No. 19 Softball Starts Season Friday at Tiger Park
POSTED: Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 11:46pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 12:19pm
BATON ROUGE - The No. 19 LSU softball team begins its 2011 campaign and embarks on its third season in the state-of-the-art Tiger Park this weekend. The Tigers welcome Louisiana Tech, Bowling Green and Purdue to the Capitol City for the Wilson/DeMarini Tiger Classic.
"The team is so ready to start playing," head coach Yvette Girouard said. "It looks like we'll have some sunshine and good weather over the weekend. It's just time to get on the dirt and start playing for real."
LSU faces Louisiana Tech [3 p.m.] and Bowling Green [5:30 p.m.] on Friday followed by playing against Bowling Green [12:30 p.m.] and Purdue [3 p.m.] on Saturday. LSU wraps up opening weekend on Sunday versus Purdue [11:30 a.m.] and Louisiana Tech [2 p.m.].
LSU brings back 13 letterwinners highlighted by six position starters and two pitchers from a squad that went 45-16 last season.
Reigning SEC Freshman of the Year and NFCA All-South Region First-Team pick Rachele Fico is looking to build off a 20-7 season where she picked up 10 victories over RPI Top 50 opponents. She ranked among the SEC's elite in ERA (1.15), runs allowed (31), opponent batting average (.184) and strikeouts (161).
Brittany Mack, an All-Louisiana Honorable Mention selection, posted a 9-3 record and picked up 81 strikeouts over her 80.0 frames of work in 2010. She claimed wins in eight of her last nine decisions a season ago.
Offensively, the trio of Ashley Langoni, Juliana Santos and Anissa Young are back for their junior seasons.
Langoni belted a team-best nine home runs and added 34 RBIs on a .288 batting average, despite missing 10 games due to injury in 2010. Right behind Langoni was Young with eight long balls and 39 RBIs en route to NFCA All-South Region First-Team honors. Santos is poised to regain her NFCA All-South Region First-Team form of 2009 where she scored a team-best 40 runs to go along with a .279 average, four homers and 27 RBIs.
LSU welcomes five highly touted freshmen into the fold. Jacee Blades and Tammy Wray notched NFCA High School All-American accolades. Wray along with Meghan Paterson also were named Gatorade Softball Player of the Year for their respective states.
Simone Heyward is expected to take over the reigns in centerfield and bat in the leadoff spot. Her defensive range and ability to steal bases gives the LSU lineup its own dynamic. Blades along with Alex Boulet were coached by former Tigers Ashlee Ducoate and Lauren Delahoussaye, respectively.
"We've got some kids that were highly ranked and recruited," Girouard said. "We hope they just let their natural abilities shine out there. I'm sure they'll be nervous, but they have a ton of talent. We expect great things from all of our freshmen because they've been very impressive so far out there."
The Tigers will be without the services of starters Ashley Applegate and Jessica Mouse for opening weekend due to injury. Applegate paces all returnees with 12 multi-hit efforts, while Mouse sparked the Tigers to a SEC-best and program single season record .976 fielding percentage last season.
"This is a marathon, it's not a sprint," Girouard said. "It's a long season and it gives us the opportunity to look at some of our younger kids. Certainly (Mouse and Applegate) are two of our starters and two of our leaders in the lineup, but it is what it is. Softball is a sport that incurs injuries. You just have to go on and it's an opportunity for some of our younger kids to step up."
Every game of the Wilson/DeMarini Tiger Classic will have live stats available on LSUsports.net and fans can follow in-games updates via the program's social media pages at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and www.Twitter.com/LSU_Softball.
The Tiger Park Ticket Booth will open one hour prior to the first game of each day. Fans can purchase tickets on-site starting at $5 for adult general admission. Additional ticket information for LSU's home series with SEC heavyweights Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee is available at www.LSUtix.net.