Tallahassee, FL - The 23rd-ranked Florida State University softball team begins its quest for a record-setting 12th NCAA Regional appearance as the host of the Seminole Kickoff Classic beginning Friday, Feb. 11, at noon at JoAnne Graf Field.
FSU faces UNC Greensboro in its first contest, followed by a matchup against St. John’s 30 minutes after the completion of the first game. The Seminoles then face Hofstra at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday before finishing out the tournament based on performance. The No. 1 and 4 seeds will face off Saturday at 2:45 p.m., followed by the 2 vs. 3 seed in the following game.
Sunday features a consolation game at 10 a.m. and a championship contest at approximately 12:15 p.m.
“This season has been on our minds since the ride home from the NCAA Regional last May,” head coach Lonni Alameda said. “We have been dedicated to being better in all areas athletically and pushing ourselves as great teammates. It is a long journey of practice, weight training and mental focus from the start of school until now. The players are ready to go and the coaching staff is excited to watch them play. We are going to have fun this season because we have prepared for this moment for quite some time now.”
FSU welcomes back a host of talented offensive student-athletes, returning eight of the top nine hitters from a season ago. Included in the mix is outfielder Shayla Jackson (.338/.423/363), infielder Tiffani Brown (.328/.417/.356) and senior shortstop Ashley Stager. The other returnees include seniors Mallory Borden, Kristie McConn, Robin Ahrberg and Jen Lapicki as well as sophomore Morgan Bullock.
The aforementioned eight combined to produce over half of FSU’s home runs last season, over 60 percent of its RBI total and over 70 percent of total base hits.
On the mound, senior Amateur Softball Association watch list member Sarah Hamilton returns. She finished her junior campaign with a 22-10 record, 1.50 ERA, three saves and 326 strikeouts in 214.1 innings pitched. Adding depth to the rotation are redshirt freshman Jessica Nori, senior Lauren Varsalona, sophomore Morgan Bullock and sophomore Dale Townsend.
The Seminoles are 14-1 all-time against the tournament field, with their only defeat coming against Hofstra in 1997. Last season, Hamilton threw one of her five career no-hitters against the Pride in an 8-0 FSU victory in five innings.
The Pride is receiving preseason votes in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll and the USA Today/NFCA Poll. It returns reigning Colonial Athletic Association Pitcher of the Year Olivia Galati (26-7, 1.60 ERA in 2010) as well as junior Erin Wade (18-5, 2.23 ERA). Hofstra brings back senior third baseman Sara Michalowski (.308, 8 home runs, 34 RBIs).
St. John’s finished the 2010 season with an 18-33 overall record. The Red Storm return six starters from last year, highlighted by catcher/third baseman Kacee Cox (.404, 9 HRs, 46 RBIs). Right-hander Kat Lawrence is back for her senior season after the leading the team with 11 wins in 2010.
The Spartans, out of the Southern Conference, finished with a 27-30 overall record and a 12-11 conference mark last season. Seven starters return for UNC Greensboro, which plays Hofstra on Friday in addition to the tournament opener against FSU.
FSU’s two Friday contests will be streamed live on Seminoles.com All-Access. All Seminole home games can also be followed on CBS GameTracker.
Following FSU’s second game against St. John’s on Friday, there will be a Seminole Softball Dugout Club social at the Seminole Softball complex at 5:30 p.m. On Saturday, the first 100 fans will receive free popcorn prior to FSU’s contest against Hofstra. Attendees will also be treated to $1 Dog Day on Sunday.