Softball Kicks Off Season With Mardi Gras Invitational

Softball Kicks Off Season With Mardi Gras Invitational

--- Bulldogs will take on host team South Alabama, Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois and Central Arkansas ---

Feb. 11, 2010

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The Samford University softball team gets its 2010 season underway Friday as it begins play in the Mardi Gras Invitational hosted by the University of South Alabama. The Bulldogs will play one game on Friday followed by one game on Saturday and a doubleheader on Sunday.

To start the weekend, the Bulldogs will take on the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky at 4:30 p.m., on Friday at Jaguar Field. Samford will then take on SIU-Evansville at the same time on Saturday before closing out tournament play on Sunday with a doubleheader. The Bulldogs will begin action with an 11:30 a.m. meeting with Central Arkansas followed by a 4:30 p.m. game against host team South Alabama.

The Bulldogs come off a season in which they made a name for themselves in their first year in the Southern Conference. After a rocky beginning to the 2009 and a shaky start to the SoCon slate, the Bulldogs made a run late in the season to place seventh in the overall standing and make it into the eight-team conference tournament.

Samford then turned up the heat and made a run to the semifinals before falling in back-to-back games to the eventual conference runner-up Georgia Southern and champion Chattanooga.

Samford is back in 2010 to prove that it is better than its preseason ranking of fifth place. Although they lost three of their top four hitters to graduation last season, the Bulldogs return 10 letterwinners including all four pitchers. Samford also added a relatively large class of seven freshmen who are ready to show just how much talent they have to add to this experienced squad.

Sophomore utility player Robyn Harmon is Samford's leading returning hitter. She ended her season with a .333 average with 11 runs on 30 hits along with three doubles, one triple and two homeruns. She also made herself known late in the season as one of Samford's best pitchers, posting a 3-3 record with one save and the teams lowest ERA (2.60). Harmon was named to the SoCon Preaseason All-Conference Second Team.

Senior pitcher Stephanie Royall was also named to the SoCon Preseason All-Conference Second Team. She and fellow senior pitcher Amanda Barrs combined for 14 wins and 135 strikeouts for the Bulldogs last season.

Western Kentucky and Samford have met six times before, with each team walking away with three wins. WKU ended the 2009 season with a 35-19 while also placing third in the Sun Belt Conference. The Toppers' head coach, Tyra Perry, was named the 2009 Sun Belt Co-Coach of the Year.

Kelsey McCauley is WKU's returning senior star. McCauley finished the 2009 season with a .270 batting average after finished fourth on the team in hits (49) and fifth in RBI (21). She posted a hit in 33 or 53 games last season.

SIU-Evansville is the newest member of the Ohio Valley Conference. The Cougars finished last season with 40-10 record outside of conference play. The return five starters and a pitcher from that 2009 roster, including senior Lauren Zembruski, an NCAA Division I All-Mideast Region first team selection, led the team with a .373 batting average while starting all 50 games at third base. She also led the team in home runs (7) and RBIs (39) while pacing the Cougars with 32 walks, an on-base percentage of .497 and a .649 slugging percentage.

The Bulldogs met up with Central Arkansas for the first time last season in the Southern Miss Invitational and walked away with a 6-5 win after nine innings. The Bears return 11 from that 2009 squad – four seniors and seven sophomores – who posted an overall record of 24-31 and finished seventh in the Southland Conference.

Leading UCA last season where seniors Rachel Baucom and Sarah Garcia who posted batting averages of .277 and .276, respectively. The duo combined for 91 hits and 31 RBI. Senior Luisa Escobar also had 43 hits while leading the team with nine stolen bases. The all-sophomore pitching staff combined for 109 strikeouts. Kelly Matino was the leader in that statistic with 54 strikeouts on the season while Cami Newsome recorded the teams lowest ERA (2.48).

The Jaguars of South Alabama return 12 letterwinners from a squad that placed sixth in the Sun Belt last season. That dozen includes pitchers Beth Pilgrim and Katy Neal, who combined for 27 wins and 299 strikeouts in 2009. Sophomore Christin Crocker also returns after leading the Jaguars in home runs (7), runs scored (31), total bases (79), at-bats (176) and plate appearances (198) as a freshman.

A full recap and results will be available on upon the completion of each day's action. Fans can follow the action via live stats through links South Alabama's website. For more information on the Mardi Gras Invitational, visit