Softball Travels to Jackson State for Season Opener - Southeast Missouri State University Athletics
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Softball Travels to Jackson State for Season Opener

Softball Travels to Jackson State for Season Opener

Feb. 10, 2010

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (Wednesday, February 10, 2010) The Southeast Missouri State softball team kicks-off their highly anticipated 2010 season tomorrow in Jackson, Mississippi with a single game against host Jackson State at 4:00 p.m.

The team will then continue their trek down south as they head to Monroe, Louisiana to participate in the first of their four tournaments this season. For the third-straight season the Redhawks will play in the ULM Mardi Gras Classic hosted by the University of Louisiana-Monroe. The Redhawks open up their tournament play with another match-up with Jackson State on Friday, February 12 at noon and then face Southeastern Louisiana at 2:00 p.m.

On Saturday, the team opens up against the host school at noon and then faces Northwestern State at 4:00 p.m. The Redhawks conclude tournament play on Sunday with a game against Southeastern Louisiana at 10:00 a.m.

Live stats of every game at the ULM Mardi Gras Classic will be available on the ULM website www.ulmwarhawks.com.

2010 REDHAWKS SOFTBALL PREVIEW

The Redhawks head into the season with great confidence and expectations after a strong 2009 campaign that saw them fall just short of the programs sixth OVC Tournament Championship and NCAA berth. Thanks to a 17-game winning streak, the Redhawks jumped from the cellar of the OVC to finishing second with a league record of 16-8.

Head Coach Lana Richmond was able to do this with a unique mixture of youth and returnees. This year's team returns all but one starter including four Second Team All-OVC selections. That fact alone led to the Redhawks being selected to finish third in the OVC Preseason Poll by the league's coaches. It is the highest selection for the team since the 2002 season.

The Redhawks add four talented newcomers to the 11 returning letterwinners. Coach Richmond believes that the make-up of this team has the ability to improve on last year's finish and bring the OVC title back to Cape Girardeau.

CATCHERS
Senior Alex Ramirez returns as the club's starting catcher. Ramirez has started 138 of the 141 games she has appeared in behind the plate including 102-straight. Last season, she garnered Second Team All-OVC honors after a stellar 2009 season.

Already considered one of the best defensive catchers in the OVC, Ramirez turned it on offensively and led the team in seven offensive categories including hits (46), RBI (27), home runs (6), walks (29) and slugging percentage (.486). Her .333 batting average set a new career-high, ranking second on the team and ninth in the OVC. Her 29 walks tied a school record and ranked third in the OVC.

Defensively she was stellar behind the plate as she committed just five errors in 309 chances for a .984 fielding percentage.

Freshman HaLeigh Willis will back-up Ramirez behind the plate. Willis was known for her versatility as a prep, where she was named All-Conference in three different positions.

PITCHERS
A major question mark heading into last season, the pitching staff became the linchpin in the Redhawks resurgence the second half of the season. Giana Zimmerman led the way in the circle as a freshman. The Second Team All-OVC and OVC All Newcomer Team selection led the Redhawks in every major pitching category. She finished in the top-ten in the OVC in seven categories including third in wins (19), strikeouts (184) and starts (27). Her 2.42 ERA ranked eighth in the OVC.

Those 184 strikeouts ranked second on the Southeast's single season charts. The 19 wins rank fifth all-time. She also recorded four games with double-digit strikeouts including a school record 13 on two occassions.

In OVC play she went 11-5 and struck out a league best 116 in just 103 innings.

Junior Whitney Dupuis steps in as the team's No. 2 pitcher. She made 20 appearances last season including 13 starts going 7-8 with 48 strikeouts in 80.1 innings. In OVC play she went 4-1 in eight appearances including four starts, two of which she completed.

Stefanie Barnes split duties as the No. 2 pitcher early in the season before an injury. She finished the season with 16 appearances including 10 starts, six of which she finished. She finished with a 3-4 record and tied for the team lead with two shutouts.

Dupuis and Barnes have the ability to help the Redhawks with their bats as well. Dupuis served as the team's designated player in 15 games. She finished with a .244 batting average and was one of just three players on the team that collected a double, a triple and a homerun for the year.

INFIELDERS
The Redhawks return three of their starters in the infield. Two of those returnees will see their playing time in a different positions than in 2009.

Junior Nicole Troncoso made quite the impact in her first season as a Redhawk, garnering Second Team All OVC and OVC All Newcomer Team honors. The former Boston College transfer was known for her defensive play but made her biggest impact on offense. She led the team with a .341 batting average which ranked eighth in the OVC. Her 46 hits tied for the team lead. Against non-conference opponents she batted .362.

Troncoso made 35 starts as the team's starting shortstop in 2009 but will slide over to first base in 2010, a spot where she made 13 starts.

Renee Kertz started every game at third base as a freshman last season leading the team with 97 assists. This season she takes over at shortstop where her strong arm and range should take hits away from opponents.

Offensively she handled the pressure of being the team's lead-off hitter and finished with a .266 batting average. She led the team in runs scored with 25 and finished second on the club in hits (41) and RBI (20). She tied for the team lead with 11 multi-hit games and six multi-RBI games.

