NFCA GAME PREVIEWS
February 6, 2014
|LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Throughout the 2014 softball season, those of us at the NFCA hope to feature some of the sport’s highest profile contests in our “Featured Five” Games of the Week segment.
With NCAA Division I action kicking into gear this weekend and NCAA Division II already underway, our first weekly installment provides live stat links, game notes, returnee info, Twitter accounts and any available broadcast links in hopes of becoming another source for fans to visit during the season for information on some of collegiate softball’s best games.
As the year continues, we will attempt to expand our focus to include match-ups throughout as many divisions as possible.
We may not be able to feature every division or big game each week, but our hope is to provide a spotlight for as many teams and games as possible throughout 2014.
#9 Nebraska vs. #15 Florida State
Site: Hotel Encanto Invitational Classic at NMSU Softball Complex in Las Cruces, N.M.
Date/ Game Time: Fri., Feb. 7, 4 p.m. ET & Sun., Feb. 9, 11 a.m. ET
Radio/TV Coverage: Nebraska Live Audio
Live Stats: #9 Nebraska vs. #15 Florida State
What Nebraska Returns: The No. 9 Huskers return reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and NFCA Second Team All-American Tatum Edwards (30-10, 1.91 ERA, 229 Ks in the circle and .286 average with 11 doubles and 11 homers at the plate) for her senior season after being one of just two players (Oklahoma’s Keilani Ricketts, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year was the other) to win 30 games and slug 10 homers in 2013. Sophomore pitcher Emily Lockman (15-6, 1.78 ERA, 112 Ks), an NFCA Midwest Region First Team selection, was also the 2012 California Gatorade Player of the Year. Overall, Nebraska brings back 11 letter winners, including six starters who accounted for 60 percent of the team’s offense. Senior catcher Taylor Edwards (.328 average, 14 doubles, 13 homers) — Tatum’s twin sister — is one of those players, and left her mark on this tournament last season, hitting two grand slams against Illinois-Chicago, making her the fourth player in NCAA history to have two grand slams in the same game. The Huskers have won their last 13 games at the NMSU Softball Complex and 16 of their last 17 played there.
What Florida State Returns: The No. 15 Seminoles return 14 letter winners from last year’s 44-19 squad, which reached the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time since 2006. NFCA Third Team All-America junior pitcher Lacey Waldrop (24-10, 1.53 ERA, 259 Ks in 219.1 IP) leads the way, while Florida natives Lauren Harris and Bella D’Errico (both outfielders) and utility player Victoria Daddis lead a solid class of seven incoming freshmen looking to make their mark right away. NFCA Southeast Region Second Team outfielder Morgan Bullock (.346 average, seven doubles, four triples, 13 stolen bases) is among the letterwinners Florida State lost after last season. Senior outfielder Kelly Hensley (.315 average, .618 slugging percentage, 13 homers) became the first Seminole player to earn ACC Softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors in 2013.
#10 Texas vs. #13 Louisiana-Lafayette
Site: Louisiana Classic at Lamson Park, Lafayette, La.
Date/ Game Time: Fri., Feb. 7 & Sat., Feb. 8, 4:30 p.m. ET (both days)
Radio/TV Coverage: None
Live Stats: TBD
What Texas Returns: The No. 10 Longhorns return three key seniors from the team that went 51-10 and reached the Women’s College World Series semifinals last year in NFCA Third Team All-America shortstop Taylor Thom (.382 batting average, .710 slugging percentage, 55 runs, 15 homers, 16 doubles, 66 runs batted in, 21 stolen bases), who was named last week by the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball to the Top 50 “Watch List” for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, NFCA All-Central Region Second Team catcher Mandy Ogle (.293 average, 41 RBI) and outfielder Brejae Washington (.368 average, seven triples, 94 total bases). The Longhorns lost two NFCA First Team All-Americans in pitcher Blaire Luna (32-7, 1.28 ERA, 422 Ks in 251.2 IP) and third baseman Taylor Hoagland (.424 average, .821 slugging percentage, 14 doubles, 14 homers, 67 runs, 29 stolen bases) as well as NFCA All-Central Region First Team utility player/pitcher Kim Bruins (10-0, 1.78 ERA). Head coach Connie Clark will reach 700 wins with the team’s fourth victory of the season.
