A new season brings new challenges

The offseason comes to an end today for the Softball team, as the 2008-09 season kicks off for the Jackets today in Pathersville. The Jackets are hoping that a combination of solid pitching, fresh new talent and a lack of injuries will be the right combination for success.

“All of our freshmen took huge strides from where they were to where they are now. Even with the older girls, we have all gotten so much better from August to now, so we are all really excited to start the season,” said senior first baseman Whitney Haller.

With a new season comes many new faces for Tech’s softball team. The Jackets will start the season today with only five juniors and seniors on the roaster.

“I feel like we have a totally different team. We lost a lot of key players at key positions last year. So we have a lot of younger players—freshmen even—coming in to play big roles,” said Head Coach Sharon Perkins.

The Jackets lost their leading hitter from last year in Aileen Morales who started all 63 games and averaged .348 from the plate. Savannah Brown also left the team at the end of last season, going .272 in 60 games. Starting pitcher Whitney Humphreys will not be returning to the Jackets. She started 35 games from the circle and picked up 20 wins in the process. Stephanie Morris, who had the second most starts for Tech with 12, also graduated last year.

“[Senior pitcher] Tiffany Johnson will give us great leadership [with pitching]. I think she will see a lot of innings in the circle. [Sophomore pitcher] Kristen Adkins should be able to come in and do a good job [pitching] too,” said Perkins.

Johnson made eight starts for the Jackets last season along with 10 other appearances. She ended the year with an ERA just under three. With a lack of upperclassmen on the team, the juniors and seniors are trying to fill in the vacuum of leadership.

“We have had great leadership by the upperclassmen that we do have, so that has been nice to see…. I do not think they see it as pressure. They kind of thrive on that. So in their own little ways, they have taken responsibility of the leadership aspects,” Perkins said.

“I have never been the older person on a young team, so it is defiantly a different dynamic to get used to. I love being able to offer guidance to the younger girls on our team, and they help me tremendously as well,” Haller said.

Senior outfielder Blair Shimandle was the leading hitter for the players returning to the team this year, earning .330 batting average while starting all 63 games last season. Sophomore second baseman/outfielder Christy Jones came in just behind Shimandle hitting .293 in her 63 starts.

Tech kicks off the season against Georgia State today with a doubleheader and two more at Furman on Sunday.