Carmen Fowler returns as the team's starter at second base. As a sophomore last season she batted .301 and led the team in doubles with 11. She also tied for the team lead with 11 multi-hit games. She was named to the OVC All-Tournament Team for her clutch play in the field and at the plate. Her game-winning, walk-off RBI single against Morehead State in the OVC Tournament quarterfinals gave her three game-winning RBI for the season, which includes two walk-off hits.

Freshman Brittany Gonsoulin will take over at the hot-corner for the Redhawks. The standout from Lockport, Illinois was a First Team All-Chicagoland selection as a senior after batting .373 and hitting eight home runs. Defensively she was ranked as the top third baseman in the Chicago area after committing just three errors as a senior.

Freshman HaLeigh Willis will see time at both corners while serving as the back-up catcher this season.

Tiffany Blanco played in 36 games for the Redhawks last season including 27 starts at second base. She will miss the first part of the season due to injury.

Freshman Marisa Sanders battled injuries during the fall campaign and has worked out at first, but will see most of her time as a designated player. An All-State selection from St. Clair High School, Sanders hit 22 homeruns in her career. As a senior, she batted .625 while driving in 34 runs.

Redshirt freshman Chris Scudder has worked out as multiple positions including first base and designated player.

OUTFIELDERS
The outfield returns all three starters from last season. Second Team All-OVC selection Jennifer Vasquez leads the way. The senior returns as the team's starting leftfielder after a stellar 2009. Most of her damage was done in OVC play as she led the team with a .356 batting average in league play. Eighteen of her team-high 27 RBIs came in league action.

Junior Elise Sperakos started 50 games in 2009 with the bulk of her starts coming in centerfield where she led all outfielders with 62 putouts and three assists. She committed just one error in 66 chances. Offensively she batted .243 and placed second on the team with nine doubles, four home runs and 20 RBIs. Her nine sacrifice bunts led the team.

As a freshman, Shelby Stein tied for the team lead with 50 starts last season, all but one coming in right field. She batted .268 and finished second on the team with 41 hits. Stein led the team in stolen bases with four.

Junior college transfer Melissa Walker will push for playing time in centerfield. Her speed will be valuable assets in the outfield and on the base paths. In her two-year junior college career, she did not commit a single error. As a freshman playing under current Redhawks assistant Jeff Dabney, she stole 25 bases for North Florida Community College.

THE SCHEDULE
Coach Richmond and her staff have compiled a challenging schedule for the upcoming season. On this year's schedule are four tournaments that will prepare the Redhawks for the tough OVC season.

For the third-straight season, the Redhawks start the year with a match-up against Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) school Jackson State for a single game in Jackson, Mississippi on February 11. Last season the Redhawks no-hit the Tigers and won 11-0.

Just like last season, the Redhawks will again continue their trip south to the Pelican State to participate in the ULM Mardi Gras Classic in Monroe, Louisiana from February 12-14. Last season, the Redhawks finished third in the tournament with a 2-2 record.

The Redhawks continue their tournament tour as they travel to Memphis, Tennessee to play in the fifth annual Blues City Classic for the third-straight season. Last season the tournament was cancelled due to inclement weather. This year's field includes host school Memphis, Indiana State, McNeese State, Appalachian State and Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne.

The Redhawks then return to their home state and travel to Columbia to participate in the annual All-Missouri Coaches Against Breast Cancer Tournament. This year's host, Mizzou, made it to the final eight of the NCAA Softball World Series and is ranked ninth in the ESPN.com/USA Softball pre-season poll. Saint Louis, Missouri-Kansas City and Missouri State round out the tournament field. Last season the Redhawks finished second in the tournament falling to Missouri in the championship game.

On March 10 the Redhawks will finally play their first home game of the season as they take on Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne for a doubleheader at the Southeast Softball Complex.

The Arkansas Invitational will be the final tournament of the season for Southeast. The Redhawks will face NCAA Regional participant Arkansas as well as SIU Edwardsville and Louisiana Tech.

During Spring Break, the Redhawks will host IUPUI for two games before traveling to Terre Haute to face Indiana State in a doubleheader.

The Redhawks open the OVC season that weekend at home against Morehead State on March 20-21. A trip to Eastern Kentucky (March 27-28) falls between a home doubleheader against Eastern Illinois on March 31.

The team kicks-off April at Austin Peay (April 2-3) before returning home to host non-conference rival SIU Carbondale on April 7 and Tennessee State (April 9-10).

The Redhawks play their next six games on the road including the first ever match-up against Murray State on April 17-18, who will be competing in their first season of softball.

The team then returns home for a tough stretch of home games as they host OVC pre-season favorites Jacksonville State and UT Martin in consecutive weekends. The Gamecocks won the regular season title last year and garnered an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Super Regionals. The Skyhawks defeated the Redhawks in the OVC Tournament title game, winning the league's automatic berth to the NCAA field.

The Redhawks conclude the regular season with a non-conference doubleheader at Saint Louis on May 5 before heading to Tennessee Tech for their final series before the start of the OVC Tournament on May 13 at the field of the league's regular season champion.

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