duties with Katie Henderson and freshman Arielle Garner (Buchanan, Ga.). Garner can also play the other corner at first, while Trisha Massenzo will fill the gap when she is not called in to catch. Garner is a very versatile player as she played third, short, first and pitched at both Bremen and Central high schools. The Buchanan native was selected Player of the Year in Carroll County as a senior and Most Valuable Offensive Player as a sophomore.

In addition to Campbell, a pair of freshmen will be used at second with Lucy Schneider (Dade City, Fla.) and Sam Lower (Sebring, Fla.) handling the chores. Schneider, who can also play short, is a valuable commodity with her bat, speed and defense. The Dade City, Florida, native hit .495 (48-for-97) with 10 doubles, three triples, three home runs and 35 RBIs as a senior at Pasco High School. The standout player helped the Pirates not only with her bat, but also her speed, as Schneider was 32-for-33 in stolen base opportunities in 2009.

 

"Our infield rotation will be based on who steps up and wants the job," commented Mangrum. "We have some key players who will contribute on a daily basis, but at other positions we will go with the hot bat and who is playing well."

 

Outfield

Two of ETSU's three outfield positions are filled with sophomore Annie Martin (Centerville, Tenn.) taking the lead in left and senior Katy Jett covering ground in center. Like Cason, Jett has also been consistent as she can be, starting in 171 of the 173 games played in her career. Jett has been a solid hitter for the Lady Bucs over the last three years, as her .347 batting average in 2008 ranks third all-time and her .337 clip a year ago was the fifth highest in program history. Martin and Jett are a strong one-two combo as they cover a lot of ground and their strong arms pose issues for opposing base runners.

 

"Katy and Annie are two solid outfielders as we enter the 2010 season," said Mangrum. "Their speed and strong arms are a valuable asset in left and center, and they are capable of making plays at any given time. They both play very well together."

The starting right field position will be a battle between three Lady Buccaneer players. Sophomore Marlina Delisa (Tucson, Ariz.), Tara Hartnett (Snellville, Ga.) and Jessica Duncan will contend for the starting job and can possibly split time in the gap depending on productivity in the position. In addition to those three, freshmen Whitley Hensley (Erwin, Tenn.) and Mikayla Treadway (Unicoi, Tenn.) will both compete for playing time in the outfield.

 

Schedule

When looking at the 2010 ETSU softball schedule two words come to mind - "Road Warriors."

 

The Lady Bucs, who kick off the season with 24 consecutive road games, face six teams from NCAA Tournament play a year ago.

 

"I think playing 24 straight road games will bring this team closer," added Mangrum. "We wanted try to utilize our new stadium early in the season, but due to the weather conditions in East Tennessee we are forced to play in warmer climates."

 

ETSU kicks off the season playing in five tournaments - which begins on Feb. 13 in Charlotte, N.C. The Lady Bucs open up the campaign with BIG EAST foe St. John's at 11 a.m. Along with the Red Storm, ETSU will also play Liberty and the host 49ers.

Following their stint in Charlotte, the Lady Bucs make the trip to Greenville, S.C. for a doubleheader with Furman on Feb. 17.

 

From there, the Lady Bucs continue with tournament play in Atlanta where ETSU collides with Temple, Eastern Illinois and Georgia State. The Panther Invitational takes place from Feb. 20-21 inside Georgia State's Bob Heck Field.

 

The Lady Bucs finally play their first set of games inside the Volunteer state in 2010 when ETSU makes the journey to Chattanooga. ETSU goes head-to-head with Central Connecticut State and Ball State on Feb. 26; while taking on in-state rival and 2009 NCAA Participant - UT-Martin - along with BIG EAST foe Rutgers on Feb. 27. The Lady Bucs close out competition at the Frost Classic with another in-state counterpart - Tennessee Tech - on Sunday, Feb. 28.

 

ETSU wraps up its tournament play when the Lady Bucs make their longest road trip in school history, and seniors Marissa Hardy and Cheniece Cason make a visit to their home state of California from March 5-13. During this span, the Lady Bucs will play in two tournaments - one in Riverside and the other in Fresno. The pair of tournaments include games with four teams who appeared in postseason play last year - including the opening game with Big 10 opponent Ohio State on March 5 in Riverside. Joining ETSU in Riverside are the host Highlanders (March 5), and BIG EAST foe and NCAA Tournament participant Notre Dame (March 6). The Lady Bucs then travel north to Fresno to play in the Bayer CropScience Classic - marking their final regular season tournament of the campaign. While in Fresno, ETSU takes on host Fresno State (March 11), Cal State Northridge and Georgetown (March 12). Then, ETSU plays Colorado State and Mississippi State on March 13.

 

"I feel all four of these tournaments will test the girls each and every weekend," Mangrum said. "Each tournament features teams from the top conferences, and opponents who reached the NCAA Tournament last season. I always feel in order to become stronger you have to play teams that are very successful, and I believe this format achieves that goal in 2010."

 

After the 24-game road trip - which covers four tournaments in four different states - the Lady Bucs finally say hello to Johnson City when ETSU hosts Presbyterian in its home-opener on March 20.

 

"The home-opener is always an exciting game, and I am sure the team will be ready to protect their home turf," mentioned Mangrum. "The early road games are critical, so we can enter the home opener on a high note and have the stadium filled for the game against Presbyterian." 

 

The homestand doesn't last long for the Lady Bucs, as Mangrum's squad embarks on a three-game road swing to close out the month of March. ETSU begins Atlantic Sun Conference play with a series in the Music City against Lipscomb (March 26) and Belmont (March 27). The Lady Bucs conclude their road trip with the short trip over the mountain to Boone to play Appalachian State on March 31.

 

"Opening A-Sun play in Nashville is a good test for our team," said Mangrum. "Playing on the road is never easy, but adding in-state and conference rivals to the mix makes things much more difficult. It's very important to get off to a hot start in conference play, because that will set the tone for the rest of the season." 

 

Once again the Lady Bucs return home for a brief two-game home-stand when conference contenders Stetson and FGCU visit the newly built ETSU Softball Complex. The Lady Bucs host the Hatters on April 2 and Eagles on April 3.

 

During the final stretch of the season, the Lady Bucs split time both at home and on the road. ETSU travels to Blacksburg for a night game with Virginia Tech on April 6, before heading down to Florida for a critical A-Sun showdown with Jacksonville (April 9) and North Florida (April 10). Other road swings include a trip to North Carolina for games at UNC Central and a doubleheader against A-Sun Champion Campbell on April 22.

Following a trip to USC Upstate on April 25, the Lady Bucs wrap up regular season play with a three-series homestand starting on April 28 against Western Carolina. In addition to the Catamounts, ETSU hosts former A-Sun rival Gardner-Webb (May 1) and Big South and 2009 NCAA participant Radford on May 7.

 

The Atlantic Sun Tournament and automatic bid to the NCAA Regional will again take place in DeLand, Fla., as Stetson hosts the top six teams. The only team not eligible in 2010 are the Eagles from Florida Gulf Coast. The double-elimination tournament begins on May 13-15 at Patricia Wilson Field.

 

"The team knows what the goal is entering the season, and they know the journey to an A-Sun Championship won't be easy," said Mangrum. "They know the hard work in the fall and preseason will eventually pay off when the regular season rolls around. We can't take any opponent lightly and have to play fundamentally smart ball each time we take the field. If we follow this recipe, we know our goals can be reached."

 

For more information in on Lady Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.

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