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Softball - Mon, Jan. 26, 2009
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PULASKI, Tenn. - The 2009 version of the TranSouth Athletic Conference Preseason Softball Coaches Poll has been released. Martin Methodist College has been chosen as the TranSouth Pre-Season No. 1 gaining seven of the eight first place votes. The RedHawks were 2008 Region XI Runner-Up.

There will be eight teams competing for the 2009 TranSouth Conference Regular Season and Tournament Championship. Freed-Hardeman University is pre-season No. 2, following as No. 3 is Trevecca Nazarene University, No. 4 is Union University, No. 5 is Bethel College, there is a tie at the sixth spot between Lyon College and Cumberland University and rounding out the poll is Mid-Continent University.
 
2009 will be the first year with no NAIA regions, region rankings or NAIA regional tournaments. The 2009 TranSouth Conference Tournament Champion will get an automatic bid to the 2009 NAIA National Tournament in Decatur, Ala.
 
The NAIA pre-season poll will be released on January 27th and can be found on the NAIA website http://www.naia.org/.
 

The 2009 softball season for the TranSouth teams will begin around the middle of February. Fans can find more information about TranSouth Softball, including rosters and a composite schedule, online at http://www.transouth.org/.




2009 TRANSOUTH ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

Preseason Coaches Poll
Rank     Team            Votes (First Place Votes)
1.   Martin Methodist  - 63 (7)
2.   Freed-Hardeman - 48 (1)
3.   Trevecca Nazarene - 47
4.   Union University - 42
5.   Bethel College - 28
6.  Lyon College - 22
6.  Cumberland University - 22
8.   Mid-Continent Univeristy -- 16
Votes were given with a value of 8=1 point and 1=8 points.



BETHEL COLLEGE

McKENZIE, Tenn. - Bethel College comes into the 2008-2009 softball season, with second year head coach Larry Geraldi, looking to build on a good run in last year's Transouth Tournament. The Wildcats are a relatively young team with only two seniors; two juniors (JUCO transfers); six sophomores and seven freshman.

Newcomers to the roster: Junior Amber Metzger P/1B (Northeast Mississippi CC), Junior Ashley Simmons SS/C (Shawnee CC), Sophomore Leah Hensley P/1B from Camden, Tenn. (Vol State CC) and Sophomore Jessie Davis an outfielder (Bethel volleyball player). Rounding out the newcomers are freshman - Morgan Berry OF/SS (Bolton HS) - Brooke Cary IF/OF & Amanda Renfroe 3B/OF (Clarksburg HS) - Katie Ervin P/OF (Hendersonville HS) - Brittni Burlison 2B/OF (Waverly Central HS) - Keliea Sullivan 1B/OF (Huntingdon HS) and Colby Prosser C/3B (McKenzie HS).

Returning players: seniors Blaire Johnson P/OF and Whitney Taylor 2B; sophomores Lindsey Davis OF; Brittany Edmonds C/SS; Jennifer Townson 3B; and Kasey Winsett C/IF/OF. Coach Geraldi will be assisted this season by manager Nikki Frazier, student assistant Brandi Funburg, and volunteer coach Leah Ford.

Key losses from last year's squad are P/OF Paige Cooper; 3B Brandi Funburg; OF Theresa Crawley; 1B Hannah Kee; and last year's leading hitter SS Emily Thompson.



CUMBERLAND UNIVERSITY

LEBANON, Tenn. - Cumberland returns six seniors and two pitchers for head coach Heather Stanfill's first season at the helm of the Bulldog program. CU has just four new players this season, one junior college transfer and three high school players. The Bulldogs will look to improve on last season's six-place finish in the TranSouth after posting 11 league victories in 2008. Stanfill has emphasized chemistry, discipline and basic fundamentals, making great strides under the former Austin Peay player and coach.




FREED-HARDEMAN UNIVERSITY

HENDERSON, Tenn. - With eight starters returning from last season's 34-win squad, the Freed-Hardeman University Lions enter the 2009 season with high expectations and hopes of the program's first-ever trip to the NAIA National Tournament.


Pitchers - FHU brings back one of the top pitchers in the conference in senior Tarrah Tucker. Tucker went 23-6 last season with a 1.19 ERA while recording a school-record 287 strikeouts in 205 innings pitched. Britney Caldwell will again fill the role of the team's No. 2 pitcher after going 9-10 last year with a 3.51 ERA.


Catchers - All-conference and all-region performer Brittany Bradford returns for her final season. Bradford, who will catch Tucker, hit a team-best .420 last season with 36 RBI. Traci Gibbons, a junior, will catch Caldwell and also see time at third base.


Infielders - When not in the circle, Caldwell will be at either corner position and will hit in the middle of the Lady Lion batting order. Last year she hit .383 with six homeruns and 39 RBI. The middle infield returns in tact with Betsy Picker at second base and Jill Brock at shortstop. Newcomers Melissa Balding and Brittany Yates also figure into the infield mix. Yates, a transfer from NCAA Division I Tennessee-Martin, won two state championships in high school and has the potential to add power to the heart of the lineup.


