The University of the Cumberlands softball team is preparing for another season of competitive play. Last year the Patriots went 22-23 on the season, and went 13-15 in one of the toughest conferences in the NAIA. For the 2011 season, the Patriots are looking to use their senior leadership, new talent, and team tenacity to achieve their goals for a winning season.
A pair of returning pitchers with Mid-South Conference experience anchors the pitching staff this year, along with two freshmen who will also see some time on the mound. Junior Angela Steuer (Miamisburg, OH) will look to improve on last year and be a leader for the pitching staff. Steuer was 11-9 on the season with a 2.74 ERA in 138 innings pitched recording 70 strikeouts. Also looking to be a starter this year is junior Carrie Cobb (London, KY). Cobb pitched 30 innings in 7 game appearances. Freshman Jerilyn Meeks (Louisville, KY) and Jessica Speake (Lancaster, KY) enter their first year of college ball following very successful high school playing careers. Both of these ladies will be able to help the Patriots in the circle as well as in the infield. Meeks will see some playing time at second base and Speake at third.
Returning behind the plate in 2011 for the Patriots will be senior Courtney Delk (Jamestown, TN) and sophomore Brittny Lovelace (Middletown, OH). Delk played in 26 games last year for the Patriots with 16 starts. Lovelace's talents earned her Mid-South Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2010 season with an impressive .375 batting average, 48 base hits, 10 doubles, 1 homerun, 17 RBIs, and a .875 fielding percentage. Also looking to help out on the Patriot catching staff will be sophomore Ashley Perry (Knoxville, TN), and newcomers Joy Coleman (Georgetown, KY) and Chelsea Smith (Knot, KY). Lovelace will also see some playing time in the outfield and Perry the same at third base for the Patriots.
Returning for the Patriots in the infield will be senior Hollie Byrum (Franklin, OH) at second base. Byrum played in 44 games last year for the Patriots with a .969 fielding percentage and had a .259 batting average on the season. Junior Ashley Wampler (London, KY) will be returning at first base. She was .266 on the season with 128 at bats and 45 game starts with a .985 fielding percentage. Sophomore Tabitha Benson (Cookeville, TN) will be returning at shortstop where she started 45 games as a freshman last year and had a .938 fielding percentage. Benson also hit an average of .280 in the 2010 season with 42 base hits, 8 doubles, 3 homeruns, and 24 RBIs. Utility players on the infield include seniors Lacy Walters (Williamstown, KY) and Kara Jesse (Bagdad, KY), juniors Asha Fox (Fairfield, OH), Emily McIntire (Springboro, OH), and Lindsay Meadors (Lancaster, KY), and freshman Carrie Root (London, KY). In the 2010 season Walters had a .273 batting average in 33 at bats and Fox hit .278 in 36 at bats for the Patriots.
The Patriot outfield returns one starter from last season, junior Erin Sears (Williamsburg, KY), who will take centerfield. Sears finished the 2010 season with .968 fielding percentage and a .250 batting average in 45 games played. Other Patriots who will bring speed to the outfield are a trio of freshmen in Cierra Kincaid (Georgetown, KY), Sheena Letcher (Batavia, OH), and Tia Blakeman (Lexington, KY).
Patriot Head Coach Angie Dean is returning for her 15th season as Head Coach for the Patriots. In Coach Dean's 15 years she has a .503 winning percentage with 291 wins, 287 losses, and just 1 tie. Assistant Coach Heather Branum is going into her second season with Patriot softball and both coaches are excited about the look of this year's squad. "We are really excited about the 2011 season," said Dean and Branum. "We have a lot of younger girls stepping up and striving to make an impact. We think as the girls continue to work hard and come together as a team, we will be strong in our conference and throughout the season."
University of the Cumberlands Patriots face another tough schedule this year with top-notch competition lined up and will be on the road for exactly half of their 48 game regular season. The Patriots kick off their season on the 19th of February in Milligan, TN against the Milligan College Buffaloes. In the following weeks, the Patriots will host a series of 5 double-headers before returning to the road on March 5th.