Bucs host Lipscomb in A-Sun opener Friday

Thursday, March 24, 2011

ETSU, Belmont set to square off Saturday afternoon

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 24, 2011) - The East Tennessee State University softball team opens Atlantic Sun Conference play this weekend as the Bucs host reigning regular season and tournament champion Lipscomb in a doubleheader Friday evening at Betty Basler Field. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.

The Bucs, who are in the midst of a 14-game homestand, enter the conference opener with a record of 11-15.

ETSU has received strong output from its leadoff hitter as freshman outfielder Nicole Fox (Peachtree City, Ga.) has hit safely in seven of her last eight games, raising her average over 50 points to a season-high .292. Fox carries a five-game hitting streak into play Friday and is coming off a perfect 4-for-4 effort over King on Monday. Meanwhile, senior Katie Henderson (Jackson, Tenn.) has posted multiple hits in seven of her last nine outings and currently ranks sixth in the A-Sun with a .395 batting average. Overall as a team, the Bucs rank third in the league with their .294 average.

Lipscomb is coming off its best season since arriving in the A-Sun as the Bisons posted a 50-13 record in 2010 en route to capturing both the regular season and conference titles. The Bisons were selected first in the preseason coaches' poll - and despite their 11-11 record - Lipscomb packs a powerful punch in junior righty Whitney Kiihnl and sophomore outfielder Breanna Thurman.

Kiihnl has recorded 163 strikeouts in 104.1 innings, while also limiting her opponents to a .150 batting average. The reigning A-Sun Pitcher and Player of the Year also brings a 1.21 ERA into conference action along with five shutouts. At the dish, Thurman is hitting a team-best .339 with three doubles, three homers and 10 RBI. Thurman has played in all 22 games and also leads the club in runs scored (14), hits (20), stolen bases (5-5), and hasn't committed an error in 14 chances.

Friday marks the 13th meeting between the two schools and the series is all knotted up at six games apiece. The Bucs won the first six games of the series; however, Lipscomb has evened things up by winning the last six in the rivalry. The Blue and Gold haven't beat Lipscomb since defeating the Bisons 4-1 back on April 5, 2008 in Nashville.

On Saturday, the Bucs will wrap up the weekend with a doubleheader against Belmont, beginning at 1 p.m.

Belmont (7-18) opens conference play Friday afternoon at USC Upstate and the Bruins are led by Ashley Byers' seven doubles, six home runs and 18 RBI.

Overall, the Bucs have won nine of the ten games in the series, with the lone loss being a 5-0 setback at Belmont last March.  

Fans unable to make the trip to Johnson City can view the Lipscomb game live on A-Sun.TV (weather permitting), while live stats will also be available for both doubleheaders this weekend courtesy of Gametracker.  

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

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