SFA Set For Sooners
Feb. 17, 2009
NACOGDOCHES, Texas -
LAST WEEK: SFA had its home opener with Louisiana-Monroe rained out, but went on the road to collect its first wins of the season. The Ladyjacks went 3-2 in the Baylor Getterman Classic, logging wins over Ole Miss, New Mexico and Northwestern State. SFA's first victory of the year was a 3-2, eight-inning verdict against an Ole Miss team that came into the tournament fresh off a pair of wins against No. 6 Louisiana-Lafayette. The Rebels were two spots outside last week's ESPN/USA Softball Top 25 with 23 total votes. Sophomore Monika Covington worked all eight innings and recorded 10 strikeouts against Ole Miss. She finished the weekend 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA and 20 strikeouts in three total appearances. SFA followed the Ole Miss victory with a 3-2 win against Southland Conference foe Northwestern State, but opened Saturday's play by dropping a 7-3 verdict against UTSA. The Ladyjacks bounced back with a 5-4 win against New Mexico Saturday evening. The game featured a three-run homer by freshman Kayla Gutowski and a game-winning RBI single off the bat of junior Briana Bishop in the bottom of the seventh. In Sunday's tournament finale, SFA left eight runners stranded, including two bases-loaded situations, in a 3-0 loss to tournament host Baylor. Bears starter Whitney Canion recorded 11 strikeouts in taking the win. Freshman shortstop Jessica Arana was named to the Getterman Classic All-Tournament Team after leading SFA with a .385 average. She was 5-for-13 on the weekend with a double, RBI and three runs scored. Junior second baseman Karissa Jones batted .357 with two RBI in the tournament, and junior right fielder Kendal Harper hit .333 with a triple and three runs scored. Bishop joined Gutowski and sophomore Ashley Struchtemeyer with a team-leading three RBI apiece. Sophomore pitcher Lauren Luetge went 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA and nine strikeouts.
THE SOONERS: After a season-opening loss to Hawai'i in the Hawai'i Paradise Classic, Oklahoma reeled off four consecutive run-rule-shortened victories, a stretch that saw the Sooners outscore their opposition by a combined total of 53-1. Oklahoma followed that up by going 2-1 in last weekend's Marriott Houston Classic. The Sooners dropped a 2-1 decision to North Carolina State to open the tournament, then knocked off Houston, 5-3, and Texas State, 3-2. Oklahoma is batting .326 as a team, led by Lindsey Vandever's .522 average. Amber Flores is next with a .500 average, and leads the team with her three home runs, 15 RBI and 1.050 slugging percentage. D.J. Mathis (3-2) leads Oklahoma with her 1.79 ERA and 29 strikeouts in five starts. The Sooners have a 1.94 ERA as a team with a .141 opponent batting average.
UP NEXT: SFA will continue its season-opening 26-game road swing when the Ladyjacks begin Southland Conference play with a three-game set at Sam Houston State. The series against the Bearkats is set to start with a doubleheader on Tuesday, Feb. 24.
STRONG MIDSECTION: The Ladyjacks' middle infield combination of freshman shortstop Jessica Arana and junior second baseman Karissa Jones has provided some of the most consistent offense on the team. Arana's .304 average leads the squad, while Jones' mark of .286 is tied for second. Arana has a .931 fielding percentage, while Jones has yet to commit an error in 34 chances.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Freshman shortstop Jessica Arana went 5-for-13 to lead SFA with a .385 average in last weekend's Baylor Getterman Classic. She also posted a double, drove in a run and scored three times. For her efforts, Arana was named to the Getterman Classic All-Tournament team.
HOPE THE HITS KEEP COMING: In the four games in which SFA has posted more hits than the opposition, the Ladyjacks are 3-1. The only loss thus far that saw SFA out-hit the opponent was a 3-1 defeat against Iowa in the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational. The Ladyjacks are batting .317 in their three wins this season.
DEFENSE FIRST: So far this season, all three Ladyjack wins have come when the team plays errorless defense. SFA is 3-2 in its five games without an error and 0-5 when committing at least one fielding miscue.
PRESEASON FAVORITES: SFA is projected to win the Southland Conference, according to preseason polling of both league head coaches and sports information directors. A season after finishing fourth in the SLC standings, the Ladyjacks took seven of 11 possible first-place votes in the coaches' poll and five of the top nods in the SID poll.
PRESEASON ALL-SLC: Three Ladyjacks -- senior Kim Daley, junior Kendal Harper and sophomore Monika Covington -- were named to the Preseason All-SLC teams. All three were post-season all-conference selections a year ago with Covington taking Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-SLC honors.
BACK FOR MORE: The Ladyjacks enter the 2009 season as one of the most experienced teams in the region. SFA returned eight starters, plus the designated player, and 15 total letterwinners from last season's 36-25 team.
THIRTY-SOMETHING: SFA finished the 2008 season with a 36-25 record. The 36 wins are the third-most recorded by a Ladyjack team since joining the Southland Conference in 1988. The Ladyjacks' 36-25 record marks the program's first winning season since 2000 and is just the second time since 1994 for the team to finish at .500 or better. The '94 campaign saw the Ladyjacks go 31-31 on the year and was SFA's most recent 30-win season coming into this year's campaign.
NCAA NEWCOMER: The Ladyjack softball program won the NCAA Division II championship in 1986, but last year's team was the first in program history to earn a berth in the NCAA Division I Championships.
SOUTHLAND SUCCESS: The Ladyjacks won the 2008 Southland Conference Tournament, but, just to reach the league's post-season tournament was an achievement for the SFA softball program. Prior to last year, the Ladyjacks had not made the SLC Tournament since 1990, when SFA won its first tournament title as a Division I program. The Ladyjacks went 18 seasons between tourney appearances.
WATCH FOR FALLING RECORDS: In addition to posting one of the best team seasons in program history, the Ladyjacks assaulted several categories in the individual record books last season. SFA players broke three single-season records -- Kendal Harper holds the new marks for hits (75) and stolen bases (28), while the since-departed Jessica Tullos became the new leader in home runs (11). Tullos also smashed a big career mark with a new record of 23 home runs in her four-year career.
POWER SURGE: SFA put up power numbers in 2008 the likes of which have never been seen by the Ladyjack softball program. SFA's 43 home runs set a new team record, with the next-highest total shown in available records being the 2006 team mark of 26.
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-- SFA --