The University of Arkansas softball team opens its regular season traveling to Tampa, Fla., Feb. 9-11 for the University of South Florida-Best Western Softball Tournament. The Lady Razorbacks compete against Virginia, host South Florida and Western Kentucky in the three day event.
Arkansas returns 11 players from the 2006 squad that finished 26-35. Lone senior Rachel LeMaster leads the team that welcomes eight newcomers.
On the Mound
Three pitchers comprise this season’s staff, led by junior Katy Henry with a pair of freshmen, Miranda Dixon and Teighynne Hulsey.
A sophomore and two freshmen vie for the catching duties in 2007. Returning starter Whitney Cloer has the experience at the position, with Jess Reed and Jessica Waddle providing the depth.
Sophomore Sandra Smith appeared to be the front runner for first base until an injury in preseason practice. Junior Samantha Buckner and Dixon are the other front-runners for the position. Freshman Hannah Cicioni plans to redshirt her first season as a Lady’Back. Returning starter, sophomore Kayla Johnson, will push for a starting job in the middle infield while sophomore Brandy Baze will see some time at second base. Freshman Brittany Robison is expected to start at shortstop and Junior Dayna Huckabee who saw time at shortstop and third base in 2006 shifts to the starting third baseman.
The outfield is full with eight players competing for starting jobs. The group is led by senior right fielder Rachel LeMaster. Sophomore Brandy Foust and Jess Reed should also see some time in right field. Sophomore Hillary Freeman should see action in left field and center, while Freshman Jessica Bachkora is expected to start in center field. When she is not on the mound, Hulsey is also expected to see some time in the outfield.
Virginia returns nine letterwinners and welcomes four newcomers. The Cavaliers finished the 2006 season 29-26 under head coach Karen Johns.
Versus the Cavaliers
Arkansas leads the all-times series with Virginia 2-0. In their last meeting in 2000, the Lady’Backs defeated the Cavaliers, 7-1 and 2-0 at Lady’Back Yard.
About South Florida
South Florida returns 13 letterwinners and welcomes 11 newcomers under head coach Ken Eriksen who holds a career record of 465-239-1 at USF. The Bulls finished last season 50-25 and 17-3 in the Big East Conference. They went 0-2 at the NCAA Super Regional.
Versus the Bulls
The Lady’Backs lost their last and only game against South Florida in 2004 by a score of 2-4.
About Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky is lead by head coach Rachel Lawson who holds a record of 62-56 at WKU. The Hilltoppers return nine letterwinners and welcome five newcomers. They finished 29-28 in 2006.
Versus the Hilltoppers
This is the first meeting between Arkansas and Western Kentucky.