Outfielders - The Lady Lion outfield is built on speed with the returns of Carmen Gulley, Brittany Steverson, and Camille Cunningham. Gulley, the school's all-time leader in stolen bases, swiped 22 in 24 attempts last year from her leadoff spot. Steverson hit .335 as a freshman last year, and Cunningham performed well after earning 22 starts in 2008.




LYON COLLGE 
BATESVILLE, Ark. - Addition is the key word around Batesville as the Lyon College Pipers embark on their second season of softball play in the TranSouth Conference.
 
The Pipers have an added year of experience and also have the addition of a new head coach -Jason Miner, formerly an assistant at Piedmont College (Demorest, Ga.). Lyon hopes the sum of that experience and the new head coach boosts the Pipers to new heights in year two of the program.
 
The Pipers recorded a 15-36 overall record in year one of the program, with a fifth-place TranSouth Conference finish of 13-19. Lyon's first-year record was deemed a success despite its sub-.500 mark, since the Pipers finished ahead of five other established programs in league play.
 
First baseman and pitcher Taylor Morgan was a huge reason for that immediate success in 2008, earning TranSouth Freshman of the Year honors with team-high numbers in homers (4), doubles (13), RBIs (30) and batting average (.365). The North Little Rock, Ark., native is expected to start at first and shoulder the run-producing burden again in the heart of the Pipers' order.
 

Lyon returns eight players in all this season, including seven returning starters.


Shortstop Abbey Canon, third baseman Kiley Parker, catcher Kim Overbey, center fielder Phenix Butler and starting pitcher Tenequa Martin join with Morgan to combine for over 280 games of starting experience. Canon, a senior middle infielder from Rockwall, Texas., led the Pipers in runs scored (31) in 2008. Parker, a senior third baseman, was third on the team last season in the category of runs batted in (21). Butler, a senior center fielder, is the speedy sparkplug of the lineup - stealing six bases in eight attempts in 2008. Martin led the Pipers on the mound with a team-high 90 K's in 28 starts, while both Martin and Morgan accounted for a seven victories apiece. The two pitchers accounted for 44 of the Pipers 51 starts a season ago and were the two-headed workhorses of the Pipers' pitching rotation.

 
Lyon should get rotation help this season in the form of junior newcomer Faith Richmond. And that help should be substantial, since Richmond's junior college numbers might suggest ace potential. The pitcher from Van Buren, Ark., finished with a 13-5 record and struck out 107 batters in 115 innings pitched during her 2008 sophomore season at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
 
Two other newcomers -freshman outfielder Brittney Fawcett (Foreman, Ark.) and sophomore infielder Kristi Keller (Alvin Community College in Texas) -could also make an immediate impact on the lineup in 2008.



MARTIN METHODIST COLLEGE
PULASKI, Tenn. - There are seven starters returning from the 2008 team including All-Conference players Alicia Boris, Sally Gale and Brooke Kelley. Kelley was also selected NAIA All-Region XI, and NFCA All-Region while leading the TranSouth in batting average (.467) and RBI's with 79.
 
A solid pitching staff is in place with Sally Gale and Nicole Curtis returning. They combined for 43 of MMC's 45 wins last season. Incoming freshman lefty Chrissy Worth and sophomore Carrie Morris will provide depth to the pitching staff.
 
Alicia Boris and Brooke Kelley took on the catching responsibilities last season but will be able to return to the corners with the addition of junior transfer Maria Robinson.
 
The infield will be anchored on the corners with seniors Boris and Kelley with plenty of depth behind them. Middle infield will also have depth with the addition of junior college transfer Nicole Velez and freshman Tiffany McCormick. Returning starting 2nd base Nicole McWhorter will look to have another great defensive season while also adding some pop to the lineup.
 
In the outfield senior Nikki Osborne will run things from center. She will have experience on both sides as returnees Marissa Thomason and Kristen Spear will battle it out with senior Tiffany Bard and others wanting their shot.
 

The RedHawks have a lot of depth with a roster of 21 players. They team has been working hard and is getting ready for their season opener with Georgetown College on Feb. 15th in Ky. The ladies are also very excited for their spring break trip to Puerto Rico where they will face three different NCAA Division II universities. A tough schedule with a lot of travel will hopefully put the team in a position to come out on top in May.




MID-CONTINENT UNIVERSITY

MAYFIELD, Ky. - Mid-Continent University softball coach Rocky Stinson under takes perhaps his most difficult yet pleasurable assignments for 2009 - how to blend nine freshman, an experienced junior transfer pitcher, and five returning and experienced players who anchor MCU in key positions.
 
Getting more consistent production from the top of the line-up to the bottom is the second of Stinson's keys, and the third element is raising the team's fielding percentage from .930 (123 errors) and reducing errors in critical game-deciding situations.
 
Last season, MCU won 15 and lost 42 games and was 8-22 in TSAC action. The Lady Cougars defeated Oakland City, two games to one, in the National Christian College Athletics Association (NCCAA) Mideast Regional, April 18-19, and won one of three at the NCCAA National Championships, April 24-26, in Palm Beach, Florida.
 