What Louisiana-Lafayette Returns: The No. 13 Ragin’ Cajuns return 16 letter winners from last year’s 47-15 team that advanced to the NCAA Super Regional for the second straight year and third year in the last four. Louisiana-Lafayette lost four of its nine starters to graduation, including NFCA Second Team All-America at-large outfielder Brianna Cherry (.393 average, 14 homers), NFCA Third Team All-America catcher Sarah Draheim (.409 average, 17 homers, .746 slugging percentage), who is now an assistant coach, and NFCA All-Central Region Second Team shortstop Nerissa Myers (.400 average, 12 doubles, .539 on-base percentage). Among the returning players are three of four pitchers, including junior Jordan Wallace (32-9, 1.70 ERA, 382 Ks in 255.1 IP), who was named last week by the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball to the Top 50 “Watch List” for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. Senior second baseman Natalie Fernandez (.345 average, .411 on-base percentage, 61 hits) is one of five returning starters in the field.
#2 Oklahoma vs. #12 Kentucky
Site: Easton Tournament, Fullerton, Calif. (Easton Tournament Central)
Date/ Game Time: Fri., Feb. 7, 6:30 p.m. ET
Radio/TV Coverage: None
Live Stats: Gametracker – #2 Oklahoma vs. #12 Kentucky
What Oklahoma Returns: Defending NCAA Division I champion and second-ranked Oklahoma begins defense of its 2013 crown at the Easton Tournament in Fullerton, Calif., with an immediate season-opening test against No. 12 Kentucky. The Sooners return an impressive seven starters from last year’s title-winning offense that powered OU to a 57-4 overall record. Included among the returnees are 2013 USA Softball National Player of the Year finalist and NFCA First Team All-American junior first baseman Lauren Chamberlain (.458 avg., 16 doubles, NCAA-leading 30 HR’s, 84 RBIs), 2013 NFCA Second Team All-American junior third baseman Shelby Pendley (.357 avg., 15 doubles, 22 HR’s, 73 RBIs) and NFCA All-Central Region senior outfielder Destinee Martinez (.342 avg., six doubles, 30 runs, 24 RBIs).
What Kentucky Returns: The 12th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats prepare to begin the 2014 season fresh off a 2013 campaign that saw head coach Rachel Lawson’s squad win a school record 41 games and earn a national seeding in the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. UK returns 15 letter winners and eight positions starters, including four of its top five hitters from 2013, and its top two pitchers. Senior pitcher/infielder and 2013 NFCA All-Southeast Region choice Lauren Cumbess paced the Wildcats last season at the plate with a .323 batting average, adding 12 doubles, 13 homers and 43 RBI to go along with a 10-7 pitching record, a 3.88 ERA and 82 K’s over 110 IP. Junior catcher Griffin Joiner rated just behind Cumbess at the plate with a .322 batting average in addition to 14 doubles, 10 homers and 41 RBI. In the circle sophomore pitcher Kelsey Nunley returns after registering a 27-11 record, a 2.14 ERA and 193 K’s over 268.2 innings of work during her rookie season.
#4 Florida vs. #5 Michigan
Site: USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament, Tampa, Fla. (Wilson-DeMarini Tournament Central)
Date/ Game Time: Sat., Feb. 8, 11:30 a.m. ET
Radio/TV Coverage: Florida Radio Broadcast – ESPN 850 Gatorzone with Mike Gillespie and Megan Bush
Live Stats: #4 Florida vs. #5 Michigan
What Florida Returns: The No. 4 Gators return 13 letter winners from last season’s WCWS team, having lost just two players to graduation. Among those back to guide UF in 2014 are a pair of NFCA First Team All-Americans in senior pitcher Hannah Rogers (led the Southeastern Conference last season with 33 pitching wins, five saves and 243 strikeouts while rating second in ERA at 1.71) and junior pitcher/first baseman Lauren Haeger (16-2 in the circle with a 2.35 ERA and 119 K’s in 128.1 IP while hitting .319 at the dish with 18 HR’s and a league-high 70 RBIs). Also returning is NFCA All-Southeast Region second baseman Kelsey Stewart, a sophomore who paced the Gators with a .378 average last year to go along with 90 hits, a nation-best 10 triples and a Florida single-season record 36 stolen bases in 39 attempts.
What Michigan Returns: The fifth-ranked Wolverines return 16 letter winners and six starting position players from last year’s WCWS squad, including 2013 NFCA Second-Team All-American sophomore shortstop Sierra Romero (.379 avg., 23 HR’s, 71 RBIs) and a trio of 2013 All-Big Ten Conference First Team selections in first baseman/catcher senior Caitlin Blanchard (.374 avg., 71 hits, 46 RBIs), sophomore outfielder Sierra Lawrence (.314 avg., 7 HR’s, 38 RBIs) and junior catcher Lauren Sweet (10 HR’s, 34 RBIs). UM also returns pitchers Sara Driesenga (31-9, 1,89 ERA, 247 K’s in 263.1 IP) and Haylie Wagner (19-3, 2.50 ERA, 102 K’s in 123 IP), a combo that combined to record 50 of Michigan’s 51 pitching victories in 2013.
