Ladyjacks Set To Open SLC Play

Feb. 23, 2009



SFA at Sam Houston State
Feb. 24 • Huntsville, Texas
3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Feb. 25 • Huntsville, Texas
4:00 p.m.
SFA at Northwestern State
Feb. 28 • Natchitoches, La.
1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
March 1 • Natchitoches, La.
12:00 p.m.


THIS WEEK: Stephen F. Austin is looking for its first win in four games Tuesday, when the Ladyjacks open Southland Conference play. SFA is coming off a strong showing at No. 4 Oklahoma last week, but the Ladyjacks enter SLC play with a 3-9 record. All but one of SFA's nine defeats have come at the hands of ranked teams or teams receiving votes in at least one of last week's national softball polls. SFA opens SLC play with a three-game series at Sam Houston State. Play begins with a Tuesday doubleheader, with the third game scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. This weekend, the Ladyjacks will play a three-game set at Northwestern State.

LAST WEEK: SFA took No. 4 Oklahoma to extra innings and held a one-run lead on three seperate occasions before dropping a 4-3 decision in eight innings in the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader. The Sooners went on to take a 3-1 decision in Game 2. Sophomore Monika Covington worked seven-plus innings in the opener, allowing just one earned run through the first seven innings before the Sooners scored twice in the bottom of the eighth to take the win. She also worked two shutout innings in relief in Game 2, allowing just one hit. All told, Covington went nine innings with six hits and two earned runs against six strikeouts. Sophomore Lauren Luetge started Game 2 and was touched for three earned runs on six hits through four innings. Juniors Karissa Jones and Kendal Harper posted two hits apiece with Jones doubling once and Harper scoring two of SFA's four runs. Junior Kim Daley and freshman Amber Price each went deep once, accounting for the other two scores.

THE BEARKATS: Sam Houston brings a 6-7 mark into the week. The Bearkats opened the season with four straight wins in their home tournament, knocking off Texas Southern and Houston Baptist twice each. Sam followed that performance with a four-game losing streak against Big 12 and Big 10 competition, but the Bearkats chased that skid with back-to-back victories. Sam knocked off LSU, 1-0, in eight innings on the last day of the Tigers' tournament and defeated Prairie View A&M, 5-2, in its next game. The Bearkats are coming off three straight losses at Baylor over the weekend.

THE DEMONS: Northwestern State is 2-10 coming into the first week of SLC play. The Demons won just one of their first 10 games and were on a seven-game losing streak before knocking off Grambling, 4-3, in the second game against the Tigers on Saturday. Northwestern's only other win this season was a 6-4 verdict over Memphis in the season-opening South Alabama Tournament. SFA took a 3-2 win against the Demons when they met in the Baylor Getterman Classic. Northwestern State will play a three-game home series with McNeese State on Tuesday and Wednesday before taking on the Ladyjacks this weekend.

UP NEXT: SFA will play a mid-week doubleheader at North Texas on Wednesday, March 4. The first game is set for a 2 p.m. start. Two days later, the Ladyjacks will begin play in the Texas A&M Aggie Invitational. The tournament field includes Kent State, Louisiana Tech and Utah, along with the host Aggies. The tournament will run from Friday, March 6, to Sunday, March 8.


RANK AND FILE: All but one of SFA's nine losses this season have come against teams which are either ranked or receiving votes in at least one of the two major national softball polls. Last week's opponent, Oklahoma was ranked No. 4 in the most recent Softball poll and stood at No. 8 in the USA Today/NFCA poll. UTSA is the only team to beat SFA and not receive at least a vote.

QUICK-STRIKE: Sophomore pitcher Monika Covington led the Southland Conference in strikeouts a year ago, when she averaged 1.12 strikeouts per innings pitched. For the 2009 season, Covington has yet to hit that pace, but she currently ranks third in the SLC with 36 punchouts. Covington recorded a season-high 10 against Ole Miss. She recorded double-figure strikeouts seven times in 2008.

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 0-7 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.

• Click here for complete game notes in .pdf format.

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