New season, new faces, new places for ETSU Softball
Cason
Cason

Friday, September 05, 2008

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 5, 2008) - Whether its playing in a brand new stadium, having eight new faces on the team, or returning 11 players from last year's squad that set the single season all-time wins mark, the ETSU softball team looks to build on its successes both on and off the field and finish the season as Atlantic Sun conference champions in 2009.

 

The Lady Bucs have some unfinished business to take care this softball season after being a win away from playing in the conference championship game a year ago in DeLand, Fla. Unfortunately, for ETSU, they ran into the hottest team of the double-elimination tournament and lost twice to eventual champion, Campbell. However, the Lady Bucs set new marks in 2008 by breaking the all-time wins mark (30) and stolen base record (95). Katy Jett (Talbott, Tenn.), Vicki McCoy (Ringgold, Ga.), Cheniece Cason (Moreno Valley, Calif.) and Kate Powell (Johnson City) helped the Lady Bucs finish 28th in the country in stolen bases. Jett (19-for-21), McCoy (21-for-26), Cason (14-for-14) and Powell (13-for-17) accounted for 67 of those thefts. On the flip side, catcher Trisha Massenzo (Russellville, Tenn.) kept the opposition in check, as her cannon for an arm tied her for second in the Atlantic Sun for punching out base runners. Massenzo also helped ETSU with her bat as she led the team with her 12 doubles and seven home runs, and was one of two players (Cheniece Cason) to play in all 63 games.

 

After falling one game shy of the A-Sun championship game, for head coach Andrea Mangrum and her staff, last year's success was considered bittersweet.

 

"Since the moment we finished the 2008 season our staff has been preparing for the 2009 season," comment Mangrum, who enters her fourth year at the helm for the Lady Bucs. "We had the sweet taste of victory winning 30 games, but we left the season with a bitter taste in our mouth knowing we could have finished stronger. We feel confident in the plan of action we have established for this year and look to build on the success of last season. I believe we have all the tools to win a conference championship and our goal is to work harder than our opponents every single day at practice until the season comes to an end next spring. We realize that a great team will beat individual talent and our focus this fall is building a strong chemistry with our players and coaches."

 

Part of ETSU's success both on and off the field came from the reliable arm of Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.). Last season Hardy appeared in 41 of the 63 Lady Buccaneer games in the circle, while starting 30 contests and going the distance in 24 of them. The Rocklin, Calif. native enjoyed a memorable season as she broke five Lady Buccaneer pitching records. Hardy broke the single-season wins record (19), IP (229.1), appearances (41), strikeouts (261) and also set the new single-game strikeout mark with her 16K's vs. Presbyterian in March. The dominant right-hander also ranked nationally in strikeouts per seven innings (45th, 8.0) and wins (58th).  

 

Hardy was not only highlighting the Lady Bucs on the field, but she also set the tempo for the team in the classroom as well. The pre-education major was one 15 student-athletes to make the Buccaneer 4.0 club and one of 13 players on the ETSU softball team to receive Atlantic Sun All-Academic honors. Joining Hardy on the Buccaneer 4.0 list was teammate and senior outfielder (Kate) Powell. Both Hardy and Powell helped the Lady Bucs boast a team grade point average over 3.0.

 

"I am very proud of my team's accomplishments both on and off the field," said Mangrum. "I want to thank Bob Baker (Director of Academic Services) and his staff for their hard work and having our program reach new academic records."

 

During the summer and last May, some ETSU softball players were able to showcase their talents in Australia and in state championships.

 

In July, Hardy and Cason were fortunate enough to play for Team USA in the Australian Friendship Series. Both Lady Buccaneer players raised $4,500 to travel to "the land down under," and compete against teams from Australia, New Zealand and one other team from the U.S. Their team, which consisted of only nine players, won all eight pool play games and three tournament contests - resulting in a Gold medal for both Lady Buccaneer standouts. Hardy helped her team in the circle and at first, while Cason saw time at short and in left field.

 

The trip not only consisted of playing softball, but it also gave the "California Girls" the chance to create new friendships and experience the Australian culture.

 

"This was a trip of a lifetime and an experience we will never forget," commented Cason and Hardy, who both agreed the Sydney Opera House was their favorite destination. "We became friends with our teammates and we all had a great time. Winning the gold medal capped off this amazing experience."

 

Playing against some tough international teams and facing stiff competition helped Cason and Hardy grow as players. In the end, the trip helped both girls realize this year's team has an excellent shot of winning the Atlantic Sun championship.  

 

"We played with some great players and being able to mesh with them made us realize we can win a championship here at ETSU. After getting a taste of victory this summer, we want to bring that package back here to our Lady Buccaneer teammates." 

 

"I am so proud of the way these two young ladies represented our program while in Australia this summer," said Mangrum. "Their leadership has matured over the past two years and I am confident it will play a crucial role in the success of our program this season. Their actions speak for themselves in the type of character they have as student-athletes and it makes me honored to coach them."

 

Both Hardy and Cason were not the only players making noise on the softball field for the Lady Bucs. A pair of freshmen helped guide their high school teams to state Tennessee championships. Amy Campbell (Hixson, Tenn.) helped guide the GPS Lady Bruisers to its second straight and fifth state championship in the last 11 years, in May. While Campbell won her second straight title for GPS, Lexie Whittenburg (Chattanooga, Tenn.) was also busy making noise in Chattanooga when her Ooltewah Lady Owls hoisted the Class AAA crown.       

 

"We are raising the standard in our program when it comes to the way we think," commented Mangrum. A winning attitude is one of the traits we demand from our players and that is another strength our freshmen class brings to the team. Many of them come from programs that have a winning tradition and that mindset is something we are excited about for the upcoming season."

 

A winning attitude and a core group of players is exactly a great foundation for the Lady Buccaneers as they gear up for their inaugural season in ETSU's new softball stadium - which is located off of Greenwood Dr. behind the Kroger shopping center. After breaking ground this past December, the construction has been flowing at a rapid pace. The facility is currently ahead of progress and is expected to be completed this October. The top-notch stadium will feature: TV-quality lighting, 500 seats (with over 100 of them being chair back), gated entry concourse, bathrooms, concession and merchandise stands, scoreboard, dugouts (with attached storage and easy access to the bullpens), a playing surface with complete drainage and irrigation systems, and a practice infield.

 

"I feel so blessed to be at ETSU right now and have the opportunity to play the first season in our new stadium," said Mangrum, who was also apart of the Lady Buccaneer inaugural softball season in 2001. I believe the timing of our new facility is right on target with where our program is currently at. The team is so appreciative of their new home and they are ready to bring a winning attitude onto the field this spring."

 

The ETSU softball team will continue with its fall practices as they prep for competition in two fall tournaments. The Lady Bucs host one of the tournaments, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 27 at Metro-Kiwanis Park. ETSU will play three games that day, beginning with King College at 10 a.m.

 

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

 

 

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