"Our keys for winning this season begin in the pitching circle," Stinson says. "We have the deepest quality rotation in the last several seasons." MCU's pitching fortunes begin with junior transfer Amanda Duke (Motlow State CC), and continue with freshmen Victoria Spindor and Reylene Coronado. When not pitching, Spindor takes her strong arm to third base, and Coronado's prowess at taking away the bunt and digging up errant throws make her the leading first-base candidate.


Behind the plate is the team's only senior, captain Tiffany Hopwood, who earned NCCAA first team honors after batting .289 with 10 doubles and 2 home runs and 18 RBI, and committing just one error in 188 chances last season.
 

Junior April Carterjoins the team after MCU's women's basketball season ends, and will play first base as well as backing up all the other infield positions. Junior Hayli Burgessgives MCU solid defense at second base and another contact hitter who is "consistent at driving home the key runs," according to Stinson.


Stinson has a "five-tool player" at shortstop with freshman Lisa Szatkowski, who provides excellent range, good communications, and ability to control the defense.
 
The outfield is patrolled by freshman left fielder Kaylee Blankenship, sophomore center fielder Hannah Moseley, and junior Amber Rapert, who moves over from left field to take advantage of her strong arm. Blankenship consistently makes contact and accelerates well between the bases. Moseley, the returning center field starter, who hit .249 with 4 doubles, 3 triples, one home run and 22 RBI last season, "runs like a gazelle and covers the gaps," according to Coach Stinson.



TREVECCA NAZARENE UNIVERSITY

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The 2009 season marks the beginning of a new era for Trevecca Trojan softball. Ben Tyree takes over the reigns of the program looking to continue the most successful run in program history.


Pitching - Senior Stephanie Fisher brings the most game experience to the table, having recorded 34 wins in her first three years as a Trojan. She tossed more than 100 innings in each of her last two seasons, and holds the NAIA career record for relief appearances. Shelby Mashburn, a junior, returns after successfully pitching 57 innings over two years. Mashburn has a perfect 4-0 record and has a strikeout to walk ratio of 1.77. Tyree welcomes a pair of talented freshmen in Lauren Baker and Riley Mashburn - both of whom will see time not only in the circle, but in the outfield as well.

Catchers - Sophomore Karli Rush will anchor the Trojans' defense behind the plate. As a freshman, Rush hit.322 with 15 extra-base hits and succeeding on 23 of 24 stolen base attempts. Rush also made just six errors in 180 chances, all of which earned her second team All-TranSouth honors. Cassady Critchfield, who hit.290 last season before an ankle injury ended her season after 33 games, will also see time behind the plate.

Infield - Two of the four starting infielders return from the 2008 team, Sammy Simon and Megan Suggs. Simon, a junior, hit .298 last season. Simon has 24 career doubles and made just 10 errors in 208 chances at third base. Suggs, a second basemen, hit .353, scored 32 runs, had 32 RBI, and succeeded on 30 of 33 stolen base attempts. Megan Hemmingsen, a transfer from Motlow State, will step in at shortstop. She earned first team All-TJCCAA honors and was honored by the NFCA for her 3.78 GPA. Sophomore Melinda Patterson will get the lion's share of time at first base, after playing 41 games in 2008.

Outfield - The outfield is headlined by perhaps the Trojans best all-around player - Chelsea Bailey. Bailey earned honorable mention NAIA All-American honors last season, to go along with first team All-Region and All-TranSouth honors. Entering her senior season, she already holds the Trevecca career records for stolen bases and runs scored. Caitlyn Bailey, Chelsea's younger sister, joins the Trojans as a freshman after a successful career at Wilson Central HS, and freshman pitchers Riley Mashburn and Lauren Baker will see time in the outfield.



UNION UNIVERSITY
JACKSON, Tenn. - The Union University softball team will have to replace some major contributors in 2009. Union is returning eight players from last season, along with bringing in eight new faces. Union graduated three players in 2008 and lost two players to transfer.
 
Among the losses include two of the top three hitters and RBI producers. Also gone is three of the four pitchers from a season ago that produced 29 of the team's 36 wins.
 
The lone returning pitcher is Bethany Burnett who produced seven wins last season on the mound. Offensively, Union returns Ashley Blankenship, the team's leading hitter with a .406 average, 19 doubles, six homers, and 56 RBI. Also returning is Michelle Albonetti, Lindsey Landreneau, and Brittany Burkett, who each posted averages in the mid-.300's. Candice Thompson, Kristen Kirk, and Brook Laws also return from last season.
 

Union Head Coach Heather Hall, in her second season with Union, has added eight new faces to the roster. Leading the way are Ali Thomas, Ali Bozza, Sydney McMillian, and Hailee Edwards. Thomas and Bozza will help with the middle infield positions; while McMillian and Edwards while help bolster the pitching staff. Katie Davis, Emily Anthony, Sara Beth Redmon, and Carmesha Owens also join Union this season.