Other High Profile Division I Games This Weekend:
#10 Texas at #17 LSU – LIVE STATS / TV (COX SPORTS TV La.) – (Thurs., Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. ET – Baton Rouge, La.)
#21 UAB at #20 South Alabama – LIVE STATS – (Thurs., Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. ET – Mobile, Ala.)
#3 Washington vs. #18 Baylor – LIVE STATS – (Fri., Feb. 7 at 11 a.m. ET – Las Vegas, Nev.)
#1 Central Oklahoma vs. #8 West Texas A&M
Site: MSUB Desert Stinger Tournament, Las Vegas, Nev. (Desert Stinger Tournament Central)
Date/ Game Time: Sat., Feb. 8, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio/TV Coverage: (Potential) Live Video Coverage
Live Stats: #1 Central Oklahoma vs. #8 West Texas A&M
What Central Oklahoma Returns: The preseason top-ranked and defending 2013 national champions prepare to open their season in Las Vegas, Nev., at the Desert Stinger Tournament over Feb. 7-9. The Bronchos, under the guidance of interim head coach Cody White following the move by previous head coach Genny Stidham to take over the helm of the Texas Woman’s University program, return 12 letter winners, including seven starters and two pitchers, from last year’s 51-win squad. Among those back for UCO are a pair of NFCA All-Central Region selections in senior pitcher Kalynn Schrock (Division II-leading 34 pitching wins last year to go along with a 1.69 ERA and 312 strikeouts over 265.2 innings) and sophomore second baseman Ally Dziadula (.355 average, 58 runs scored, five HR’s, 11 stolen bases, 21 RBIs). Junior outfielder Kaylee Brunson enters the new campaign with 56 career stolen bases, needing just 13 more to become UCO’s all-time leader. She also ranks ninth in both career hits (137) and runs (96) while carrying a .380 career average.
What West Texas A&M Returns: The eighth-ranked Lady Buffs will christen their new campaign as the defending champions of the Desert Classic Tournament, facing Colorado State-Pueblo, St. Mary’s (TX), Western New Mexico and Colorado-Colorado Springs in addition to top-ranked Central Oklahoma during their stay at the Las Vegas event. Under the direction of ninth-year head coach Kevin Blaskowski, West Texas A&M returns 10 letter-winners including six positional starters and two pitchers from 2013. Highlighting the returnees is 2013 NFCA Third-Team All-American senior shortstop Alyssa Lemos (.366 avg., 21 doubles, 10 HR’s, 52 RBIs), NFCA All-South Central Region choice junior outfielder Renee Erwin (.352 avg., 60 runs, 11 doubles, 15 HR’s, 62 RBIs) and sophomore infielder Brittany Gehle (.357 avg., 41 runs, 16 doubles, 5 HR’s, 33 RBIs). In the circle sophomore Hannah Newcomb (17-8, 3.12 ERA, 74 K’s in 168.1 IP) and junior Amber Spencer (8-2, 3.09 ERA, 54.1 IP) return after combining for 25 victories in 2013.
Other High Profile Division II Games This Weekend:
#1 Central Oklahoma vs. #22 Augustana – LIVE STATS – (Fri., Feb. 7 at 2:30 p.m. ET – Las Vegas, Nev.)
#4 Humboldt State vs. #RV Hawaii-Hilo – LIVE STATS/VIDEO – (Fri., Feb. 7 at 5 p.m. ET – Las Vegas, Nev.)
#5 Armstrong Atlantic vs. #24 Barry – LIVE STATS – (Fri., Feb. 7 at 4:30 p.m. ET – St. Petersburg, Fla.)
#6 Valdosta State vs. #13 Tampa – LIVE STATS – (Sat., Feb. 8 at 11 a.m. ET – Clearwater, Fla.)
#7 Indianapolis at #9 Alabama-Huntsville – LIVE STATS – (Sat., Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. ET – Huntsville, Ala.)
#10 Southeastern Okla. St. vs. #17 Angelo State (CANCELLED – Durant, Okla.)
#15 North Georgia at #9 Alabama-Huntsville – LIVE STATS – (Sun., Feb. 9 at 4 p.m. ET – Huntsville, Ala.)