Feb. 6, 2013
HAMMOND, La. - The Mark Montgomery era of Lady Techster softball will begin this weekend when Louisiana Tech travels south to compete in the 2013 Jimmy John's Lion Classic hosted by Southeastern Louisiana from Friday through Sunday.
The Lady Techsters will play five games in three days as LA Tech faces Tennessee-Martin (Friday, 3 p.m.), Jacksonville State (Friday, 5:30 p.m.), Nicholls State (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.), Delaware (Saturday, 3 p.m.) and St. Louis (Sunday, 10 a.m.).
Live stats will NOT be available for any of LA Tech's games. Fans can follow in-game updates through twitter by following @LATechSB. Game recaps will be available on www.LATechSports.com following play each day.
Montgomery begins his first year at the helm of the LA Tech softball program as the veteran Division I coach inherits an experienced squad that boasts six seniors, eight returning starters and 12 returning letter winners from last year's team that recorded a 25-33 record.
"We are getting to the point we want to play someone besides ourselves so we can see what we really need to work on," Montgomery said. "We've been able to get outside and really get after it the last two weeks. I'm excited about starting this weekend.
"I need to see our pitchers against another offense that isn't our own so we can evaluate them. And the same goes for our hitters. We need to see them against other pitching. These first five games will be a good test to see where we are at and how we are stacking up.
"We want to better in March than we are right now; better in April than in March and at our best in May. It's about building every day. We certainly have expectations, but right now it is about us getting better. We want to focus on who is in our uniform and not so much on who is in the other uniform."
LA Tech will compete this weekend without three of its returners from a year ago as Katelynn Hill, Hailey Winter and Melanie Goff will all be sidelined.
Tech will lean heavily on its three healthy pitchers during the opening weekend as seniors Michelle Jones (15-16, 2.86 ERA) and Janna Frandrup (3-4, 1.96) and junior Erin Kipp (5-7, 5.56) should all see starts in the circle as well as in relief.
Despite all of the experience returning, Montgomery will also be looking to some true freshman for significant contributions as shortstop Anna Cross, third baseman Courtney Lowe and outfielder Kristen Miles are the most likely to see starts at their respective positions during the opening weekend of play.
Offensively, with the absence of Goff, who was a first team all-WAC performer last year, and Hill, who was second on the team with seven home runs last season, in the lineup, Montgomery will look for the likes of second baseman Amanda Krueger (.282, 44 runs), Frandrup (.277, 29 RBI), first baseman Meghan Knowles (8 home runs, 23 RBI) and centerfielder Dacia Hale (8 home runs, 31 RBI) to produce.
Tennessee-Martin (Ohio Valley Conference) was 39-22 last season and advanced to the NCAA Tournament (Tuscaloosa Regional). The Skyhawks return 15 letterwinners from last year, including outfielder Leah Taylor (.385, 7 HR, 37 SB). They must replace their ace in the circle in the graduated Chelsea Jones (28-10, 2.45 ERA).
Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley Conference) was 28-28 last season and is a perennial NCAA regional program. The Gamecocks must replace Shelby Holley (.341, 20 HR) and Kaycee Crow (.305, 13 HR) but returns their pitching ace Tiffany Harbin (17-10, 2.46).
Nicholls State (Southland Conference) was 14-31 last season. The Colonels lost their top offensive producer in Ashley Ray (.350, 7 HR, 29 RBI) but do return preseason all-SLC performer Ashley Bertot (.388, 15 SB). Katie Moulder (6-16, 3.43) is their top returning hurler.
Delaware (Colonial Athletic Association) was 15-41-1 last season. The Blue Hens will be led by sophomore infielder Jessica Grisler (.305, 25 runs, 9 2B), a CAA All-Rookie Team selection last season. In the circle, Delaware will rely on Amanda Stacevicz (11 wins, 3.27 ERA) and Chenxi Jiao (8 wins, 3.31 ERA).
St. Louis (Atlantic 10) finished 23-33 last year. Centerfielder Jessica Buschjost (.328, 27 runs, 34 SB) returns along with catcher Alyson Brand (.270, 4 HR, 25 RBI) to lead the Billikens offensively. After graduating all three of its pitchers who saw action last year, St. Louis will turn to freshmen Laney Kneib and Brianna Lore.
Friday, Feb. 8
12:30 p.m. - St. Louis vs. Jacksonville State
3 p.m. - Southeastern Louisiana vs. Delaware
5:30 p.m. - Southeastern Louisiana vs. UT Martin
12:30 p.m. - Southern vs. Nicholls State
3 p.m. - Nicholls State vs. St. Louis
5:30 p.m. - Delaware vs. Southern
3 p.m. - Louisiana Tech vs. Tennessee-Martin
5:30 p.m. - Jacksonville State vs. Louisiana Tech
Saturday, Feb. 9
10 a.m. - Southern vs. Jacksonville State
12:30 p.m. - Southeastern Louisiana vs. St. Louis
3 p.m. - Southeastern Louisiana vs. Southern
10 a.m. - Tennessee-Martin vs. St. Louis
12:30 p.m. - Tennessee-Martin vs. Delaware
3 p.m. - Delaware vs. Louisiana Tech
12:30 p.m. - Louisiana Tech vs. Nicholls State*
3 p.m. - Nicholls State vs. Jacksonville State*
Sunday, Feb. 10
10 a.m. - Nicholls State vs. Delaware
12 p.m. - Southeastern Louisiana vs. Jacksonville State
10 a.m. - Southern vs. Tennessee-Martin
10 a.m. - St. Louis vs. Louisiana Tech