After beingdelayed an extra week, the Missouri Southern softball opens the 2014 season atthe Eight-State Classic hosted by the University of Arkansas-Monticello atMemorial Park in Bentonville, Arkansas. The Lions will six games against teamsfrom both the Great American Conference and Great Lakes Valley Conferencestarting with Illinois-Springfield at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Saturday,February 15 1:30 P.M. vs. Southern Nazarene Crimson Storm (M8) 3:30 P.M vs. Ouachita Baptist Tigers (Bentonville High School)
Sunday,February 16 11:30 A.M. vs. William Jewel Cardinals (M5) 3:30 P.M. vs. Southwestern Oklahoma State Bulldogs (M6)
Outlook:After ending the 2013 season with a 26-24 overall record, their second winningseason in three years, the Lions and sixth-year head coach Bill Gray will lookto take the next step forward this year as they return a very experiencedlineup, including all eight position players, and their top two pitchers from aseason ago.
A group thatfeatures 825 games played and 702 starts, Southern returns 11 players from ayear, all who ranked in the top 12 on the team in batting average. Leading theway among those returners is senior All-MIAA right fielder ShelbyRomines, who lead the club in batting average, hits, doubles, home runs,RBI's, total bases, walks and slugged a team-best .597 on the year. Alsoreturning to the lineup this season is 5th-year senior first baseman DawnGrass. Already the school record holder for home runs with 22, the Ballwinnative enters the season with 160 games played, 156 starts, 128 hits, 89 RBI'sand 212 total bases. After smacking six home runs and driving in 26 runs a yearago, Grass and Romines will combine to give the Lions a powerful 1-2 offensivepunch.
Alsoreturning to the lineup this year is a pair of All-MIAA honorable mentionsin sophomore center fielder AlanaHester and junior second baseman BrookeSwadley. Starting all 50 games batting leadoff for the Lions,Hester hit .306 on the year scoring a team-best 41 runs while collecting53 hits and stealing a team-best 25 bases. Swadley hit .278 from the plate lastyear collecting 37 hits, scored 21 runs and drove in 16 RBI's. The pair willreturn to man the top of the batting lineup.
The Lionsalso welcome back senior third baseman BrooklynFarrell, who was second on the team in batting average (.339) and sluggingpercentage (.559) while collecting 40 hits, nine doubles, four triples andthree home runs on the season. Southern also returns three other regularpositions players in senior ChloeBrown, who started 30 games a year ago in left field along with juniorcatcher KathrynGoins who started 38 games behind the game and sophomore MichalaWood who started all 50 games at shortstop. Sophomore catchers RachelHarding and DruColeman also return to help add depth behind the plate. Southern welcomesfour newcomers in freshman pitcher ShelbyMitchell, outfielder JessicaCastoe, infiedler MyrandaStewart and DakodaOwings, who will redshirt this year.
On the mound,Southern welcomes back its top two pitchers in the circle in hard-throwingsophomores HaleyKinnison and SarahWilliams. The duo combined to go 15-11 in 29 starts throwing 13 completegames in 198 innings a year ago while holding opponents to a .245 battingaverage. The Lions will rely on the pair of right-handers to throw the majorityof the innings for them this year, but will have reinforcements in theform of Mitchell, redshirt freshman AlexahReplogle, Brown and Romines.
After thisweekend's action, the Lions return home for their home opener next Saturday(Feb. 22) against the Drury University Lady Panthers at Lea Kungle Field.Southern will play the Panthers a double-header starting at 1 p.m.
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